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County backs fair voting

Douglas County is taking aim at a pair of problems revealed after the November election. Gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts, and a recount that did little to change the outcome of Wisconsin's vote for president, prompted by...

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Carol Skamser, seated in foreground, goes through ballots during the recount in December. Prompted by a presidential candidate who only garnered 1 percent of the vote, Douglas County is lending its support to reforming Wisconsin’s recount regulations. Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com

Douglas County is taking aim at a pair of problems revealed after the November election.

Gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts, and a recount that did little to change the outcome of Wisconsin's vote for president, prompted by a candidate who received only about 1 percent of the vote, are the targets of resolutions adopted by the county board Thursday night.

Gerrymandering

On Nov. 21, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 vote, Act 43, which defines Wisconsin's legislative and congressional districts, are unconstitutionally gerrymandered, violating the voting rights of Democrats in the state.

Gerrymandering is an act of manipulating political boundaries to establish an advantage for a political party or group.

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"We find that Act 43 was intended to burden the representational rights of Democratic voters throughout the decennial period by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats," Judge Kenneth Ripple wrote in the majority opinion. "Moreover, as demonstrated by the results of the 2012 and 2014 elections, among other evidence, we conclude that Act 43 has had its intended effect."

Douglas County is encouraging the Wisconsin Legislature to adopt a nonpartisan process for preparing legislative and congressional redistricting maps.

Historically, the resolution states, legislative and congressional plans have put the desires of politicians ahead of the desires of voters, and cost taxpayers.

Defending the maps initially has already cost taxpayers about $2 million, and those costs are expected to rise after the Legislature approved appealing the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Monday, the high court struck down two congressional district maps in North Carolina because of unconstitutional gerrymandering, CNN reported.

According to the Associated Press, taxpayers could spend $175,000 in legal fees to one firm hire to defend the Legislature, while another is paid $300 an hour to work the case.

Recount

The county is also throwing its support behind a bill that would reform Wisconsin's recount rules.

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About three weeks after the November election was tallied, county clerks statewide were again tallying the vote at the behest of a presidential candidate, Jill Stein, who garnered only 1 percent of the vote statewide. Statewide, county clerks had to call on boards of canvassers and election officials to tabulate the vote again.

Wisconsin voters favored Republican President Donald Trump by casting 22,617 more votes in his favor - a margin of less than 1 percentage point, according to the Election Day total.

After the recount in December, Trump gained another 131 votes over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, but the margin remained the same.

The reform bill would restrict recounts to the "aggrieved parties," who are within 1 percent of the winning vote when more than 4,000 votes are cast or within 40 votes were 4,000 or fewer votes are cast.

It also includes more costs the state can be reimbursed for and shortens the deadline to petition for a recount to ensure Wisconsin's Electoral College votes are protected.

The reform bill maintains that a recount is free when the vote difference is 0.25 percent.

Related Topics: DOUGLAS COUNTY
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