Beware the GOP Redistricting Proposal
Republicans want 10 more years of gerrymandering. To do this they would hand all power to state Supreme Court.
Republicans who control the Legislature would love to extend their gerrymandering of the state for another decade. It has guaranteed they get 60% of the legislative seats if they get only 50% of the statewide vote, and assured them control of legislative and congressional districts even when they fall short of a majority. But standing in their way is Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who under the state constitution has the power to veto any redistricting plan he deems unfair.
So Republicans have come up with a plan to do an end round not only around the governor, but just about anyone else in the state who opposes gerrymandering. A petition, filed by former Assembly Speaker and longtime Republican strategist Scott Jensen, and the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, seeks to radically revamp the way redistricting is handled in Wisconsin.
Given that 55 of 72 counties in Wisconsin have passed resolutions supporting fair maps and rejecting gerrymandering, and given polls showing an overwhelming majority of voters, including 59% of Republicans, support non-partisan redistricting, the idea of freezing out the public is particularly suspect.
But perhaps the most aggressive aspect of the proposal would in essence allow the Supreme Court to do the redistricting. The proposal “ultimately allows the Court to develop its own redistricting proposal, establish many of the rules for any public comment on the proposal, and approve the proposal,” as comments on it by the non-profit Wisconsin Justice Initiative (WJI) noted. “The petition leaves it unclear whether non-governmental interested groups or individuals would be allowed to file formal objections to any Court map or have any say on it at all.”
There was just two comments favoring the proposal, both by politicians.: One was by attorney Misha Tseytlin on behalf of Republican U.S. Representatives Glenn Grothman, Mike Gallagher, Bryan Steil, and Tom Tiffany and Rep.-elect Scott Fitzgerald. The other was by attorney Kevin M. St. John, on behalf of Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Fitzgerald, in his role as State Senate majority leader.
They argue the proposal protects the constitutionally delegated roles of the Legislature and the state to handle redistricting and minimizes the potential for “federal court intrusion.” But in the past when there has been any disagreement between the governor and two houses of the Legislature the issue was decided by a federal court.
The Supreme Court was asked to consider a similar petition in 2019 and a majority of justices rejected it, as the ACLU of Wisconsin noted in its comments on the proposal. “As Justice (David) Prosser stated during the 2009 rulemaking process, the Court taking original jurisdiction in redistricting cases would be a ‘fundamental institutional mistake for this Court’ as it would place the Court at the center of the political arena.”
“A traditional trial and appeals process to resolve redistricting challenges allows Wisconsin voters and groups to follow cases throughout the process and, if motivated and possible, get involved,” the ACLU noted. “Vesting judicial resolution in a single court — the Wisconsin Supreme Court — would diminish the ability to follow cases and participate in them… If accepted, the proposed rule will undermine the public’s trust in the Court and in the redistricting process.”
The proposal tries to remove the governor from the redistricting process, the Campaign Legal Center commented, and “mistakenly suggests that the legislature can adopt new districts without presenting those districts to the governor for approval or veto.”
The idea behind gerrymandering, it has been said, is to have politicians pick their voters rather than voters picking their political representatives. And that is what this proposal seeks to accomplish.
“WILL’s proposed changes,” commented the Dane County Board, “would only allow for consideration of partisan interests rather than those of individual Wisconsinites and civic groups that can provide for knowledge about their regions and how certain redistricting of areas would affect them.” The changes “would decrease transparency in the redistricting process and would allow the Court to bypass consideration of any views by groups other than elected officials and/or political parties.”
For anyone who cares about having a true democracy in Wisconsin, there is no issue of greater importance.
- 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
- Former lawmakers to go ‘On the Issues’ for virtual bipartisan conversation on redistricting, Oct. 13 - Marquette University - Oct 12th, 2020
- The State of Politics: GOP Once Bypassed Governor on Redistricting - Steven Walters - Oct 12th, 2020
- Eric Holder Meets With State Redistricting Commission - Shawn Johnson - Oct 3rd, 2020
- People’s Maps Commission Plans First Hearing - Melanie Conklin - Sep 29th, 2020
- Film Details Disenfranchisement in Wisconsin - Erik Gunn - Sep 24th, 2020
Read more about Gerrymandering of Legislative Districts here