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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Redrawing voting districts ought to be in courts’ hands

The federal trial in the case of the controversial redrawn voting districts has been yet another
revelation in the overt political self-interest of the Republican Party. The maps were introduced
and pushed through the Legislature under Republican support with the approval of Gov. Scott Walker, and then instantaneously contested in court by a group of Democratic citizens and
the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera. The maps were contested on the grounds that they
diminished Latino voting power in Milwaukee and unnecessarily redistricted 300,000 voters throughout
the state.

As reported by the Journal Sentinel, University of Wisconsin political science professor Ken Mayer, an expert witness
in the case, said the district lines were “radically reconfigured.” He said that in many cases, thousands of
voters were unnecessarily moved in and out of districts. In one extreme example, an under-population
of 10 people in the 60th Assembly District was remedied by moving 17,595 people out and 17,963 in –
which by my calculations is actually a net addition of about 360 people. Mayer concluded that, “It should
have been possible, and it was possible, to move less people.”

Another serious concern is that the new district lines are a threat to Hispanic voting power.
Revisions to the 8th and 9th districts of Milwaukee split a neighborhood that had a strong Hispanic
majority down the middle, a move that advocacy group Voces de la Fronterra says serves only to
diminish Latino voting strength. According to Peter Earle, as reported by the Wisconsin State Journal, the group’s attorney in the federal trial, “They
chopped it right down the middle without any regard for how the community felt.”


In light of expert analysis of the new district maps, and considering the fact that Republican
lawmakers drew them up and presented them to the Legislature without consulting the public or the
Democratic minority at the Capitol, it is obvious the maps were drawn with the intent to strengthen
Republican voter representation in the state of Wisconsin. This biased redistricting represents an
attempt to tamper with the electoral process. In an ironic and distasteful political power-move, Republican
legislators have taken a process that is meant to ensure equal voter representation and used it to tilt the
electoral playing field.

For the past three decades, lawmakers have failed to agree on voter districts, so the process was
handled by the courts. This process should always be handled by the courts. The courts are the branch
of government that most closely approximates a neutral third party, and in the interest of equal political
representation across the state of Wisconsin, they ought to draw the maps. Politicians have proven once
again that they cannot be trusted to do so in a just manner.

Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar told the the Wisconsin State Journal that “the process of
legislation is not on trial,” and claimed that while the maps themselves are under scrutiny, the
redistricting process is assumed to be constitutional.

While Lazar is absolutely correct – the process is not on trial in this federal court case – it is in
question. One would have to be a cynical, realpolitik, Nietzschean will-to-power type GOP member to
be okay with this sort of blatantly undemocratic redistricting process. I’m a cynic too, so I know that if
Democrats held the majority, they’d undoubtedly do exactly the same thing, and they probably will as
soon as they have a chance. Of course, just because both parties fudge with voter maps doesn’t make
it okay, and this doesn’t mean it should be a valid political strategy. Giving politicians control of the
redistricting process undermines the very foundations of electoral democracy, and allows the party with
a majority to skew voter representation, which is our most fundamental right as citizens.

Letting politicians draw voter maps is like putting a basket of candy out on the porch on
Halloween with a sign that says “Take One Please.” It’s pathetically over-trusting and places far too
much faith in politicians who have proven themselves time and again to be capable of the most overt
forms of self-interested behavior. In this case, the Republican Party dumped the entire basket of candy
in a pillowcase and ran away laughing. Of course, the Democrats would have done the same thing if they had arrived sooner.

It’s getting harder and harder to look at the last year of Republican politics in Wisconsin
and see anything but blatant and undemocratic attempts intending to maximize Republican
power. If the collective bargaining bill was largely a measure to undercut the considerable funding
Democrats get from public unions, this redistricting effort is nothing more than an attempt to undercut
Democratic voter representation. It’s a major cause for concern that the Republican Party isn’t even
making a superficial effort to play a fair political ballgame.

Charles Godfrey ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in math and physics.

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