Democracy Under Siege in Wisconsin

Shutterstock (Gino Santa Maria)

For far too long, state and congressional districts have been mapped according to party lines. This may no longer be the case in Wisconsin.

In 2016, a federal court in the state ruled that the Republican-crafted map was unconstitutional after Democrats received a majority of the statewide votes in 2012 and 2014, but just 39 out of 99 seats in the state legislature. For the first time in over three decades, a federal, three-judge panel decided that the map violated the First Amendment’s right to freedom of association, as well as the Equal Protection Clause, according to NPR. However, until the Supreme Court makes a decision on the case, the map will remain in use.

With elections in November, the Supreme Court’s decision could change the political makeup of Wisconsin at the state level. Depending on the language the Supreme Court uses in its ruling, it could apply to partisan maps at the state and congressional level in various states. The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on gerrymandering in Wisconsin during the current term, which ends in June.

According to former Attorney General Eric Holder, gerrymandering, accomplished through the use of technology at “unprecedented levels,” has “most adversely affected” African-Americans and Latinos. Holder currently serves as the chairman for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which believes that up to a dozen congressional house seats are at stake.

The same can be said for Wisconsin’s state legislature. Reports have shown that Republicans in power relished making the district maps, with state Sen. Leah Vukmir writing to Tad Ottman, aide to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald at the time, that “this is such a big task. So glad we are in control!” In addition to incriminating emails, the current state districts map was created in the offices of Michael Best & Freidrich’s law firm, whom Republican leadership paid $400,000 in legal fees.

Due to this, Wisconsin’s extreme gerrymandering is considered among the worst in the country. This hasn’t satisfied politicians in power, as Republicans in the Badger State have passed a number of voting restrictions to further weaken the votes of their opposition. Two years ago, a strict voter ID law was passed under the guise of preventing voter fraud.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, citizens who do not have access to one of the few acceptable forms of identification are “disproportionately low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Such voters more frequently have difficulty obtaining ID, because they cannot afford or cannot obtain the underlying documents that are a prerequisite to obtaining government-issued photo ID card.” Thus, by expertly carving cities and rural counties into districts deemed more favorable to Republicans, as well as removing a number of minorities from the electorate, those in power in Wisconsin have been able to stay in power by weakening our democracy.

This series of events within Wisconsin are not coincidences. Instead, they are successful attacks on the democratic process in the U.S.. The voter ID law and the partisan district map have done serious damage to citizens within the states’ sense of involvement in our representative democracy, and has compromised the integrity of a series of elections. A Supreme Court ruling against gerrymandering would only begin to chip away at these grievances.


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