GOP Could Bypass Evers, Gerrymander Again
Joint Resolution bill could prevent governor veto, gain second decade of gerrymandering.
Advocates on both sides of recent redistricting battles in Wisconsin have told the Examinerthey believe that the Republican-controlled legislature might draw new, gerrymandered voting maps after the 2020 census, using a process that would avoid sending the plan to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers for his signature or veto.
Democrats and advocates for a fair map hoped that the election of a Democratic governor would prevent Republican legislators from gerrymandering Wisconsin again.
Wisconsin already has one of the most skewed voting maps in the nation, according to a federal court. Under the current map, created by the Republican legislature and signed by then-Gov. Scott Walker in 2011, Republicans were able to win a majority of seats in the state Assembly in 2012, even though Democratic candidates received more votes, overall, in that year’s Assembly races. In 2018, despite losing his re-election bid, Gov. Scott Walker carried 63 of the state’s 99 Assembly districts because of Republican gerrymandering.
Joint resolution worries
Now Democrats and fair-maps advocates are worried that Republicans might make an end-run around Evers by means of a joint resolution, passing a new map through the Assembly and Senate. Because joint resolutions do not require the governor’s signature, the map could go into effect without any input from the governor.
“We believe that the legislative Republicans are already working with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, and they are geared up to do reapportionment in 2021 by means of a joint resolution,” said attorney Lester Pines, who has challenged the constitutionality of laws enacted by the state legislature on voter I.D., abortion restrictions, executive power and other issues. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has already held that redistricting by joint resolution is unconstitutional, but the current court, dominated by Republican-backed justices, might be willing to overturn that 54-year-old precedent, Pines added. “And the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty will be geared up to argue that it is constitutional.”
WILL is not currently working with Republican legislators on the joint-resolution plan, Esenberg said: “Whether we would have anything to do with it, I can’t say.”
But, he added, “I understand the argument. The argument is the constitution reserves [redistricting] to the state legislature, and it should be taken literally; the state legislature should do it.”
“It would require that precedent be overruled,” Esenberg acknowledged. But, he added, “I don’t think it’s a frivolous argument.”
And, Esenberg said, “Assuming the Democrats don’t take both houses of the legislature, which is unlikely, it’s the only way out of what is an assured impasse.”
Raising the alarm
Republicans removed a provision from Evers’ budget proposal that would have created a nonpartisan commission to draw voting districts. Now Democrats worry that the Republicans are already working behind closed doors on a joint-resolution plan.
“Yes, that’s the scenario I see,” said Rep. Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie). “It’s not, ‘What’s right for the state?’ It’s, ‘What’s right for me?’” Hebl added: “With gerrymandering, there’s no longer a fear of an election challenge from the other party, the only fear is of an extremist primary.”
In the early 1960s, a Republican-led legislature tried to reapportion the state’s voting districts by joint resolution, making an end-run around Democratic Gov. John Reynolds. That effort was overturned by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the 1964 Reynolds v. Zimmerman decision. The court ruled that the legislature could not enact a reapportionment plan by joint resolution, and that the governor must be a part of the process.
For the Republicans to redistrict by joint resolution in 2021, the court would have to overturn that 54-year-old precedent. Advocates worry that the current Supreme Court might be willing to do that.
“I’ve tried to raise the alarm myself, personally, that the Democrats should be prepared for this,” said William Whitford, the retired University of Wisconsin law professor who was the lead plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Gill v. Whitford partisan gerrymandering case.
Whitford said he has been part of conversations about the possibility of a joint-resolution end-run with Gov. Evers and other elected officials as well as progressive groups. “It’s going to take lawyers to fight it,” he said.
“In Wisconsin and a few other states, gerrymandering affects which party is in control. So the consequences are just enormous,” Whitford added.
Supreme Court’s ruling
In the Whitford case, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the plaintiffs could not show that they were specifically harmed, and remanded the case back to district court, so they could prove “concrete and particularized injuries … that would tend to demonstrate a burden on their individual votes.”
