June 25, 2004
GuestBlog: By Bill Kraus
Is the Legislature too small?
Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance executive director Todd Berry’s response to the increasing unresponsiveness of a Legislature that is increasingly the stamping ground of invincible incumbents is to expand it dramatically. This presents a few logistical problems, but it would have the offsetting advantages of bringing the candidates closer to the people and making campaigning personal instead of commercial. Running a television-commercial-based campaign to persuade 51 percent of the residents of a 50,000-person Assembly district would be foolish as well as uneconomic. It would also be harder to gerrymander small districts.
A UW-Madison professor would attack the invincible insularity problem somewhat differently. He suggests that every 5,000 voters vote not for a representative but for a surrogate (a new kind of elector) who would vote for one of the candidates for the Legislature.
In an era when something like only 10 of the 132 seats in the Wisconsin Legislature are competitive something should be done, maybe something this dramatic, to counter the widespread megalomania that is the undesirable byproduct of representing a safe district.
The irony is that neither of these ideas would be need to be floated or considered if the aforementioned invincible incumbents would pass meaningful campaign finance reform and agree to turn redistricting over to dispassionate, disinterested outsiders, which, of course, they won’t.
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