APPLETON POSTCRESCENT: Redistricting plan hurts municipalities

July 17, 2011
Appleton Post-Crescent Editorial Board

There's a way redistricting is supposed to work in Wisconsin, and that's from the ground up.

That's not happening this year, and that is wrong.

When the process happens every 10 years, municipal leaders get the first crack at determining their wards and districts along lines, mostly geographic, that make sense to their communities. After that's finished, the maps are sent Madison so lawmakers can redraw the statewide legislative and congressional boundaries to their liking.

The Republican-controlled state Legislature has decided to go ahead with a redistricting plan that doesn't take local lines into account. Legislators are rushing to get the plan done before the Aug. 9 recall elections.

State law allows the party in power to redraw the districts after the census, and it's the party's prerogative to create districts that help it politically. But the law also requires municipalities to draw their maps first.

The ground-up process isn't just a courtesy to local leaders. Starting at the local level can save money so local wards aren't represented by two state lawmakers, which would require two types of ballots.

Plus, it maintains local control, something lawmakers often say they support.

If the boundaries pass as Republicans have them drawn now, local officials' work over the last six months will have been a waste.

Lawmakers in Madison should have been smarter about this. They talk about wanting to give municipalities the tools to save money, but then they undercut a means to do so.

Republicans have changed the rules in the middle of the game, and they're wasting your money.