Rep. Paul Ryan’s whopper about competitive districts

GUEST OPINION

WISCONSIN’S CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS ARE competitive? So claims U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.

Not so, says the Cook Political Report.

In fact, not even close.

And the reason for that has a lot to do with creative line-drawing by Republicans (including Ryan), when for the first time since the 1950s they gained control of both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office during a reapportionment period. States must redraw their congressional and legislative districts every 10 years to balance population shifts and ensure an equal number of voters in the districts. That requirement too often has been used for political shenanigans - as it was by the GOP between the 2010 and 2012 elections.

At a meeting of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Press Club last month, Ryan said: “I come from one of the battleground districts in the country. Wisconsin’s like that. We have competitive districts.”

Well, actually, no, we do not.

Says David Wasserman, who analyzes House districts and races for the Cook Political Report: “If Paul Ryan claims that these seats are competitive, he’s living in the past. That’s preposterous. There are virtually no competitive seats in Wisconsin.”

Ryan’s whopper earned him a “Mostly False” rating from PolitiFact Wisconsin.

But let’s focus on why it is that Wisconsin’s congressional and legislative districts are so noncompetitive. Yes, it’s partly because of self-sorting by residents. People have a tendency to live among like-minded people politically. But it’s also because of gerrymandering. Republicans ensured that Wisconsin would have no competitive seats. If you like your representative, good for you, because you’re probably stuck with him or her for a very long time.

It need not be that way. Politicians should not be drawing the maps - should not be choosing their own voters. Turn that job over to an independent commission as in California, or empower a nonpartisan state legislative services bureau to do the job, as in Iowa. A bill to do that died in the last session of the Legislature. Either way, Wisconsin would have a better outcome.

Wisconsin’s non-competitive districts may have more than one cause, but there is one cause that has a solution - nonpartisan map-drawing. The state should move there beginning in the next legislative session. — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Oct. 2

At issue:
Wisconsin congressional districts
Bottom line:
Drawn to be non-competitive


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