Wisconsin’s Republican leaders thought they found a clever way to stay in power forever. Then, the voters spoiled their plan by electing a liberal judge and setting up a political showdown for the ages. Here’s what’s happening.
They Redrew the Maps
The results of the 2010 U.S. census – and the redistricting that followed – gave unscrupulous state lawmakers the chance they needed to cement single-party rule.
Republicans Took Wisconsin
Republicans rode a red wave to power in Wisconsin, picking up several new state assembly seats in the midterm elections.
They Took Gerrymandering to a New Level
Then, as a part of Project REDMAP, the conservatives used their newfound power to severely gerrymander the state’s voting districts in their favor.
Their goal was to ensure that they would remain in power no matter who the state’s voters cast their ballots for.
Boxing in Democrats
The first order of business was to make sure that as many Democrat voters as possible fit within the large Milwaukee and Madison districts.
A Playground for Conservatives
That left the rest of the state as a playground for Republicans. And the results have proved their plan was effective.
Wisconsin’s democracy is now in shambles, receiving ratings on par with third-world countries like Jordan, Bahrain, or even the Congo.
Democrats Won but Lost
In the 2018 midterm elections, for example, Democrats picked up 53% of the popular vote for assembly seats.
But they only gained one seat, which left Republicans with a whopping 63 of the total 99 seats – a near-supermajority.
An Everlasting Moat
It looked like the state’s Republican congress had built a moat around itself that might last forever.
Liberal Judge Changed Everything
But then left-leaning Janet Protasiewicz was voted into a vacant seat on the state’s supreme court.
She entered stage left when conservative Patience D. Roggensack retired after 20 years on the bench.
Civil Rights Groups Seized the Day
As Protasiewicz prepared to be sworn in, a civil rights group filed a lawsuit with the Wisconsin Supreme Court to challenge the electoral map drawn up by Republicans.
The Press Wanted Answers
In response, the press ran to Protasiewicz and asked her how she would vote on the case.
She Wasn’t Shy
While the new high-court justice said she wouldn’t comment on the filing specifically, she laid her cards on the table.
“The Maps Are Wrong”
“I can’t tell you what I would do on a particular case, but I can tell you my values, and the maps are wrong,” she said.
A Dagger to Conservatives
That gave Republicans in the assembly heartburn, because Protasiewicz’s election tilts the high court toward the left, 4 judges to 3.
Republicans Have a Plan
So those representatives started planning right away, and they have some options for how to stop Protasiewicz from foiling their domination.
They Want to Impeach Her
The most obvious ploy for Republicans is to bring impeachment proceedings against Protasiewicz on the grounds that she is not impartial.
She’s already given her two cents on the case, after all.
No Need to Be Extreme
And, while Republicans might struggle to get the votes they need to actually remove Protasiewicz from office in the senate, they may not need that extreme a victory.
They Can Ice Her
In Wisconsin, justices who are being impeached are not allowed to rule on any cases until the impeachment has been concluded.
If the assembly votes to impeach Protasiewicz, then the Republican-led senate could just choose not to proceed with a trial.
They’d be icing Protasiewicz, essentially.
An Even Playing Field?
Then the Supreme Court would hear the gerrymandering case with just 6 justices in place, splitting the right-left votes, at least on the surface.
Governor Won’t Stand for It
One more wrinkle to all this is that Governor Tony Evers vowed to do whatever he can to stop Republicans from interfering with the court case.
Not Over by a Long Shot
Whatever the outcome, the gerrymandering fiasco in Wisconsin just highlights the deep divide in the state and the country at large.
You can just about bet there’s plenty more to come.
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Coy St. Clair. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.
Source: New Republic