Thursday, May 26, 2016

WisGOP's partisan-based gerrymandered zig-zagged maps should be tossed out

Wisconsin GOP made democratic preference of voters irrelevant in drawing new district lines

Here’s some peculiarities to consider as a federal court hears arguments on Wisconsin’s redistricting lawsuit:
  • If you live on the west side of Lake Winnebago, you’re in the 6th Congressional District. Go to the east side of the lake, and you’re in the 8th Congressional District. Fine enough -- unless you travel another 40 minutes east, then you’re back in the 6th District. Even stranger, go fifteen minutes west of Lake Winnebago, and you’re back in the 8th if you live in Winneconne. The district lines zig-zag in significant ways.

  • The 7th Congressional District grew in geographic size from 2000 to its 2010 map. But in order to do so, three large-ish (and Democratic) Wisconsin cities were booted out of the 7th District -- Stevens Point (which voted 64 percent in favor of Barack Obama in 2012), Wisconsin Rapids (53 percent for Obama) and Chippewa Falls (56 percent for Obama). The geographic gains in the new district lines are primarily Republican-country.

  • The three cities listed above that were formerly in the 7th District now join the 3rd Congressional District. That means that Stevens Point is in the same district as Platteville, which is a three hour’s drive south. Yet Plainfield, just thirty minutes south of Stevens Point, is in a separate district from both. The 3rd District also now resembles the shape of the letter “Y.”
These are just a few instances of strange electoral maps that Wisconsin Republicans drew -- in secret -- that favors their party considerably. And this is just the Congressional districts we’re talking about. When it comes to state legislative districts, it gets worse.

How bad is it? In 2012 voters favored Democratic candidates over Republican choices by 52 percent of the overall vote count. Yet Republicans won 60 out of 99 Assembly seats. A clear “efficiency gap” emerges, demonstrating that a disadvantage for Democrats exist where more competitiveness should regularly be.

To be sure, a clear standard for throwing out gerrymandered maps on being too partisan isn’t yet established. The key word there is “yet” -- the High Court is certainly ready to establish such a standard. In a 2004 case, the justices split 4-4 on a partisan-based gerrymandering case. Anthony Kennedy, the deciding vote, couldn’t move himself to establish a new precedent at that time:
“The failings of the many proposed standards for measuring the burden a gerrymander imposes on representational rights make our intervention improper,” Kennedy wrote.
But he DID leave room for the possibility...
Nevertheless, he concluded that “if workable standards do emerge to measure these burdens … courts should be prepared to order relief.”
Emphasis in bold added.

If ever there was a set of electoral maps that existed that demonstrated a clear reason for needing to be tossed out, these Wisconsin maps would surely fit the bill. The secrecy and plain-as-day partisan nature in which they were drawn renders them unfit for use. They should ceased being used entirely, with the old maps in place until a better solution is presented.

And a new method for creating maps should be implemented, one that is nonpartisan in nature and takes into account the democratic leanings of the people lawmakers are meant to represent.

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