Community
Fair Maps Legislative Lobby Day

 

On Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 Wisconsinites from across the state participated in Fair Maps Legislative Lobby Day. Because this daylong event was virtual, a strong contingent of citizens from Polk, St. Croix and other western Wisconsin counties was able to attend.

I was one of them. I attended as a Polk County resident and a representative of two nonpartisan groups – the local chapter of the League of Women Voters and Western Wisconsin for Nonpartisan Voting Districts.

We expected to speak directly to our district Senate and Assembly representatives. We wanted our legislators to hear our personal stories about how gerrymandered maps — and the polarized political climate caused by partisan map rigging — has impacted our lives.

We wanted to underline how the lack of collaboration in the Wisconsin State Legislature prevents lawmakers from arriving at solutions that improve the lives of ALL Wisconsin residents.

We wanted to emphasize why it is so critical that the State Legislature consider the People’s Maps Commission maps this year and fix the problem of gerrymandering permanently by passing nonpartisan redistricting legislation.

Teams of fair maps advocates were organized in advance by state senate district. In preparation for Lobby Day, the offices of all State representatives – 33 Senators and 99 Assemblypersons — were contacted. One-hundred fifteen half-hour meetings with representatives were scheduled for the afternoon of Sept. 27.

The Senate District 10 team, which includes most of Polk and St. Croix counties plus parts of Burnett, Dunn and Pierce counties, was able to schedule an appointment with an aide to our Sen. Rob Stafsholt at 1 p.m. that day.

Shortly before we were to meet with him, Rob Stafsholt’s office called to cancel their appointment. Undaunted, we recorded a 25-minute message to send to him. Later our team reached out to his office and we have a meeting scheduled with Sen. Stafsholt for Nov. 3.

By the end of Lobby Day, fair maps teams had met with 64 legislators or their staff. Of the 115 scheduled meetings, 51 were cancelled. Only 21 of 73 Republican legislators participated (29%) while 43 of 43 Democratic legislators participated (100%).

Developments since Lobby Day

On Sept. 28, the majority party in the State Legislature passed by unanimous vote a joint resolution to retain as much as possible the heavily gerrymandered voting district maps drawn in 2011. Fair maps supporters had lobbied to defeat these resolutions the day before.

On Oct. 13, Republican Sen. Dale Kooyenga (R-SD5) sent a letter to the chair of the Senate Committee on Governmental Operations, requesting a public hearing on SB389, which would establish a nonpartisan process for redistricting in 2030 and beyond.

On Lobby Day, nonpartisan redistricting advocates had pressed their representatives to ask for such a public hearing because SB 389 and its companion bill in the Assembly, SB 395, were stalled in committee. We appreciate Sen. Kooyenga listening to his constituents and taking action.

Locally, two weeks after Lobby Day, legislative aides to Assembly representatives Gae Magnafici, AD28, Clint Moses, AD29, and Shannon Zimmerman, AD30, met with teams of their constituents to discuss the fair maps issue. All teams asked for follow-up meetings to speak directly with their Assembly representatives.

We invite you to reach out to your legislators as well. Ask them to support a nonpartisan redistricting process today to assure fair maps for the next decade. Ask them to support legislation to end the practice of gerrymandering permanently.

By coming together and making our voices heard, Wisconsinites can have better maps that will enable our communities to get the resources we need to survive and thrive.

For more information about how to contact your legislator or become involved in the Fair Maps movement go to: piercecountygro.org/#contact.

Submitted by Irene Bugge, Balsam Lake Township, Polk County

October 27, 2021