MADISON (WKOW) -- Democratic candidate for governor and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the redistricting process is too political and needs to be reformed.
Speaking outside the Government Accountability Board Monday morning, Barrett outlined a plan that would give the GAB more authority in redrawing legislative and Congressional boundaries.
"We have in essence created a system where incumbents have an advantage because they are the ones who draw up the line for redistricting," Barrett said.
The U.S. constitution requires states to redraw districts every 10 years, based on the results of the latest census. Under Barrett's proposal, the GAB, a nonpartisan group of retired judges, would submit a redistricting plan to lawmakers based on the voting results over the last five presidential and gubernatorial elections.
If the governor and legislature fail to approve a plan, the GAB would ultimately decide the issue.
"You want to make sure that you're having the most competitive elections as you can, so that everyone feels their voices are being heard," Barrett said.
The overall aim is to reduce party politics.
"As you look at other states, they're recognizing that you've got too much partisan breakdown right now," Barrett said. "There's too much gridlock, things are not getting done."
"I acknowledge that it's certainly a point of discussion," said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the GAB. "Historically, drawing lines, the courts have always recognized it as a political decision. The question is what parameters you put around it."
"Voters are supposed to choose their representatives not the other way around," Mike McCabe, director of the watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said. He says politicians will have to be forced into making changes.
"They love it the way it is now," he said.
McCabe says lawmakers routinely pack their home districts with voters from their own party. As a result very few districts are truly competitive.
"Because this is a way that they can effectively rig the outcome of elections," McCabe said.
Meanwhile, Barrett's Republican opponents, Scott Walker and Mark Neumann, scoffed at the idea.
"Beware career politicians claiming they want to do away with a system that protects career politicians," Neumann said.
"Tom Barrett voted with Democrats 92 percent of the time when he was in Congress and is the last person that has any credibility on supposed ‘bipartisanship,' said a Walker campaign official.