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FRIDAY LA CROSSE RALLY: Public rallies still important, as Wisconsin Supreme Court decides voting maps for next decade



FILE - More than 100 opponents of the Republican redistricting plans vow to fight the maps at a rally ahead of a joint legislative committee hearing in the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison, Wis. on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

A decision in the coming weeks by the state Supreme Court will decide Wisconsin’s voting maps for the next decade.

A majority of Wisconsin citizens are not in favor of the current process, which is basically to just let the party in power draw the maps. 

That process has, essentially, rigged district lines in Republicans’ favor over the past decade and a group hosting rallies across 16 cities in Wisconsin on Friday wants that to end.

“We are raising our voice and letting it be known that Wisconsinites are not ready for another decade of gerrymandered maps,” Connor Glassen from RepresentUs said Thursday on La Crosse Talk PM.

The hour-long rally at noon at Cameron Park (map) in La Crosse will feature these speakers — and hot chocolate:

  • La Crosse city council’s Rebecca Schwarz
  • Pastor Libby Howe
  • State Assembly Rep. Steve Doyle
  • State Sen. Brad Pfaff

Changing the process for drawing maps is likely already lost for the next decade. The important thing now is for people to voice their opinions — whether that’s for or against the current process. 

“The Supreme Court, absolutely, is listening,” Glassen said. “They are, well, supposed to be apolitical and respect the will of Wisconsinites. And we want it to be known that Wisconsinites are fired up about our maps and gerrymandering. So, we’re demanding fair maps that truly reflect the will of the voters.”

The state’s Supreme Court has said it will consider maps that do not move many people out of their current districts. 

“It’s probably sadly going to just take the Republican map, which is a ludicrous map,” La Crosse County Democratic Party chair William Garcia said on WIZM. “And one of the reasons we know that is because they have kind of already pre-announced that they’re really in favor of what you call a “least-change map.’ 

“That would have been a great argument a decade ago, when 3.3 million people changed districts in Wisconsin because Republicans wanted to draw Congressional maps that were way easier for them to win. It’s really in bad faith for Republicans to argue, ‘Oh, yeah, we should be a map of least change,’ when the map was so completely manipulated and destroyed 10 years ago — because there was no one to hold them in check. Now, they’ve got someone in check so they’re desperately fishing for an argument.”

Meanwhile, looking at the 3rd Congressional District, the map proposal does not appear to take the ‘least change” approach to Stevens Point.

“What they’re trying to do in Stevens Point, which is take a liberal county and divide it up into, not one, not two but three different districts in order to dilute the power of that liberal county,” Garcia said. 

Stevens Point was manipulated a decade ago, as well. 

The one public hearing held in the state Legislature consisted of 8.5 hours of testimony with only two people speaking for the maps Republicans released. Those two people — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Leader Devin LeMahieu.

“Speaker Vos mentioned that this was just such a transparent process, for which it was not,” Glassen said. “There was actually, in the Legislature, just one day allowed for public comment. We saw many other states allow for multiple days of public comment over quite a few months, as well.”

Multiple Wisconsin counties have approved ballot referendums that support a nonpartisan redistricting commission, including La Crosse at 77%. In total, 42 of Wisconsin’s 77 counties have passed referendums supporting nonpartisan redistricting — 55 if you include resolutions. None of them have failed.

Changing the process to something like the Iowa nonpartisan model seems to be a lost cause and the Supreme Court already heard testimony on the maps Wednesday, one has to wonder if rallies like Friday are even worth it.

“All of these rallies, I mean, they’re important for a lot of a lot of reasons,” Garcia said. “One of them is to tell the Supreme Court, ‘We’re watching you. We see what you’re doing. We know where you’re doing is wrong, and if you rule in a, kind of, illegal fashion, we are going to call you on it come election day.’

“Remember, the Supreme Court is an elected position. The Supreme Court pays attention to what people are saying and doing. Now, they are going to write a decision that looks legal and formal, but it is completely naïve to believe that they are going to make a decision completely removed from the will of the people.”

Republicans hold a 61-38 majority in the state Assembly and a 21-12 majority in the state Senate. They also represent five of the state’s eight congressional districts where only one race is competitive — the 3rd Congressional District currently held by the retiring Ron Kind. 

“You need to just be contacting your representatives — whether they’re republican or Democrat — and say, ‘Look, I don’t care how you vote, whether you’re conservative or liberal. What I care about is that the election process is fair,’” Garcia said.

Statewide elections in Wisconsin have voted in a governor, an attorney general, a senator recently. The past two presidential elections were split, as were two Supreme Court races.
According to a 2019 poll from Marquette University, 72 percent of Wisconsinites support mapmaking by a nonpartisan commission, rather than the Legislature and governor.

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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