In 2012, Republicans got just 46 percent of the presidential vote in Wisconsin, but captured 60 percent of the seats in the State Assembly. Four years later in the 2016 presidential election, then Republican candidate Donald Trump won just 50.4 percent of the vote, turning Wisconsin red for the first time since 1984, but Republicans managed to win 64 percent of the Assembly seats.
Political scientists at Binghamton University have taken these numbers and concluded that, in order for Wisconsin Democrats to control the state Assembly, they would have to win 55 to 56 percent of the vote. Contrarily, for Wisconsin Republicans to control the Assembly, they would only need 44 to 45 percent.
The boundaries that allow for this disparity are drawn every 10 years by the state legislature, a flawed policy if the current legislature is a reflection of already gerrymandered districts. The last time the lines were redrawn in Wisconsin, in 2011, districts were labeled as either “assertive” or “aggressive”, meaning if they were likely to vote for Republican candidates or likely to vote against them. The finalized map was one that would allow “Republicans to maintain a majority under any likely voting scenario.”
In the summer of 2015, four years after the approval of the ridiculously partisan redistricting, a case was filed with the U.S. District Court, with Professor William Whitford of the University of Wisconsin heading the charge as lead plaintiff, who argued that the 2011 state assembly map was unconstitutional in its Republican partisanship and therefore discriminated against Democratic voters.
Following a 2-1 ruling in 2016 by three federal judges that ruled the map unconstitutional, the state of Wisconsin appealed to the Supreme Court, asking that the highest court overturn the ruling of the district court and allow the current districts to remain in place. The Supreme Court agreed in June of 2017 to hear the case, referred to now as Gill v. Whitford.
Since June, numerous high-profile politicians, including Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, have come out condemning Wisconsin’s legislative districts as unconstitutional. Newest to the party is Ohio Governor John Kasich, one of many Republicans to have fought to be on the 2016 Republican presidential ticket.
“The Court has a unique opportunity to support fair, common sense standards for how districts are drawn and put legislators in a better position to work together to effectively govern and get results,” Kasich said.
A look at SCOTUS’s upcoming Wisconsin gerrymandering caseThe United States Supreme Court granted a hearing Monday that will decide if Wisconsin Republicans acted unconstitutionally when drawing their Read…
The obviously warped, heavily partisan districts have skewed Wisconsin politics since their conception in 2011, the same year Republican Governor Scott Walker took office and promptly wreaked havoc on public education, infrastruture and the Wisconsin economy, to name a few. In a state that, in recent history, tends to vote for Democrats in national elections, not only should internal elections follow that trend, but the policies put in place by the legislature should as well.
The gerrymandering has led to the election of prominent Wisconsin Republicans to offices that, in reality, they didn’t win fairly. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the representative from the first congressional district of Wisconsin, is ranked ninth on the list of members of the House whose election was most aided by “redistricting” i.e. gerrymandering.
Ryan’s district was changed in 2011 as part of the Republican seizure of power in Wisconsin, giving him nearly insurmountable assurance as the incumbent that his seat will not be taken away by any Democratic challenger.
The entire point of the American experiment is to elect leaders that represent the views of the people, representatives that make up a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Wisconsin Republicans have taken this ability away from their constituents and have used their political clout to pad their pockets and settle into their legislative seats for the long run, as their incumbency is almost guaranteed due to the 2011 redistricting.
Ryan, and others like him who benefitted from gerrymandering, have no business making political decisions for constituents that either didn’t vote for them, or only were able to because their district changed to allow them to cast their ballot for a certain candidate.
Depending on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Gill v. Whitford, Ryan could once again benefit from his party’s partisan redistricting in 2018 as he runs for reelection, once again placing a man who does not represent the Democratic past of Wisconsin in a position of immense power.
Aly Niehans ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in international studies and intending to major in journalism.