Democrats introduce redistricting reform - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Democrats introduce redistricting reform

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Democratic lawmakers alongside a bi-partisan citizens group introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at taking politics out of the redistricting process, even as the most senior member of the caucus acknowledged it was unlikely to pass.

The Redistricting Reform Act is fashioned after the system used in Iowa. It would take map-making out of the hands of the majority party and give it to the non-partisan Government Accountability Board and the Legislative Reference Bureau.

"The process that we have now puts the incumbent's interest in being re-elected over the interest of every voter in having a meaningful role in the voting process," said Rep. Kelda Helen-Roys, D-Madison.

Republicans have already drawn new district maps, and could be ready to vote on them in the coming weeks.

"Sometimes you have to introduce bills like this time after time after time," said Senator Fred Risser, D-Madison, acknowledging the reform legislation has little chance.

Lawmakers are required to re-draw maps after every 10-year census to make sure each district has an equal number of people. The new maps are normally put together in the fall, but Republicans have pushed up the process, trying to get it done before August, according to one GOP staffer.

That's when recall elections targeting six Republican senators are scheduled.

"This is all about partisanship," said Mike McCabe of the non-partisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. 

"It's all about Republicans wanting to exercise their power and control over redistricting and do it before the Democrats might get the Senate back."

McCabe filed open records requests Tuesday to see the maps. So far, none of the new legislative districts have been made public, and only some members of the Republican party have seen them.

"That's not the way this ought to work," he said, adding that the public needs time to digest the maps so taxpayers can make meaningful criticism before the legislation is acted on.

Lawmakers would likely need to meet in July to get district maps in place before the recalls in mid-August.

The new district lines would apply to legislative elections in November 2012.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Some Democratic lawmakers introduced a new bill Tuesday that would change who draws the state's legislative district lines.

Currently, members of the Assembly and Senate form committees to do it which favors the party in control. 

The Redistricting Reform Act would call for a non-partisan group to draw the lines and the legislature would sign off on them.

It's similar to how Iowa does it.

"The Iowa approach is a nonpartisan approach, it's a much better approach from the stand point of the cost to the taxpayers and it's something that has worked well and we should learn from it," said Sen. Fred Risser.

"And at its heart the process that we have now puts the incumbents interest in being reelected over the interest of every voter in having a meaningful role in the voting process," said Rep. Kelda Helen Roys.

"What you have is a neutral body looking at the rules and making sure they conform to the law and to the constitution," said Sen. Spencer Coggs, D-Milwaukee. 

Democrats are concerned the Republican-controlled legislature will vote on new political boundaries before this summer's recall elections.

With the current boundaries, power in the Senate could shift to the democrats after the recall elections.

Republican leaders say they don't have a timetable for voting. But no matter what the legislature passes, a court challenge is expected.

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