From The Executive Director’s Desk: Fair Maps in Ashland County

The following is a Letter to the Editor submitted to the Ashland Daily Press by Progress North Executive Director Shawnu Ksicinski.

Much like every election, as we approach this spring election, I have been having similar conversations with friends, family, and neighbors about candidates, voting, and policy. Many folks feel that perhaps their vote, and by extension their voice, don’t matter as much as they should. Others feel that, while they “go through the motions” of exercising their right at the polls, nothing much seems to change regardless of which party holds power. And others choose not to vote at all, having felt for years that their vote means nothing. It breaks my heart, but I understand and have often felt many of the things they do. We know the answer, the system must change to empower all voters, it really is that simple.

In 2011, the maps that determine our voting districts were changed. While that’s a regular practice, the way it happened then was anything but typical. It was done in private, behind locked doors. The public wasn’t allowed in. The media wasn’t allowed in. And any lawmakers who were hand selected to participate were required to sign an oath of secrecy.

That’s not how democracy is supposed to be done.

What they did has a name and serious consequences: gerrymandering. It’s when one party takes advantage of their power to redraw the boundaries of voting districts to give themselves an undeniable and mathematical advantage to maintain and expand their power. It rigs the state to favor one-party rule, it decreases competition & voter options, it leads to hyper-partisanship, and it deprives Wisconsinites of equal and fair representation with representatives that feel beholden to their constituents’ best interests.

There’s good news, though. Wisconsinites believe in fair play and we can right the ship. Recent polling revealed that over 70% of us want to ban gerrymandering. It is a nonpartisan, independent movement based solely in our common values of fairness and people-centered democracy. By the end of last summer, 54 county boards had passed resolutions calling for the end of this practice and 17 passed countywide referendums. Ashland County is next!

On April 6, voters in Ashland County will see a referendum question asking whether the legislature should create a
nonpartisan procedure for the preparation of legislative and congressional district plans and maps. The answer, quite simply, is an unequivocal YES!

Yes to every voice and every vote mattering. 

Yes to empowerment of voters to choose their elected officials instead of the other way around.

Yes to ending rigged maps that allow cheaters to win.

Look. We know that the only way for democracy to work for all of us is when democracy includes us all. The principle of one person one vote extends to all eligible voters, from Ashland to Superior to Milwaukee & Madison, and everywhere in between. Right now, Wisconsin’s outdated district maps block us from having our voices heard and our rights respected. Lobbyists and powerful interests prop up this outdated system to divide us and hand outsized power to the already wealthiest few. They allow a handful of extremist politicians to put our very lives on the line just to have our voices heard – much like we have seen and experienced through the course of this pandemic.

Together, voters in Ashland County have the chance on April 6 to vote YES for fair maps, ensuring everyone and every community has an equal say in determining our future as we build a Wisconsin that works for all of us. And ensuring that our elected officials actually represent the needs and interests of their communities.

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