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.
- Your Right to Know: Redistricting Shouldn’t Be Done In Secret - Matthew DeFour - Mar 2nd, 2021
- Redistricting conversation continues on virtual “On the Issues,” Feb. 11 - Marquette University - Feb 10th, 2021
- Op Ed: Redistricting Should Consider Native Americans - Tehassi Hill - Feb 9th, 2021
- Op Ed: Why the War on Masks? Gerrymandering - Mel Barnes - Feb 7th, 2021
- Op Ed: Correct a Cheating System With Fair Maps - State Sen. Jeff Smith - Feb 3rd, 2021
- Will State Supreme Court Draw New Legislative Boundaries? - Shawn Johnson - Jan 15th, 2021
- Data Wonk: Tales Told By The 2020 Election - Bruce Thompson - Dec 31st, 2020
- Court Watch: 2,000 Object to Redistricting Proposal - Gretchen Schuldt - Dec 13th, 2020
- Murphys Law: Beware the GOP Redistricting Proposal - Bruce Murphy - Dec 2nd, 2020
- Op Ed: Dear Wisconsin Supreme Court - Matt Rothschild - Nov 23rd, 2020
Read more about Gerrymandering of Legislative Districts here