We’re at a place now in this country where voters are not picking their representatives anymore. Representatives, through the gerrymandering process and redistricting, are picking their voters.” – then-Wis. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-8-Sherwood in 2013

WAUSAU, Wis. – In both 2017 and 2018 the Wisconsin Counties Association adopted resolutions to end gerrymandering. Gerrymandering means to achieve a result by manipulating the political boundaries of an electoral constituency.

Hans Breitenmoser is a dairy farmer from Merrill, Wisconsin; he’s also the Lincoln County Board Supervisor and a Wisconsin Farmers Union member. Along with Wis. Gov. Tony Evers he spoke Jan. 27 to the public about the People’s Maps Commission, at the Marathon County Public Library in Wausau. As the meeting began coordinators needed to double the number of chairs available for seating the audience.

“We get good agricultural policy the same way we get good policy on anything,” Breitenmoser said. “It starts with a healthy representative democracy. All we are asking from our politicians in Madison is what we practice at the county-board level. And that is transparency. When we have something as inconsequential as a public property-committee meeting we keep the doors open and allow the public to participate. We should do the same thing when we’re talking about something as important as legislative and congressional-district maps.”

He told the audience he was there to show his support for the People’s Maps Commission.

“In March of 2017 the Lincoln County Board passed a resolution insisting that the state of Wisconsin adopt a non-partisan procedure for drawing legislative and congressional-district maps,” Breitenmoser said. “The resolution passed 18 to 4 in Lincoln County. Conservatives, Progressives and Independents at the local level joined together and agreed that there’s a better way to draw these maps.”

Bi-partisan level of agreement is not always the case at county-board meetings. He said in the gubernatorial election of 2018 the Lincoln County Board put the question on the ballot, “Do you favor a non-partisan procedure for drawing legislative and congressional maps?”

Of Lincoln County voters, 65 percent said yes. In that same election Lincoln County residents voted for Republicans up and down the ballot.

Breitenmoser turned and smiled at Evers.

“Incidentally you got clobbered,” he said.

Evers laughed along with the audience.

Breitenmoser followed the light moment by pointing out that most residents voted for fair maps – showing gerrymandering is a non-partisan issue that needs addressing.

“At this time there are 50 counties in Wisconsin representing 78 percent of the population who have said loud and clear they want an end to gerrymandering by voting in favor of Fair Maps,” he said. “As a taxpayer I support the People’s Maps Commission because we’ve already spent around $2 million of taxpayer money supporting the maps we have now. As a county-board supervisor of a small rural county, and as a citizen who also farms, I’m concerned about the health of our democracy.

“I support the People’s Maps Commission because as we follow open-meetings rules at the local level, so too should we have a transparent process for this redistricting task. The job of the People’s Maps Commission is to end political gerrymandering in Wisconsin and we the people have to make sure that happens.”

Evers said, “This commission will be composed of the people of Wisconsin. There won’t be elected officials, lobbyists or high-paid consultants involved. The commission will visit all congressional districts and hear directly from folks across our state. When the People’s Maps are finished they will present them to the legislature for consideration, and I hope they will receive unanimous bi-partisan support.”

Visit wisconsinfarmersunion.com/legislation for more information.

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Greg Galbraith and his wife, Wendy, sold their dairy farm after 30 years of grazing cattle. He now has 20 acres of his grandfather’s original farm with a sugar bush and cabin. From there he writes about the evolving rural landscape. Visit www.poeticfarmer.com for more information.