RACINE COUNTY — After Democrats made a push for redistricting reform last week, a Racine state senator said their bill won’t go anywhere in his committee.
State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said he has no issues with the way the state Legislature draws up legislative districts — including his own, which became more conservative after it was redrawn in 2011.
Wanggaard said the most recent redistricting followed federal requirements and a panel of federal judges made changes to only two Assembly districts in Milwaukee.
Bill a 'distraction'
Democrats have introduced a bill that would move the authority to draw districts from the Legislature to nonpartisan bodies.
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, which Wanggaard chairs, but the senator says he has no plans to hold a hearing or vote on it.
Wanggaard said Democrats know the bill has no chance of passing but are bringing it up to use as a “distraction” from Republicans’ accomplishments.
“It’s funny that the Democrats come forward now and make this is a partisan thing,” Wanggaard said. “They could have made this change while they were (in the majority), but they decided they didn’t want to because it was to their advantage.”
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Democrats say the new system would ensure elected officials are accountable to voters and promote clean government. Their effort is supported by groups such as the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.
“Unfortunately, partisan gerrymandering has skewed the system in Wisconsin for decades,” said Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, in a statement last week. “As a result many elected officials don’t have to listen to their constituents because they are in ‘safe districts’ where they know they are unlikely to be defeated.”
Current maps disputed
A group of Democrats have sued the state over the 2011 redistricting, calling it unconstitutional and “profoundly undemocratic,” according to media reports.
The maps greatly benefited Wanggaard, who was elected in 2010, narrowly lost in a recall in 2012 and then won easily in a redrawn and more conservative 21st District in 2014. His West Racine home is three blocks from the district boundary line.
Wanggaard said regardless of how the district is drawn, he still knocked on tens of thousands of doors to introduce himself and is held accountable by voters.
“I still have to go out and deliver on the service that I should be giving to every constituent, which we do,” he said. “We don’t ask them first, ‘well, did you vote for me or not?’ Or, ‘what party are you with?’
“It’s, ‘what’s your issue and how can we help resolve that?’ ”