The infamous gerrymander, a slimy creature that is largely responsible for GOP dominance over the past generation, continues to die off at an accelerating rate. It’s one extinction we don’t mind seeing – but it’s certainly putting the GOP on the defensive.
First, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved law in Arizona taking the power of redistricting out of the hands of lawmakers and giving it to an independent, non-partisan committee. Less than two weeks later, the Florida High Court ordered the state’s legislature to redraw eight convoluted districts. Gerrymandering is now being challenged in Wisconsin.
The case was filed by a group of Democrats against members of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) earlier this month. At the center of the case is a district plan adopted by the state assembly that affected the 2012 elections – and if allowed to stand, would skew the 2016 elections as well.
In August of 2011, the GOP controlled Wisconsin State Legislature secretly redrew the electoral map. Governor Scott Walker “quietly” signed off on the new map on the same day several state senators were up for recall. The Wisconsin Democratic Party, along with an immigrant rights organization, filed a lawsuit – but only two of the new gerrymandered districts were ordered redrawn. As a result, Republicans captured almost two-thirds of the state assembly seats – despite the fact that Democrats actually won a majority of the votes.
This was the idea all along. Plaintiffs’ attorney Peter G. Earle says:
[The] Current Plan is, by any measure, one of the worst partisan gerrymanders in modern American history. In the first election in which it was in force in 2012, the Current Plan enabled Republican candidates to win sixty of the Assembly’s ninety-nine seats even though Democratic candidates won a majority of the statewide Assembly vote. The evidence is overwhelming that the Current Plan was adopted to achieve precisely that result.
According to the complaint, this “partisan gerrymandering” violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, it “treats voters unequally, diluting their voting power based on their political belief.” At the same time, they are being denied equal protection under the law while their right of association and free speech have been severely compromised.
Among other forms of relief, the plaintiffs in this case are asking the Court to declare all State Assembly Districts resulting from the GOP’s actions unconstitutional and prevent the GAB from “administering, preparing for, and in any way permitting the nomination or election of members of the State Assembly” before districts can be redrawn. They’re also asking the Court to come up with a redistricting plan.
If recent events in Arizona and Florida are any indication, the days of Scott Walker and his GOP flunkies’ reign of error are numbered.