As states face the daunting job of drawing new legislative and congressional district maps, a simple maxim would serve them well: Be like Iowa.
After each new decade’s census is tallied, states must establish new state legislature and congressional districts that take into consideration shifts in population.
In Iowa, nonpartisan legislative staffers draw the maps without considering party affiliations indicated on voter registration rolls. The main consideration is keeping the districts compact and uniform in population. Iowa’s current districts have only an 84-person deviation from one congressional district to another, and the boundaries do not cross county lines.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
That’s not the case in Wisconsin, Illinois or numerous other states. In many other places, drawing new maps is a wholly political endeavor meant to preserve “safe seats” — where incumbency is practically guaranteed. That can lead to complacency, pork barrel spending and a lack of accountability. In Iowa, there are no safe seats.
This year, the Badgers just might take a lesson from the Hawkeye State. The Wisconsin map drawn in 2011 was under the supervision of a redistricting process framed by Republicans — the party that held control in both Wisconsin legislative chambers and the governor’s office. This time around there’s a distinct difference: A Democrat with veto power resides in the governor’s mansion.
Gov. Tony Evers has established a nonpartisan People’s Maps Commission in an attempt to avoid gerrymandering — the process that creates safe seats and ensures party dominance in following elections.
The nine-member commission is made up of representatives from each of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts, now hearing feedback on the process. Several constituents have voiced support for the Iowa model.
Though it’s not necessarily a popular political stance for a Wisconsin Republican, Rep. Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville, backs the Iowa way, even co-authoring a bill to go to that model. It takes courage to do the right thing, even when it’s not what your party wants you to do. And drawing fair district maps is the right thing to do. A salute to Novak for his stance. Now let’s see who will stand with him.
If Republicans dig in their heels and pass their own map, it will likely be vetoed by Evers and sent to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to decide. That shouldn’t have to happen. Voters, by and large, just want things to be fair. Draw fair maps, and the people’s voice will be heard.
There’s little hope for such a process in Illinois, where Democrats control both chambers of the state Legislature and Gov. J.B. Pritzker is a Democrat. A glance at the wacky jigsaw puzzle that is Illinois’ district map tells you gerrymandering is rampant.
Look at election results in those congressional districts and you will see landslides. Majority parties use software to pinpoint voter tendencies and draw the boundaries to ensure party dominance at election time. This gerrymandering can result in maps with strange hooks and crooks to encompass or exclude certain areas of voters. No wonder congressional incumbency is well over 90% in recent years.
Then look at Iowa. Take this area’s congressional seat, for example. After four-term Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat, stepped away to run for the Senate in 2014, his seat went to Republican Rod Blum. Then, four years later, it flipped to Abby Finkenauer, a Democrat. Just this month, it flipped again, when Republican Ashley Hinson took the seat. That doesn’t happen in gerrymandered districts.
Further, safe seats can lead to the rancorous partisanship we see in Washington. When representatives are sure to keep their seats, they lose their incentive to work with the other party and build consensus.
Iowa has figured out the simple way to avoid all this. The process of drawing political boundaries should be a non-partisan approach. Congressional seats shouldn’t come with a party attached.
Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald’s Editorial Board.
Region: Galena,City: Dubuque, IA,Opinion
November 29, 2020 at 04:29AM