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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Board has approved adding a non-binding referendum question to the November ballot asking whether the Wisconsin Legislature should create a nonpartisan procedure for drawing legislative and congressional district maps.
The time has come to ask the state Legislature to enact fair redistricting, said James Tripp, county board supervisor from Menomonie, at the Dunn County Board’s June 17 meeting.
Every 10 years after the census, the boundaries for the legislative and congressional district maps are redrawn, and the time has come to ask the Legislature to change the procedure, he said.
Currently, the political party that is in power has the authority to draw the maps, Tripp said.
After the last redistricting 10 years ago, the Republicans in the state Legislature spent $1.9 million of taxpayer money to defend their districts in court, he said.
When the maps were redrawn 10 years ago, the Republican-controlled Legislature hired a law firm to complete the process.
Other states use non-partisan methods for redrawing the maps so that the maps do not favor either one political party or the other, Tripp said.
Partisan interests should not be drawing the maps, he said, noting that 23 counties have put the issue on the ballot for a non-binding referendum question.
Polls show that 75 percent of the people in Wisconsin are in favor of fair non-partisan redistricting, and 65 percent of Republicans are in favor of fair, non-partisan redistricting, Tripp said.
Sarah Kennedy, county board supervisor from Menomonie, said she was strongly in favor of getting the referendum question on the ballot.
“The gerrymandering is outrageous,” she said, urging support from the other Dunn County Board members for approving the referendum question.
According to the resolution, “Wisconsin’s historical practice of redistricting by the majority party in each legislative chamber is an outdated practice that stifles political competition, discourages compromise, ensures continued control by the party in power, and lacks the transparency necessary to reinforce citizens’ faith in the democratic process.”
The resolution goes on to say, “A non-partisan process would promote accountability and transparency and prohibit the consideration of voting patterns, party information, and incumbents’ residence information or demographic information in drawing the maps, except as necessary to ensure minority participation as required by the U.S. Constitution.”
The question on the November 3 ballot will read, “Should the Wisconsin Legislature create a non-partisan procedure for the preparation of legislative and congressional district plans and maps?”
Voters will have the choice of selecting “yes” or “no.”
According to the budget impact statement included with the resolution, the cost for election equipment programming, ballot printing, and publication is estimated at $8,050.
The Dunn County Board voted unanimously to approve the resolution.