Activist Profile: Elizabeth Treviño
While working as a field director for Wisconsin’s State Senate Democratic Committee, Elizabeth Treviño witnessed the 2012 election and was suspicious of its outcome: Republican candidates won the majority of seats in the State’s Assembly, but only received 48 percent of the state’s vote. She suspected gerrymandering — which is when a political party redraws district lines in a state to work in its favor.
“For me, gerrymandering is like fundamentally cheating,” Treviño told Supermajority News. “All the policies that folks care about are stalled because of gerrymandering, so nothing happens, and it’s fundamentally unfair.” For example, even though 70 percent of Wisconsinites support Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, the Wisconsin Legislature voted against Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to expand the program.
Every ten years, the Census collects data on population changes in every state. After each person is counted, each state uses the information they collect through this process to begin a new redistricting cycle, during which state lawmakers redraw state and congressional lines to “ensure an equal, proportional distribution of people in each district,” according to the organization All On The Line.
In 2016, the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that Wisconsin’s 2011 redistricting process favored Republicans and did not accurately represent Wisconsin’s Democrats.
Treviño has worked in politics for a decade. Her past roles include campaign coordinator for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO); deputy executive director for Emerge Wisconsin, an organization supporting Democratic women running for office; and the director of operations for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
Throughout her career, Treviño witnessed numerous election outcomes that misrepresented Wisconsin voters. She wanted to do more to assure the next remapping process in 2021 is handled well so that the system in place is not extended for another decade. In May 2019, she became the Wisconsin state director for All On The Line, a grassroots movement to end gerrymandering, restore fair elections, and to encourage everyone to be counted in the 2020 Census.
Treviño says two events in her life inspired her to take this path. When she was 14, she visited her father in Mexico during the country’s general elections in 2000. That year, the president turned over power to a candidate in an opposing party for the first time in 71 years. “I was in Mexico, I was at my dad’s, and this was the first legitimately democratically held election in years,” she says. “And I don’t think I understood the gravity of the moment at the time, but it was amazing just to watch my family members react to that.”
Then in 2008, while attending Northern Illinois University, there was a shooting on campus. A gunman shot and killed six people in a lecture hall. After this incident, Treviño wanted to work in a space where she could be part of reforming and creating policies that would end big issues such as school shootings. “We shouldn’t have to keep living those cycles,” she says.
Now, Treviño believes that fairer redistricting will lead to the election of lawmakers who better represent people’s needs.
“Hopefully, under a fair redistricting process, there would be a lot of issues that we can work to address like climate change, education, and health care reform,” she adds.
The majority of Wisconsinites support a fair redistricting process. According to a January 2019 poll commissioned by Marquette University Law School, 72 percent of Wisconsin voters — including Republicans, Independents, and Democrats — are in favor of a nonpartisan redistricting committee redrawing the state and congressional lines in 2021. But given the polarizing political climate — Wisconsin has a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled Legislature — achieving a nonpartisan solution may prove difficult.
In January, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order for Wisconsin’s People’s Maps Commission to redraw Wisconsin’s maps without the input of politicians, lobbyists, or political party officials. The committee redrawing the maps will be made up of nonpartisan redistricting experts, residents from each of Wisconsin’s districts, and members from “communities of interest,” WPR.org reported in January. But according to state law, the Republican legislature holds the power to redistrict the state and doesn’t have to consider the commission’s recommendations. For the maps to be approved, both the legislature and Governor must sign off on it.
“It’s an important step toward equal representation and truly fair maps for Wisconsin,” Treviño shares. “All On The Line wholeheartedly supports his call to create a nonpartisan redistricting committee that will give all Wisconsinites a real voice in how their home districts are drawn.”
All On The Line is supporting this movement to combat gerrymandering in Wisconsin by building public awareness around the issue. Much of this work relies on a base of passionate All On The Line-trained volunteers who host events in their communities to educate fellow voters about redistricting, and who reach out to elected officials about the importance of supporting fair redistricting in 2021. All On The Line is also spreading the word about the importance of the 2020 Census in the redistricting process.
“We need to have a fair and accurate Census,” says Treviño. “That lays the foundation. Without a fair and accurate Census, you can’t have fair ground. Everyone’s got to get counted.”