The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on gerrymandering was disappointing but not surprising. And for the vast majority of Wisconsinites who want to ban gerrymandering in our state, this is not the end of the story. Not by a long shot.
Basically, here’s what Chief Justice Roberts said: “Go away. And don’t ever come back! Don’t even bother to knock on any courthouse door anywhere in America with your gerrymandering cases.”
So what does this mean for Wisconsin?
On the downside, it means that the big Wisconsin gerrymandering case — the Whitford case — is now dead in the water. It had been set for a re-hearing in federal court next month in Madison but will surely now be dismissed.
On the upside, it means that any action on gerrymandering must happen at the state level, and here the movement to ban gerrymandering in Wisconsin is gaining tremendous momentum. Already, 47 of 72 county boards in Wisconsin have passed resolutions urging our state legislators to ban gerrymandering. Eight counties have passed advisory referendums, by overwhelming margins, in favor of banning gerrymandering.
The people of Wisconsin are on board.
In a Marquette University Law School poll earlier this year, 72 percent of Wisconsinites said they were in favor of such a ban. And that included 63 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of independents.
Now two bills in the state legislature have just been introduced to ban gerrymandering and give us independent, nonpartisan redistricting.
Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, introduced SB 288 on the Senate side. And Rep. Robyn Vining, D-Wauwatosa, introduced AB 303 on the Assembly side.
Please contact your legislators and urge them to co-sponsor these bills and to demand a public hearing on them.
You can contact your state legislators by calling the toll-free legislative hotline at 1-800-362-9472 (266-9960 in Madison).
But, you might ask, how is this possibly going to succeed, given the stranglehold that the Republicans have in the Legislature due to their gerrymandering?
Here’s the answer to that: The bills may not pass this time. But at some point soon, as the momentum to ban gerrymandering continues to mount, no elected official will be able to stay in office if he or she votes against nonpartisan redistricting.
The people of Wisconsin are demanding a level playing field. Those who continue to rig the game will pay the price.
So we need to keep building that momentum.
That’s what the Whitford case helped to do.
That’s what passing all these county board resolutions helps to do.
That’s what introducing these bills — and calling your legislators about these bills — helps to do.
No matter how rigged the districts are, when the vast majority of Wisconsinites demand something loudly and forcefully enough, we’ll get it.
Matthew Rothschild is the executive director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
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