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Waushara County: Redistricting Reform On Ballot

September 24, 2020

My letter to the editor of the Waushara Argus regarding the much-needed redistricting reform was published this week. The county has a ballot measure on the fall ballot. I explain why it matters, and why it deserves broad support.

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The most partisan project I witnessed when working at the State Capitol was the crafting of the district lines following the 1990 census.  There were large maps of the First Assembly District on the office walls and reams of voting data of villages and towns on our desks.  Like every other member of the majority party our legislative office was looking to shape political lines to benefit the existing powers under the dome.

That process was illuminating, maddening, but informative.  For the past nearly 30 years I have been a continuing advocate of reforming the ways our district lines are drawn. I am very pleased that Waushara County voters will have a ballot referendum this fall regarding this most important issue. I would like to explain why it matters and ask for your support on Election Day.

If you shake your head in derision when our state legislature balks at even the most lukewarm funding strategies for our transportation systems or fails to protect ground water chalk it up to the way district lines are designed. If you wonder why districts are deep blue, or red and why there is no real electoral competition so to debate issues and chose among candidates it is due to redistricting.  If you feel the most strident voices from both sides of the aisle dominate while the moderate and compromising middle of the electorate is not visible, that is also due to the current way redistricting occurs.  

We cannot have a functioning state government if the politicians choose their voters.

Redistricting reform may appear ‘boring’ at first glance, but it is central to much of the discord in the state today.  When we do not have political boundaries that represent the diversity of the electorate or are crafted for the sole purpose of party control, then the essential art of governing is reduced to merely partisan gain.

This should not be a partisan issue. Both parties deserve criticism for the secretive and stubborn way they handled redistricting.  Wisconsin Democrats had the majority power during the time of Governor Doyle to create a redistricting commission and chose not to proceed.  We know elected Republicans would not even hold a hearing in 2013 on a proposal to create a commission.

Unless the way we elect people is based on a more equitable and level-playing field all the grand ideas we may hold about building a stronger society will be left in drafting folders on a shelf.  Therefore, I ask the folks of my home county, (I grew up in Hancock, 1980 graduate) to do what we have always known to be right since first studying civics in our youth.  Vote YES on the Non-Partisan referendum.   And I thank you.

Gregory Humphrey

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