Republicans Oppose Gerrymandering
Voters overwhelmingly favor fair maps, yet Vos spends millions in taxes to fight this.
Just after the November election, former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson gave a speech to the Milwaukee Press Club where he criticized the way political districts have been drawn in Wisconsin. “We’ve got to be able to make districts more competitive,” he said.
Thompson did not use the word gerrymandering, but that’s clearly what has made the districts so uncompetitive. As a recent Wisconsin State Journal editorial noted: “None of Wisconsin’s races for eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 6 was decided by less than double-digit margins — even though statewide races for governor and attorney general were incredibly close. And for the state Legislature, only 11 of 99 Assembly seats and 5 of 17 Senate races were decided by single digits, with many incumbents going unchallenged.”
As Urban Milwaukee’s Data Wonk columnist Bruce Thompson found, in 38 of the 99 assembly districts, only one of the two major parties fielded a candidate. That’s because gerrymandering creates districts that are as uncompetitive as possible. Republicans in Wisconsin sought to give themselves as many safe seats as possible and did this by packing Democrats into a minority of districts that were also uncompetitive. “To take control of the Assembly and win 50 of 99 seats,” Thompson found, “Democrats need 54.7 percent of the vote; by contrast, Republicans need support from only 45.5 percent of voters.”
Yet it’s clear that Republican voters do not support this kind of gerrymandering. Last week’s Marquette University Law School poll found the majority of Republicans — 63 percent — favor having redistricting of legislative and congressional districts done by a nonpartisan commission. Just 27 percent of Republicans favored having redistricting done by legislators and the governor.
The poll echoed the results of county referendums where voters supported fair electoral maps. In the November election four counties overwhelmingly supported nonpartisan redistricting, by 74 percent in Eau Claire, 72 percent in Sauk, 69 percent in Winnebago and 65 percent in Lincoln counties. The latter two are conservative counties carried easily by Donald Trump in 2016, yet they overwhelmingly favor redistricting reform.
To date, 41 of 72 counties in the state have approved a resolution calling for non-partisan redistricting.
Republican legislators obviously know the gerrymandering plan is offensive. That’s why it was done in secret back in 2011, without Democratic legislators being able to see the plan and with GOP legislators required to sign a pledge of secrecy.
“What could have — indeed should have — been accomplished publicly instead took place in private, in an all but shameful attempt to hide the redistricting process from public scrutiny,” wrote a three-judge federal panel in February 2012 about the Republicans’ scheme.
The stink arising from this plan has only grown more offensive as Republicans have continued to operate in secret while spending ever more taxpayer money to defend their skulduggery.
“Taxpayers have already shelled out some $2.5 million to private law firms to draft and defend legislative districts that give Republicans an unfair advantage in elections,” as the Wisconsin State Journal noted.
But by February 2017 the Republicans conspired to spend still more of the taxpayers’ money. ”Republican lawmakers voted behind closed doors Thursday to give a blank check to hire two law firms — one of which routinely bills more than $800 an hour — in a legal battle over redrawing legislative maps,” as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Then-Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca “asked that legislators hold a public meeting to discuss the plan …but Republicans rejected his suggestion and proceeded with their plan to hire the law firms behind closed doors,” the story reported. “Rep. Rob Brooks (R-Saukville) and Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) did not give a reason why they didn’t want to see the cost of the contract before casting a ballot for it.”
Reporters later learned that a new contract Republicans had signed with a Chicago-based law firm would pay the firm $850,000, but only after Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos fought efforts to release the information in response to an open records request.
“They should just release the record. I mean, it’s clearly a public record and it should be automatic,” said Orville Seymer, a longtime conservative with Citizens for Responsible Government and a member of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council‘s board, in a Journal Sentinel story.
Vos and the Republicans have already benefitted for eight years — and four election cycles — from gerrymandered districts, and will finally lose the advantage after the 2020 census, because Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will still be in office. Yet to make sure they have one more election, in 2020, with a nearly 10 point built-in advantage over Democrats, they will spend whatever taxpayer money is needed to forestall a court decision requiring a fair map.
The advantage is by now so obvious and objectionable that former Republican Assembly Speaker turned lobbyist Scott Jensen recently cautioned some of his confederates in an email, writing that “I am getting concerned that conservatives are repeating the Democrat’s line that we hold both houses of the legislature because Republicans drew the maps.”
But why else are Vos and company working so hard to protect their gerrymander? They obviously believe they will lose legislative seats if all voters have an equal chance to elect their representatives.
Perhaps the more remarkable aspect of this smelly story is that Vos, the key architect of this gerrymandering, has plans to run for governor in 2022. By now there is detailed documentation of his secret scheming, over the last nine years, to frustrate the will of the voters and charge them millions of dollars for this. Not the most promising platform for a candidate seeking our vote for the state’s highest office.
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More about the Gerrymandering of Legislative Districts
- The State of Politics: How Evers Would End Gerrymandering - Steven Walters - Mar 18th, 2019
- Evers’ Budget Will Include Nonpartisan Redistricting Process - Shawn Johnson - Feb 27th, 2019
- Representative Subeck Applauds Governor Evers’ Plan to Ensure Fair Election Maps - State Rep. Lisa Subeck - Feb 26th, 2019
- Rep. Hesselbein Supports Governor Evers’ Fair Maps Plan - State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein - Feb 26th, 2019
- Rep. Spreitzer Supports Gov. Evers’s Redistricting Reform - State Rep. Mark Spreitzer - Feb 26th, 2019
- Statement on Governor Evers’ announcement he will include nonpartisan redistricting reform in his proposed budget - Wisconsin Fair Elections Project - Feb 26th, 2019
- Rep. Robyn Vining Embraces Gov. Evers’ Inclusion of Redistricting in Budget - State Rep. Robyn Vining - Feb 26th, 2019
- Op Ed: Why We Oppose Gerrymandering - Andrea Kaminski - Feb 20th, 2019
- Murphy’s Law: Republicans Oppose Gerrymandering - Bruce Murphy - Jan 29th, 2019
- Op Ed: Gerrymandering Costs Taxpayers Millions - James Rowen - Jan 23rd, 2019
- Data Wonk: Gerrymander is Alive and Well - Bruce Thompson - Dec 12th, 2018
- Board Adopts Supervisor Moore Omokunde Proposal to Decriminalize Marijuana - Sup. Supreme Moore Omokunde - Nov 6th, 2018
- Murphy’s Law: The Fight Against Gerrymandering - Bruce Murphy - Oct 30th, 2018
- Democrats Refile Redistricting Suit - Shawn Johnson - Sep 16th, 2018
- Amended Whitford Complaint Highlights Harm Caused by Wisconsin’s Partisan Gerrymander to 40 Plaintiffs Across 34 Districts - Campaign Legal Center - Sep 14th, 2018
- 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