Wisconsin Nonpartisan Redistricting System Question (2014)

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The Wisconsin Nonpartisan Redistricting System Question was not on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Wisconsin as an advisory question. The measure would have asked voters whether they want a nonpartisan system for redistricting the state’s legislative districts and congressional districts.[1]

The measure was introduced into the Wisconsin Legislature by State Representative Dana Wachs (D-91) as Assembly Joint Resolution 80.[1]

Text of measure

The ballot question would have read as:[2]

Question 1: Nonpartisan redistricting system. Do you favor adoption of a nonpartisan system for redistricting of legislative and congressional districts in this state?[3]


The measure was sponsored in the legislature by Rep. Dana Wachs (D-91).



Former officials


  • League of Women Voters of Wisconsin[5]
  • Common Cause Wisconsin


  • Ken Mayer, Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin[6]


  • Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-31) reported, “During 2011 a law firm was hired by Republican leaders to maximize Republican advantage. Some lawmakers signed secrecy agreements under threat to see their new districts before the proposal was made public. Subsequent elections demonstrated the effectiveness of the maps in maintaining a Republican majority.”[4]
  • Former Congressman Dave Obey (D-7) declared redistricting reform to be a nonpartisan issue. He elaborated on redistricting abuses by both major political parties, saying, "I don’t think you can trust either party."[7]
  • Jay Heck of Common Cause Wisconsin lambasted partisan redistricting as "[producing] too many uncompetitive general elections in which the winners are really determined in partisan primary elections. This has often allowed the most extreme partisans from their respective parties to be elected. Bipartisan compromise becomes virtually nonexistent. Instead, we have bitter partisanship, paralysis and polarization.”[4]


The Chippewa Herald concluded that any action on passing the referendum through the legislature seemed "unlikely" after interviewing Republican members. The measure did not get a hearing in either chamber. Assemblyman Tom Larson (R-67) said, “It’s not because it’s not important. But we have so many other things that need to be done. We’ve got serious problems in Wisconsin; redistricting isn’t going to change any of that.”[7]

Media editorial positions


  • Wausau Daily Herald said, "It’s hard to think of a principled defense of a system that allows politicians to choose their own voters, to carve up neighborhoods and split up cities in pursuit of “safe” districts. The ability to throw the bums out is pretty much the key power the voters have over our representatives. Cede that and we’re losing something vitally important about our democracy... In the latest move in an ongoing debate, last week Democratic legislators proposed an advisory referendum to allow voters to weigh in on whether Wisconsin should reform its redistricting system. That may be a path forward, but the much better path forward would be for the Legislature to take up — and debate openly and modify if necessary — the specific legislation it has before it. We cannot be satisfied with inaction."[8]

Path to the ballot

Democrats and one Republican in the Wisconsin Assembly introduced a resolution calling for a nonbinding statewide vote on January 15, 2014.[9] The measure needed to pass through both chambers of the legislature in order to place the nonbinding question on the ballot.[10]


  • January 15, 2014: AJR 80 was introduced into the Wisconsin Legislature. All Democrats and one Republican sponsored the resolution.[1]
  • January 15, 2014: Referred to the Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations
  • February 11, 2014: The Wisconsin Assembly refused to suspend rules to withdraw the measure from the Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations and to take up a vote on the referendum with 39 voting in favor and 59 voting against. All Democrats voted in favor and all but one Republicans voted against. The one Republican did not vote.
  • March 21, 2014: The Assembly adjourned for the year without voting on the measure.

See also

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