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How to Steal an election. Image by Steven Nass (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
How can a democracy be democratic if its people have no vote? That’s the question we have been asking since the passage of Wisconsin Act 43 in 2011, where Republican lawmakers redrew legislative districts so brazenly in favor of their own party that the end result is now being contested as unconstitutional before the United States Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the highest judicial body in our proud nation will hear arguments that will ultimately determine whether Democrats and Republicans alike will be able to continue silencing their opposition through blatant gerrymandering. And when the decision is finally handed down, I hope that decision will come back loud and clear: gerrymandering is a threat to our democracy and thus unconstitutional.
In the historic upcoming trial, Whitford v. Gill, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a story reaching back to 2011, when lawmakers here in Wisconsin silenced the voice of Democratic voters statewide by imposing redistricting plans specifically favoring the likelihood of Republican re-election and continuous state-wide control. This shameless strategic move, officially referred to as gerrymandering, is a national issue that is a detriment to our democracy. Although the blow hit Wisconsin Democrats in 2011, I want to emphasize that this is not a Democrat versus Republican issue; this is an issue of right versus wrong.
Jumping back to 2011, the Whitford v. Gill
case shows just how dishonest the practice of gerrymandering can be when we look forward one year, to the 2012 Wisconsin elections. During these elections where the 2011 legislative redistricting maps were in place, Democratic candidates substantially won the popular vote for state Assembly, alongside victories in two major statewide elections, but still only won 39 out of 99 Assembly seats. To call this anything other than unconstitutional is laughable because thousands of Wisconsin voters lost their say in these elections; it was taken from them by a severe case of gerrymandering that stacked the deck by putting all Democratic voters in the same districts. For Republicans to have a supermajority in the State Assembly despite losing the popular vote is simply unheard of. It’s just not the way a democracy should work.
It’s sad to see that many lawmakers are so absorbed with staying in power that they have continued to support a practice they know hurts our citizens. They know that it is unconstitutional to violate equal protection and free expression for those living in predominantly Democratic or Republican districts. They know it’s wrong to ensure one party stays in power through rigged mapping. And they know that the American people will lose faith in a system that silences the voice of the voters. So it is my hope that when Whitford v. Gill goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, party politics will be the last thing on their mind. Instead, let’s hope they put American citizens first and ensure every American the Constitutional voting rights our forefathers endowed us with.
Rep. David Crowley represents the 17th Assembly District in the city of Milwaukee.