After a century as a trailblazer for progressive democracy reforms, Wisconsin has become what one local union leader ruefully calls “a kind of laboratory for oligarchs to implement their political and economic agenda.” This assessment, delivered by David Poklinkoski, president of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2304, captures Wisconsin Democrats’ dim view of the brazenly partisan redistricting plan masterminded by GOP Governor Scott Walker. But the redistricting plan, so central in empowering Walker and his legislative allies to roll back social reforms in Wisconsin, is now the target of a federal lawsuit. First heard by federal judges in May, the suit is now before an appeals court that is expected to rule this summer. That ruling could reverberate in other states around the country with heavily GOP-tilted electoral maps. While a few Democratic-controlled state governments have district maps that favor their party, the 2010 Republican electoral sweep set off a nationally-coordinated and harshly partisan round of redistricting in states where both the governor and legislative majorities were Republican. Now, Republican-imposed plans in a number of other states—including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Texas—stand to be affected by Wisconsin’s redistricting ruling, which will be handed down by the U.S. Seventh Court of Appeals.
Such redistricting experts as Michael Li, chief counsel on the issue for the Brennan Center for Justice, predict the case could eventually land before the Supreme Court. The death of conservative Justice Antonin has altered the ideological balance on the now evenly divided court, and Li says Justice Anthony Kennedy has shown a strong interest in the case
“The Wisconsin lawsuit is the most significant gerrymandering challenge in 30 years,” says Li. “This lawsuit could be a rare opportunity to contest unfair redistricting. It comes at a time when both the Supreme Court and the public are aware of the dysfunctionality of our legislative bodies.”
In Wisconsin, the redistricting plan imposed in 2011 was conceived in tight secrecy behind a private law firm’s closed doors as part of a large-scale national Republican strategy to block Democrats from power through the careful manipulation of state legislative district lines. The plan exaggerates actual GOP electoral strength and marginalizes Democratic voters, critics say. Indeed, it takes partisan gerrymandering to new heights, transforming what would otherwise be majority votes for Democrats into overwhelming Republican victories.
Full Article: Wisconsin Redistricting Lawsuit Could Reverberate Nationally.