By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Wisconsin is no stranger when it comes to gerrymandering – the act of manipulating boundaries to favor one political party over another. In fact, according to Former Attorney General Eric Holder, Wisconsin is one of the worst states when it comes to gerrymandering.
“I think the people of Wisconsin have been underserved by the gerrymandering legislation in Madison,” Holder said in an interview with the Milwaukee Courier.
Holder served as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States from 2009 to 2015 during the Barack Obama administration. Since then, he has become the chairman for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which focuses on creating fair maps.
Gerrymandering began in the 19th century, Holder said. Both parties have engaged in it, but it’s time to get rid of it once and for all. The people of Wisconsin need a legislation that reflects their desires, Holder said, adding that right now the legislation is out of step.
The current state of affairs creates gridlocks in the legislation, which leads to people feeling dissatisfied or cynical about the government, he explained.
The first step in making sure Wisconsin gets fair maps is the census and making sure people participate.
“The census is the foundation of the fair redistricting process,” Holder said.
The purpose of the census is to count every single person living in the country. The Constitution says to count all the people, not just citizens, Holder added.
Based on the census data collected in 2020, lines will be redrawn in 2021. And this is where the second step comes in.
Earlier this year, Gov. Tony Evers created the Wisconsin People’s Map Commission. The commission is a nonpartisan group of local Wisconsinites who are interested in drawing fair electoral maps.
The deadline to apply to the People’s Map Commission is 5 p.m. Friday, July 31. Nine people will be chosen to be a member. Lobbyists, public officials and declared candidates will not be allowed. More information can be found at govstatus.egov.com/peoplesmaps.
People should seriously consider getting involved, Holder said. Next year, the legislation will redraw the maps, but they will have to be approved by the governor. The People’s Map Commission will be offering their maps as a comparison to ensure that Wisconsin’s maps are fair.
Fair maps ensure that the voices of the community, especially communities of color are heard, Holder said.
“If you have fair maps you could have a legislature that looks at the needs of Milwaukee,” Holder said, adding that it would focus on the issues that matter to the people as opposed to only paying attention to those with money who have special interests.
A fair map means Milwaukee could receive more money for education, health care and criminal justice reform programing and that the laws created could reflect the wants of the people such as gun awareness and violence prevention.
These are issues that matter to everyone, but especially to communities of color, Holder said.
“If we have a fair system Democrats get the seats they deserve, Republicans get the seats they deserve and the people get a legislature that’s worthy of them,” Holder said.
The energy is there, people want a fair system, but they need to take action, he said. Wisconsin is on its way to being the most gerrymandered state in the nation and that’s not good.