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Proposal to change redistricting rules not expected to move forward

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MADISON (WRN)  Several Democratic state lawmakers are bringing back a proposal aimed at taking the politics out of legislative redistricting. The bill would end the practice of having the Legislature draw the new state and Congressional maps every ten years. Instead, the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau would design the new district boundaries.

State Representative Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay) says it’s based on the system used in Iowa for almost 30 years, and it has “proven to be an effective ways to draw competitive districts, eliminate gerrymandering, and ensure that all voters have an equal say in determining the makeup of their representation.”

Similar bills have been introduced in past legislative sessions, with most seeing little movement towards passage. State Representative Penny Bernard Schaeber (D-Appleton) admits Democrats could have tried harder to get it done when they had full control of the Capitol during the 2008 session, but “made the mistake” of starting the push too late and not moving faster.

Backers argue now is the time to push the change, following a highly contentious battle over redistricting during the 2010 session that saw the state spend nearly $2 million defending maps drawn by majority Republicans. Those district lines were largely upheld, although a court did find portions of them unconstitutional. Still, Middleton Democrat Dianne Hesselbein called it the “most egregious abuse of power that ever occurred.”

The bill is unlikely to receive much support from majority Republicans during the current session. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has already indicated he opposes changing how the state re-draws district lines.

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