NEWS FLASH (or stray voltage, hard to determine which): Ol’ Sparky, our Eisenhower-era mainframe computer, predicts the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold Wisconsin’s legislative district maps. (But don’t expect a decision to be announced for months.)
The Madison daily newspaper and the liberal-progressive-socialist establishment is fully invested in the story line that the only reason Republicans dominate Wisconsin politics is nefarious map drawing by wingtip-wearing monks in candle-lit caverns, crazed bats whirring overhead. For a welcome corrective, check out “A line the High Court shouldn’t cross” in the Wall Street Journal this morning. Then read George Will.
The Democrat(ic) plaintiffs have hit upon a formula called the efficiency gap. They cite the 2012 results following the redistricting: Republican candidates won 48% of the vote, but 61% of the legislative seats.
What they never reveal is that Republicans aggrandized fewer votes because they made the race in only 78 Assembly districts compared to 95 districts contested by Democrats, meaning Republicans received zero votes in 17 more districts than Democrats.
Or that before redistricting, Republicans controlled the State Assembly 59 to 39 (with 1 independent who voted with Republicans) in 2010. The so-called gerrymandering rendered their advantage in the next election to 60-39 — a pickup of one seat.
The Wall Street Journal makes the point that overturning the maps would:
- “put the courts deep into what Justice Felix Frankfurter called the ‘political thicket; of drawing political maps.”
- “Would undermine a bedrock principle of American politics — that we elect representatives based on electoral districts, not proportionally as in many European countries.”
We’ve said this many times: just try to make Rep. Chris Taylor’s 76th District on Madison’s Isthmus competitive. As the WSJ notes, “it would likely require bizarrely configured gerrymanders in order to achieve the judicially determined political balance.”
Chris Rickert once wrote that Republicans packed Democrats into concentrated disttricts. No, Two Men and a Truck did that. Democrats and Republicans have been segregating themselves not just in Wisconsin but across the nation. Liberals gravitate toward Dane County (or become so as the course of least resistance); conservatives congregate in Waukesha County, which is less dependent on government and education. Even statewide; think California and Texas.
Bringing suit is what losers do. They did it for Act 10. They did it for right to work. They school choice. The fallacy in the present case (Whitford v Gill) is that party affiliations never change (Republicans represented the west side of Madison well into the 1960s.) and that voters are unpersuadable. (Despite Donald Trump peeling off blue collar Democrats in the Upper Midwest and many longtime Republicans voting Independent for president. Ahem.)
Finally, this system devised by some pretty intelligent Founders is self-correcting. It’s called the chief executive who IS elected statewide, proposes and can veto legislation. It would surprise only the liberal justices that Wisconsin elected and twice re-elected a Republican.
We’ll concede one point that The Capital Times used to harp on: why shouldn’t all state legislatures be unicameral like Nebraska? The peculiar history of our formation as united states dictated that the federal government have two houses: the Senate was the constitutional concession to the less populous states that they would have equal representation in at least one house. But what is the rationale for the Wisconsin Senate? (Assembly Speaker Robin Vos seems to be asking the same question.)
One could conceive of a house that would be elected proportionately by political affiliation. [REVISING: But what is the likelihood that the almost all of the 99 Assembly members would be elected from the great population centers of Milwaukee and Madison, especially if the elections were statewide?]
[UPDATED: How would a proportional Assembly work? Let’s say an even 2 million votes are cast for Assembly candidates statewide. Divided by 99 Assembly seats that’s roughly 20,000 votes per seat. Candidates would continue to run from geographic districts. Let’s say Republicans received 1.1 million votes statewide to 850,000 for Democrats and 50,000 for Socialists. Republicans would be allotted 55 seats, Democrats 43 (rounded up), and Socialists 2 seats. Which candidates are seated? The 55 highest vote-getting Republicans, the 43 highest Democrats, etc.
[The benefit of this system is it makes challengers more likely in every district, even supposedly safe districts, because each party needs to run up its statewide vote. Republicans would never leave those 21 Assembly districts uncontested as they did in 2012 if statewide party totals determined representation.
[The downside: proportional representation opens the door to third parties, coalition governments, and (potentially) stalemate. It is possible that the loser in a particular district may be seated but not the winner if that candidate is needed to satisfy the party’s statewide success. For that reason, it is also conceivable that a district may get no representation, particularly in a close, low-turnout race.]