Many Republicans Oppose Gerrymandering
Even in Wisconsin. But nearly all are former officeholders.
Three challenges to partisan gerrymandering are currently being considered by justices of the US Supreme Court:
- Gill v Whitford is a challenge to the Wisconsin gerrymander of state legislative districts aimed at assuring Republican control even if a majority of voters chose Democratic candidates. A panel of three federal district judges threw out the redistricting plan. Wisconsin Attorney Brad Schimel appealed this decision to the US Supreme Court. The Court heard oral argument in October and its decision is expected by the end of June. (annotated guide to case briefs)
- Beniske v Lamone is a Maryland case against a gerrymander by Democrats eliminating that state’s lone Republican-leaning US House District. A three-judge federal court put this challenge on hold until the Supreme Court rules on Gill. The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on March 26. It is widely assumed that the court intends to decide this case along with Gill.
- Turzai v. League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania is a challenge to a Republican gerrymander of US House seats by the Pennsylvania legislature. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the gerrymandered districts and ordered a new district map. Mike Turzai, the leader of state Republican senators has appealed this decision to both the US Supreme Court and to a three-judge federal court panel. Since the state Supreme Court based its decision on the state constitution, his appeal is widely regarded as a stretch.
The Gill challenge, in particular, has generated enormous interest, as reflected in its 48 “amicus” briefs from individuals and organizations that are not affiliated with the parties in the case; 13 of the briefs supported Wisconsin’s redistricting and 32 supported the challengers to it. The remaining three were labeled as “in support of neither party,” although two of these—from redistricting experts—clearly supported the challenge.
One question to ask is to what extent do the amicus briefs interest reflect their partisan interest? In other words, if the Wisconsin gerrymander had been designed by Democrats with the aim of entrenching Democrats, how many of them would switch their position?
The partisan interest of the 13 amici supporting the Wisconsin Republican gerrymander is much more obvious in most cases. They include groups, such as the Republican National Committee and Republican State Leadership Committee, whose clear mandate is to win Republican seats. Others, although ostensibly nonpartisan, such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Judicial Watch, have a long history of supporting Republican candidates.
That leaves the Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty. It makes all the standard arguments against court interference with partisan gerrymanders. These arguments would certainly imply support of a Democratic gerrymander, but until it is put to the test we won’t know. If the Illinois districts, generally thought to favor Democrats, were challenged would WILL defend them?
A number of the amici challenging Wisconsin’s gerrymander come from current and former office holders, both Republican and Democratic. One, from 65 current and former state legislators, gives a snapshot of which states have a gerrymander and which party it favors. The ratio of red to blue in the chart below closely corresponds to the states’ bias. Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and North Carolina have tried to entrench Republicans through gerrymandering, while Illinois, Rhode Island, and Maryland used gerrymandering to favor Democrats.
The amici also serve as a measure of the growth of partisanship in Wisconsin and nationally. As shown below, all of the Wisconsin Republican officeholders joining the 65 legislators opposing gerrymandering were former members of the legislature. Republicans who put democracy ahead of party are likely to face a primary challenger.
The same result is seen in another amicus, from 36 former and current US House members, 18 from each party. As shown below, to get 18 Republicans, the organizers needed to get former members of Congress, who no longer had to worry about their next election.
Other amici inadvertently tell the same story. One comes from 14 Republican statewide office holders, including Bob Dole, John Danforth, Richard Lugar, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. All but one—John Kasich—are former officeholders.
Several of the briefs from social scientists stress the harm that partisan gerrymandering does to the democratic system by accentuating the partisan divide and making it harder to solve society’s problems. “Safe” districts are often quite unsafe for officeholders who wish to work with people from the other party. Thus, partisan gerrymandering feeds on itself, giving voters less power in elections and damaging the ability of both parties to respond to the concerns of average Wisconsinites.
