Gerrymandering Dilutes Voters’ Voices
Farmers Union invites rural, urban voters to bridge the divide and fight for fair maps
by Julie Keown-Bomar, Wisconsin Farmers Union Executive Director
For the last six years, Wisconsin Farmers Union members at our annual convention have voted to end gerrymandering and replace it with nonpartisan redistricting. WFU is developing voter education materials, organizing at the state and local levels, and collaborating with like-minded organizations to move the dial towards real democracy. Recently, we launched a video, Fighting for Democracy: Fair Maps in Wisconsin and held a virtual town hall with over 150 attendees. In turn, those participants have committed to holding candidate and elected official’s feet to the fire, getting them to pledge their support for nonpartisan redistricting.
Some people wonder why a family farm organization cares about an issue like fair maps. It’s because we recognize that no matter one’s political persuasion, casting a ballot that counts is as American as it gets. Unfortunately, in the state of Wisconsin, your vote is shaped by the party in power. In 2016, a federal court ruled that Wisconsin voters are disenfranchised; their votes are diluted because of the way the maps have been drawn and this is a constitutional violation.
Gerrymandering fuels partisan politics, enabling elected officials to close their doors and ears to many of their constituents and rest comfortably term after term, knowing their seat is secured. When people lose faith in their ability to petition the government through voting and their representatives have no incentive to listen, people either disengage from the democratic process or resort to more radical ways to be heard.
Recently, I moved from Menomonie to Chippewa Falls. Like much of Wisconsin, voting district lines here are zig zags and squiggles, not following any sort of natural or recognizable boundary. When I asked my town clerk what assembly district I was in, she wasn’t sure either. She had a map in her office to try and help residents, but she couldn’t tell me with certainty because of the confounding maps. She noted voters around here are terribly confused, showing up at familiar town halls only to be told that they were in the wrong district. I treasure citizen engagement in the political process. Election maps should organize, clarify and direct citizens to exercise their right to vote and call on their representatives. Instead in Wisconsin they are rigged to confuse, diminish, and manipulate the electorate and protect the party in power.
Wisconsin Farmers Union members want fair maps and they are willing to phone friends and relatives, hold house parties, canvass, and convince their neighbors that democracy is worth the fight. Join us to end this toxic, partisan gridlock and empower the people!
Julie Keown-Bomar is the Executive Director of Wisconsin Farmers Union, a member-driven organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, rural communities, and all people through educational opportunities, cooperative endeavors, and civic engagement. Learn more about WFU’s work at www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com/fairmaps.