In June, in a separate, 5-4 decision, the Court decided that federal courts have no role to play in drawing Congressional districts, leaving the issue of drawing districts to the states.
But that decision does not preclude federal courts stepping in and drawing a district map when legislators and the governor cannot agree on how to draw districts.
In fact, the federal courts have imposed district maps in Wisconsin more often than not because the parties could not agree, according to Michael Keane, senior research analyst with the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, in his definitive history, “Redistricting in Wisconsin.”
In 2011, after gaining control of both the legislature and the governor’s office, the Republicans took control of the process, drawing maps in secret with support from private attorneys.
“And they’d like to continue it, of course,” Whitford said. “Look at [Assembly Speaker] Robin Vos, he sits there like a king on the hill. He’d like another 10 years.”
A majority of Wisconsin voters — 72% according to a recent Marquette Law School poll — said they prefer redistricting of legislative and congressional districts be done by a nonpartisan commission. That includes 63% of Republicans, 83% of Democrats and 76% of independents.
The process by which the state draws new voting maps will be a key issue in the spring Supreme Court election, said Chheda, who said he is aware of behind-the-scenes discussion of the possibility that the Republicans will seek to bypass the governor by redistricting through a joint resolution where only the Republican-dominated legislature can have a say.
“Our job over the next two years is to hold the legislature accountable and keep the issue in the public eye,” said Chheda. “More and more legislators are hearing from their constituents that they want to see the next redrawing be a fair redrawing.”
Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.
More about the Gerrymandering of Legislative Districts
- 23 Advisory Votes on Gerrymandering - Matt Rothschild - Mar 25th, 2020
- City Hall: Ballots Won’t Have Duplicate Gerrymandering Questions - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 27th, 2020
- Did Gerrymandering Kill Medicaid Expansion? - Erik Gunn - Feb 25th, 2020
- Data Wonk: The Republicans’ Gerrymander Scheme - Bruce Thompson - Feb 5th, 2020
- The State of Politics: Redistricting Fight Is One Year Away - Steven Walters - Feb 3rd, 2020
- Hesselbein Advocates for Fair Maps Constitutional Amendment - State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein - Jan 7th, 2020
- ‘Fair Maps’ Groups to Train Activists - Rob Mentzer - Nov 8th, 2019
- City Hall: City Voters Will Get Gerrymandering Referendum - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 16th, 2019
- Majority of Wisconsin Wants Non-Partisan Redistricting - Ruth Conniff - Oct 2nd, 2019
- Legislation on redistricting ballot issue moves forward - Ald. Cavalier “Chevy” Johnson - Sep 17th, 2019
- Data Wonk: Gerrymandering Is Built on Lies - Bruce Thompson - Sep 12th, 2019
- Data Wonk: The Future of Wisconsin Gerrymandering - Bruce Thompson - Aug 14th, 2019
- Republicans Deny New Gerrymander Plan - Ruth Conniff - Jul 30th, 2019
- GOP Could Bypass Evers, Gerrymander Again - Ruth Conniff - Jul 29th, 2019
- Op Ed: The Game is Rigged in Wisconsin - Spencer Black - Jul 21st, 2019
- Gerrymandering Foes Push Reform - Erik Gunn - Jul 17th, 2019
- Rep. Robyn Vining Continues Fight for Fair Maps - State Rep. Robyn Vining - Jul 16th, 2019
- Statement on Nonpartisan Redistricting Reform Bill - State Rep. Lisa Subeck - Jul 16th, 2019
- Gerrymandering Bill is Bipartisan - Laurel White - Jul 12th, 2019
- Op Ed: Redistricting Now Up to Citizen Action - Jay Heck - Jul 2nd, 2019
- Rep. Robyn Vining Says Fight for Fair Maps Is Not Over - State Rep. Robyn Vining - Jun 28th, 2019
- U.S. Supreme Court Allows Gerrymandering - Laurel White - Jun 28th, 2019
- Statement on U.S. Supreme Court decision on Partisan Gerrymandering - Fair Elections Project - Jun 27th, 2019
- 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