By most accounts, the 2011 and 2012 gubernatorial and Senate recall elections were a complete disaster for Wisconsin Democrats. Gov. Scott Walker’s historic victory boosted his fundraising and re-election prospects. The recall petition became a litmus test for party loyalty. And though Democrats recaptured the Senate majority in June 2012, they lost it five months later and have been shut out of state government ever since. But some Democrats see a silver lining in the recalls that has gone mostly unnoticed until now: The unearthing of key evidence in a potentially landmark legislative redistricting case now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case, Gill v. Whitford, say the short-lived majority allowed Democrats to force the Legislature’s private lawyers to cough up documents, leading to a court-ordered release of computer hard drives with deleted spreadsheets.
The story, pieced together from court documents and new interviews, of how an otherwise meaningless transfer of power could potentially overturn the centuries-old practice of political gerrymandering in the United States is a reminder that in politics even the little victories matter.