Letter to the Editor: get engaged in Wisconsin’s redistricting process

Photo+retrieved+from+the+WXPR+website.

Photo retrieved from the WXPR website.

Matthew Gast, Guest Contributor

Our Wisconsin State Legislature is working on redrawing our Congressional and State Legislative Districts through a process called redistricting. This is done every 10 years to account for population changes and to ensure that our districts have relatively the same number of residents. Redistricting is a different process to ensure fairness and equal representation and, oftentimes, the process can be manipulated to make it easier for political parties to keep power. This manipulation is referred to as gerrymandering. As a state, we should be united in addressing concerns of gerrymandering and ensure fairness in our redistricting process.

However, that has not been the case. For months, lawmakers have spent more time battling the redistricting process in the courts than listening to Wisconsin residents and redrawing our district boundaries. A multitude of lawsuits have been filed in anticipation of disagreements within the Legislature and between our Legislative and Executive branches. By leaning on court battles to address redistricting issues, our lawmakers have failed in their responsibilities to draw fair districts across Wisconsin. This is not the first time that our state has experienced issues with the redistricting process. Back in 2011, members of the Wisconsin State Legislature hired a private law firm to draw maps in secrecy.

We need a redistricting process that is transparent and accessible to the public. Our Legislature needs to offer ample opportunities for public input at every stage of the process, and these opportunities need to be announced with advance notice and decentralized throughout the state, not just at our state capitol, so everyone can participate.  Public input is a hallmark of our democracy, and we need to stay true to our nation’s democratic values.

That is why I joined Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project as a redistricting fellow. The Redistricting Fellowship empowers college students to have a voice in their state’s redistricting process. Over the past several months, I have been in contact with my state representatives in order to advocate for college and university communities to be kept together and not split between multiple districts. I have also reviewed map proposals from the Legislature and the Governor’s People’s Maps Commission and provided detailed feedback so adjustments can be made in the best interests of students.

Whether you contact your legislators, write an opinion piece for your local newspaper, or testify at a public hearing, it is important that all Wisconsin voices are heard as part of the redistricting process. These are great ways in which to bring attention to issues in your community and hold our elected officials accountable in the end.

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