'The heart of the attack on democracy': How Gerrymandering enables GOP to push 'extreme policies' even in purple Wisconsin

'The heart of the attack on democracy': How Gerrymandering enables GOP to push 'extreme policies' even in purple Wisconsin

Wisconsin is far from a deep red state. It has a Democratic governor (Tony Evers) and a Democratic U.S. senator (Tammy Baldwin), and President Joe Biden carried the midwestern state in 2020. But Wisconsin is also where far-right MAGA Republicans in the state legislature are shamelessly pushing the Big Lie 14 months into Biden’s presidency. And in an article published by The Guardian on March 24, journalist Sam Levine explains why they can do it without suffering political consequences: partisan gerrymandering.

“A group of Republicans in the state legislature, encouraged by Donald Trump, is pushing an illegal effort to undo the 2020 election,” Levine explains. “They want to rescind Wisconsin’s ten electoral votes for Joe Biden — something that is not legally possible…. And like their counterparts in many other states, Wisconsin lawmakers have advanced a series of measures that would make it harder to vote.”

Levine continues, “But this fall, those promoting these anti-democratic measures are likely to face few, if any, consequences at the polls. Republicans will probably easily hold control of the Wisconsin Legislature. It’s a result made possible by extreme partisan gerrymandering.”

Although Democrats controlled the White House for eight years when Barack Obama was president, they made substantial gains at the state level during the Obama years — and some of the worst GOP gerrymandering occurred in Wisconsin, where Republicans seriously gerrymandered U.S. House of Representatives districts as well as districts in the Wisconsin State Assembly.

During the 2010s, Levine notes, Republicans in Wisconsin “drew district lines that gave them a severe advantage for the next decade.”

“The districts are so distorted that Republicans can hold a majority in the (Wisconsin) State Assembly, the lower legislative chamber, even if they don’t win a majority of the statewide vote,” Levine observes. “For the past decade, Republicans have held nearly two-thirds of the seats in the Assembly, including in 2018, when Democrats won the governor’s race and every other statewide office.”

Republicans in Wisconsin’s state government, according to Levine, have way more power than they should in a state that is so “purple.”

Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, told The Guardian, “It’s a purple state, as purple as you get. The Republican Party has managed to lock in a very large and durable majority in the State Legislature that is unmovable.”

Because Republicans have made it more difficult to vote them out of the Wisconsin State Legislature, Levine observes, they feel free to pursue “more extreme policies” and “extreme pieces of legislation, including unprecedented efforts to restrict abortion, voting, and what can be taught in public schools.”

Burden told The Guardian, “Republicans in the Assembly face really no risk of losing their majority. So, the members are going in all kinds of different directions because they have the ability to do that.”

David Pepper, former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, argues that gerrymandering of state legislative districts can be even more destructive than gerrymandering U.S. House districts.

Pepper told The Guardian, “The gerrymandering of the state legislative maps — it’s actually more important than even the congressional gerrymandering. The heart of the attack on democracy is coming from states, and they’re able to do it repeatedly because they themselves are in these sort of fortresses of statehouses where there’s no accountability.”

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