Walker Seeks to Gerrymander America
His new job: finance chair of national group opposing non-partisan redistricting.
Scott Walker recently issued a sequence of three tweets announcing his new job as Finance Chairman or chief fundraiser for the National Republican Redistricting Trust (NRRT):
It is my honor to help lead @TheNRRT as we counter the efforts of the far Left to try and gerrymander their way into permanent control of the Congress and state legislative bodies across the country. Republicans win if we have fair maps!
My role is to counter Eric Holder’s efforts. He, with he[sic] help of former President Obama, have raised some $200 million that they are using in court and on the campaign trail. Their goal is to secure Nancy Pelosi’s control as Speaker for a decade or more.
Historically, the Left often pushed maps that divide communities of interest & dilute minority voting power as they gerrymander districts to gain more power. The GOP must fight for fair maps. If we have fair maps along with quality candidates & engaged grassroots, we win!
A statement from Walker and the NRRT hits the same theme:
“Barack Obama and Eric Holder want to gerrymander Democrats into permanent control, so we are working to ensure that our side has the organization and resources to combat their efforts,” Walker said in a statement.
This looks very much like a case of “projection.” As defined by Wikipedia, projection occurs when “the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.”
The Wisconsin gerrymander, which Walker signed into law, is one of the most aggressive gerrymanders ever, locking the Wisconsin legislature into Republican control for the past decade, even when Democrats win the majority. Barring some sort of extraordinary event, Democrats would need about 55 percent of the vote to win control of the state Assembly.
Like other gerrymanders this was accomplished by drawing district lines so that Democrats were concentrated in a small number of districts (called “packing”) which allowed many more districts with Republican majorities (“cracking”).
In its brief, the NRRT asserts that “intentional cracking and packing does not cause a palpable injury at the level of the individual voter.” It goes on to assert that “cracking and packing, then, does not truly represent individual injury. Instead, it ultimately measures injury to a party that roughly coincides with the party’s failure to achieve statewide proportional representation.”
By bringing up proportional representation, the NRRT sets up a straw man that it can shoot down. Contrary to the NRRT, electoral fairness does not require proportionality, meaning that a party wins the same percentage of districts as its votes. Rather, fairness demands symmetry: under the present scheme, for instance, if Republicans win 54 percent of the statewide vote, they would stand to win 66 of the 99 Assembly districts. The Wisconsin redistricting plan would pass the symmetry test if reversing the vote would reverse the outcome: if Democrats winning 54 percent of the vote also led to 66 Assembly seats. But it wouldn’t. Democrats would be favored to win only 46 seats, less than half.
Interestingly, the NRRT was silent on the other gerrymander the Supreme Court considered the same day. Maryland Democrats had transformed a US House seat from majority Republican to majority Democrat. The Maryland Republican voters challenging that gerrymander got no aid from the NRRT.
The likely future role for the NRRT is defending pro-Republican gerrymanders before the courts and helping Republican governors and legislators gerrymander their legislatures and Congressional delegations following the 2020 census.
Is Eric Holder and his organization, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the mirror image of Walker and the NRRT, as Walker charges in his Tweets? When Walker claims that “Barack Obama and Eric Holder want to gerrymander Democrats into permanent control,” is Walker lying? The blunt truth is he is.
Rather than encouraging the establishment of even one Democratic gerrymander, Holder’s focus is on challenging Republican gerrymanders. The following map, taken from the NDRC’s website shows the states that Holder is targeting for 2019-2020. Each state has gerrymandered its Congressional delegation, its legislature, or both to favor Republicans.
Recently, New Jersey supplied a test of Walker’s claim that Holder was promoting Democratic gerrymanders. Its (Democratic) legislative leaders proposed to change the state constitution to enable Democrats to win 70 percent of legislative seats with just 57 percent of the statewide vote, according to one analysis of its impact. The proposal was dropped after wide-spread opposition, including from newly-elected Democratic Governor Phil Murphy and Holder.
And in Michigan, Holder’s group has pushed for non-partisan redistricting to prevent gerrymandering by either party.
Historically both Democrats and Republicans were prone to gerrymandering when they enjoyed a “trifecta,” controlling the governorship and both legislative chambers. The chart below shows estimates of the most gerrymandered state congressional delegations. As the chart shows, although both parties are guilty, recent gerrymanders are much more likely to reflect Republican control than Democratic. (Note that this chart doesn’t reflect recent action by the Pennsylvania supreme court to replace that state’s heavily gerrymandered congressional districts with a far more neutral plan.)
So, why did Walker lie about Holder’s strategy? One possibility, noted earlier, is psychological projection. He has closely allied with a master of projection, Donald Trump, well illustrated by this exchange from the 2016 presidential debates:
Trump: Look, Putin, from everything I see, has no respect for this person.
Clinton: Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president.
Trump: No Puppet. No Puppet. You’re the Puppet.
Another is that gerrymanders have gone out of fashion. The next graph shows voters’ response in January’s Marquette poll when asked whether they preferred redistricting to be done by the governor and legislature or by a nonpartisan commission. Even a strong majority of Republicans preferred the commission.
The recent controversies about gerrymandering have served to nationalize the issue. It is no longer tenable for a party to play it both ways: to decry gerrymanders that favor the other party while defending one’s own. The arguments against the Democratic gerrymander in Maryland are similar to those against the Republican gerrymanders in North Carolina and Wisconsin. This helps explain the NRRT’s silence about the Maryland gerrymander.
A recent Associated Press analysis concluded that gerrymandering allowed Republicans to win about 16 more U.S. House seats than would have been expected based on their average share of the vote in congressional districts across the country. If so, the Democrats’ margin in the US House would have almost doubled, from today’s 38 to 70.
Forced to choose, the Republican party has become the pro-gerrymandering party. This is not a comfortable place to be. Walker’s dissembling makes that clear.
More about the Gerrymandering of Legislative Districts
- Waupaca County Opposes Gerrymandering - Matt Rothschild - Apr 29th, 2019
- 45 Counties Want to Ban Gerrymandering - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Apr 19th, 2019
- Data Wonk: Walker Seeks to Gerrymander America - Bruce Thompson - Apr 3rd, 2019
- Murphy’s Law: The Arrogance of Robin Vos - Bruce Murphy - Mar 21st, 2019
- Data Wonk: The Gerrymander Wars March On - Bruce Thompson - Mar 20th, 2019
- 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