More about the Gerrymandering of Legislative Districts
- The State of Wasted Votes - Malia Jones - Jul 2nd, 2018
- Data Wonk: Can Democrats Still Contest Gerrymander? - Bruce Thompson - Jun 27th, 2018
- The State of Politics: Democrats Rejected Redistricting Reform - Steven Walters - Jun 25th, 2018
- Supreme Court Punts on Gerrymandering - Shawn Johnson - Jun 18th, 2018
- Republican State Leadership Committee: The Efficiency Gap is “Sociological Gobbledygook” - Republican State Leadership Committee - Jun 18th, 2018
- Response to Gill v Whitford decision to remand back to trial court - Fair Elections Project - Jun 18th, 2018
- The Art Of Gerrymandering Milwaukee - Malia Jones - Jun 9th, 2018
- The Push for Nonpartisan Redistricting - Cathleen Draper - Jun 5th, 2018
- U.S. Supreme Court Nears Decision on Wisconsin Redistricting Case - Cathleen Draper - Jun 2nd, 2018
- Data Wonk: Many Republicans Oppose Gerrymandering - Bruce Thompson - Mar 14th, 2018
- The State of Politics: Will U.S. Supremes Rule on State Districts? - Steven Walters - Feb 19th, 2018
- Back in the News: Majority Now Backs Fair Redistricting - Bruce Murphy - Feb 5th, 2018
- Data Wonk: John Roberts’ Nightmare - Bruce Thompson - Oct 11th, 2017
- The State of Politics: You Be The Judge on Redistricting - Steven Walters - Oct 2nd, 2017
- Op Ed: U.S. Supreme Court Should End Partisan Gerrymandering - Andrea Kaminski - Sep 26th, 2017
- Data Wonk: Judges Consider a Democratic Gerrymander - Bruce Thompson - Aug 30th, 2017
- Op Ed: 24 Counties Have Voted for Fair Maps - Matt Rothschild - Aug 25th, 2017
- Data Wonk: Right Wing Seeks to End Democracy? - Bruce Thompson - Aug 23rd, 2017
- Data Wonk: US Supreme Court Wrong on Redistricting? - Bruce Thompson - May 31st, 2017
- Op Ed: Save Taxes With Nonpartisan Redistricting - Andrea Kaminski and Lindsay Dorff - May 26th, 2017
- Data Wonk: Why GOP Backs Gerrymander - Bruce Thompson - May 24th, 2017
- Data Wonk: State’s Political Map At Issue - Bruce Thompson - May 18th, 2017
- Rep. Peter Barca Statement on Attorney General Appeal of Redistricting Decision - State Rep. Peter Barca - Feb 24th, 2017
- Fair Elections Project calls upon Legislature to focus on fair map drawing process - Wisconsin Fair Elections Project - Feb 24th, 2017
- Campaign Cash: GOP’s Redistricting Lawyers Are Big Donors - Matt Rothschild - Feb 6th, 2017
- Op Ed: Reject Partisanship, Redraw Voting Maps - Andrea Kaminski - Feb 3rd, 2017
- Rep. Peter Barca Statement on Assembly Organization Committee Secret Ballot - State Rep. Peter Barca - Feb 2nd, 2017
- Court Watch: Court’s Redistricting Order A Problem? - Bruce Thompson - Feb 1st, 2017
- Rep. Hesselbein Calls for Open, Transparent, and Public Process for Drawing New Legislative Lines - State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein - Jan 27th, 2017
- Wisconsin Federal Court Permanently Blocks State Redistricting Plan - Wisconsin Fair Elections Project - Jan 27th, 2017
- Data Wonk: 2016 Election Results Prove Gerrymandering - Bruce Thompson - Dec 28th, 2016
- Plaintiffs call for new maps for Wisconsin legislative district - Wisconsin Fair Elections Project - Dec 21st, 2016
- Data Wonk: Measuring Wisconsin’s Gerrymandering - Bruce Thompson - Dec 7th, 2016
- Sen. Taylor statement on federal court ruling against Republican gerrymandering - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Nov 21st, 2016
- Statement on Redistricting Ruling - State Sen. Chris Larson - Nov 21st, 2016
- Federal Court overturns unconstitutional gerrymandering of Wisconsin legislative districts - Wisconsin Fair Elections Project - Nov 21st, 2016
- Rep. Barca Statement on Redistricting Decision - State Rep. Peter Barca - Nov 21st, 2016
- HISTORIC DECISION: Wisconsin Federal Court Strikes Down Partisan Gerrymander and Adopts Groundbreaking Legal Standard - Campaign Legal Center - Nov 21st, 2016
- Murphy’s Law: The Myth of Democratic Gerrymandering - Bruce Murphy - Jan 26th, 2016
- Data Wonk: Can New Approach End Gerrymandering? - Bruce Thompson - Jan 6th, 2016
- Federal Lawsuit to Overturn Unconstitutional Gerrymandering of Wisconsin Legislative Districts Continues - Wisconsin Fair Elections Project - Dec 17th, 2015
- Can Auto Redistricting End Gerrymandering? - Laura Thompson - Dec 10th, 2015
- Assembly candidate Brostoff calls for non-partisan redistricting - State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff - Apr 17th, 2014
- Redistricting reform the antidote to Republican extremism - Press Release - Nov 13th, 2013
- Lazich, August, Fitzgerald and Vos Still Silent on Redistricting Reform Public Hearings As Support & Pressure Builds - Common Cause in Wisconsin - Sep 17th, 2013
- Freshmen legislators push new legislation to correct flawed partisan redistricting process - Press Release - Apr 11th, 2013