Letter from Rep. Danou: Primary elections are next TuesdayIt’s hard to believe that August is here and there are only a few weeks left of summer.
By: Rep. Chris Danou, Pierce County Herald
It’s hard to believe that August is here and there are only a few weeks left of summer. Most people spend time with their families enjoying outdoor activities, camping trips, vacations and all the other fun things that the summer season brings. This year, for the first time in decades, people will have to cast their ballot before Labor Day.
This past legislative session brought a change to election law subsequently moved primary elections up by four weeks. As a result primary elections will be held next week Tuesday, August 14th. Along with an earlier day to vote, people across Wisconsin, including many of my constituents, now reside in different legislative districts.
Every ten years, the United States conducts its census and updates local populations across the country. After the census is complete, the majority party within state legislature draws updated congressional and state legislative districts for the next ten years. These districts are supposed to be based on population so each district has about the same total number of people. However, when one political party has sole control of drawing the maps, the chances of gerrymandering taking place become much greater.
Gerrymandering is a political term that goes back to the early 1800’s in Boston, Massachusetts. The word was created as a reaction to the redrawing of the state senate districts under Governor Elbridge Gerry. Gov. Gerry signed a redistricting bill that significantly benefitted his political party across the state. The two goals of gerrymandering are to maximize the effect of supporting votes and to minimize the effect of opposition votes.
One strategy, known as “packing” is to concentrate as many voters of one type into a single electoral district to reduce their influence in other districts. Another strategy, known as “cracking” involves spreading out voters of a particular type among many districts in order to deny them a sufficient voting bloc in a particular district. These strategies are usually combined and effectively create "forfeit" seats for packed voters of one party in order to secure even greater representation for voters from the other party.
To avoid political advantage for one party through the gerrymandering process, some states such as California and Iowa have implemented a nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw their maps. I have been and will continue to be an advocate for this procedure in Wisconsin because I believe partisan politics should be kept out of this important process. Here in Wisconsin, the Republicans drew our legislative maps to help them protect and keep the majority. As a result, some districts changed significantly and some Democrats, including myself, were drawn in with each other.
Not only does gerrymandering effectively provide a political cushion for one party, but it creates confusion among the electorate, divides long-standing communities of interest and keeps taxpayers out of the process.
As I’ve been out in the community, people have indicated that they are not aware of changes to the primary election dates or changes to their legislative districts. It is important that people are aware of these changes and I encourage everyone to take a moment to see what your legislative district looks like. You can view all congressional and legislative districts in Wisconsin at: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/ltsb/redistricting/districts.htm.
It is a pleasure serving you in the Wisconsin State Assembly and I always appreciate hearing your thoughts on the issues. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office to share your thoughts regarding this or any other matter of importance to you. Remember to vote August 14th!