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home : opinions : letters to the editor
January 17, 2020

1/11/2020 7:30:00 AM
Reader wants 'a fair election process'

To the Editor:

For some, the prospect of greater democracy is alarming. In The Lakeland Times, Richard Moore and Gregg Walker recently complained at length about an advisory referendum concerning nonpartisan redistricting. Many local towns are approving it as a ballot initiative in the April election. The referendum gives citizens a chance to express their views concerning whether voting maps should be drawn by politicians seeking to maintain their control of the legislature, or by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau with strict guidelines to avoid partisan advantage.

Let me just make three points.

First, Moore and Walker contend that the skewed results of the elections - in which Democrats won the majority of votes and Republicans won nearly two-thirds of the seats in the Assembly - are the result of geographic clustering. Sure, dense urban areas tend to vote more Democratic, and rural areas tend to vote more Republican. But the cause of Wisconsin's radically disproportionate representation was the use of sophisticated computer software that generated multiple redistricting maps with different results. When the computer told them which map would maximize Republican seats, that's what they went with. The goal of the referendum is to eliminate this kind of artificial distortion of voting maps, whose sole purpose is to maximize political power and thwart the will of people.

Second, Moore and Walker contend that because nonpartisan redistricting would improve election results for Democrats, then it can't be nonpartisan. Nonsense. Let's say someone comes up with rules for a football game that say the Bears can play with 11 men on the field, but the Packers only nine. If a commissioner comes in and says both teams must play with 11 men, he is not being biased or partisan. He is simply leveling the playing field. Sure, a change would favor the Packers - because they were the victim of biased rules, which would be replaced by fair ones.

Third, Moore and Walker complain that "liberals should stop whining and adopt policies that win more elections."

Unfortunately, the goal of the Republican's partisan gerrymandering (as well as restrictive voter ID laws and purging voter lists) has been to enable Republicans to impose unpopular policies on the people and not even allow a vote on policies the public favors.

For instance, large majorities of Wisconsin voters support universal background checks on guns and red flag laws, expanding Medicaid, investing more on public education, legalizing marijuana, protecting clean water, and many others, including nonpartisan redistricting. But our current system guarantees that policies like these go nowhere in the legislature.

Democrats promote such popular policies. But Republicans have rigged the system so they don't have to care - they get re-elected despite ignoring the will of the people. And Moore and Walker want to keep it that way. But in some local towns and cities this April, voters will at least have a chance to say whether they want a fair election process.

David Barnhill


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