GOP Redistricting, More Naked Hypocrisy | Wis.Community

GOP Redistricting, More Naked Hypocrisy

Seeing as today is Martin Luther King Day and taking into account this blog's namesake, gerrymandering is an apt topic. There is one particularly absurd aspect of the GOP redistricting debacle that I don't believe has been given enough attention: in federal court, the Republicans are defending the constitutionality of their new maps by arguing the disfranchisement of 300,000 Wisconsin voters in state Senate elections is no big deal, all the while claiming in their bumbling Wisconsin Supreme Court/Waukesha County suit that the courts must move up the effective date of the GOP redistricting plan because some voters may have to wait longer to vote in state Senate elections. Logical consistency is one of the first causalities of the unscrupulous exercise of raw political power.

Let's review.

Last summer, with recall elections on the horizon that could have caused the GOP to lose control of the Senate, the legislature rammed through redistricting maps in an attempt to lock in a conservative majority for the next decade. The Republicans rushed the process, acting before the drawing of local wards (the building blocks of the district maps) was completed. This resulted in all kinds of logistical nightmares. For example, the new maps have somehow placed Wisconsin voters in , and the Government Accountability Board says it is for the state and local election officials to comply with the ramshackle law. Waukesha County clerk, , is just glad she's not the one who looks like a hack and a fool this time.

But, that's all just the back-story. The attorneys from Michael Best and Friedrich, the firm that helped draft the redistricting law, were apparently the only people in Wisconsin who were not able to anticipate the possibility that Because of this oversight, the firm evidently did not advise its Republican clients that they might want to use an effective date that would make the maps operative for elections before the regularly scheduled 2012 elections.

Well, you'd think that was a pretty bad screw-up, but Micheal Best and the GOP had what appeared to be an easy fix—just ram through to change the effective dates. In an attempt to provide some window dressing, the change was necessary because it would be “unconstitutional” if those electors in the new, odd number Senate districts but not included in the old ones were prevented from voting for their state Senator until 2014. These voters were in even number districts prior to the new maps and would have, therefore, last voted for Senate in 2008. But, there was one problem; the deciding vote, Senator Dale Schultz said he would not support the change in date. He put forth the proposition (radical, in GOP circles) that the voters who elected him should be the ones to decide if he is recalled or finishes his term.

At this point, Michael Best was probably telling the GOP senators not to panic. The attorneys had a trump card—the Wisconsin Supreme Court. They conceivably knew at least one member on their request that the Court do what the legislature could not: rewrite the legislation to include a more convenient effective date. However, when it became clear Justice Prosser was not participating in the case for health reasons, Michael Best surmised that, at best, it had a deadlocked Court, which was no good. The firm then moved the Court to dismiss the case, so that the GOP could go to Plan D and file the same suit in the comparatively more friendly Waukesha County Circuit Court. Now the case is in legal limbo; the Supreme Court has not dismissed the action, and meanwhile, the identical Waukesha County case is ongoing. Michael Best withdrew from both cases right around the time questions were being asked about the firm's highly unusually “fee arrangement” with Justice Gablemen for his 2008 ethics proceeding.

While all of that was going on, Micheal Best was also busy defending the redistricting maps in federal court against a U.S. Constitutional challenge. This challenge to the new maps is based on the premise that Republican's political motives cannot override the obligation to ensure that as many people as possible are provided the opportunity to vote for state Senator in the regular four year intervals. Under the new maps, approximately 300,000 citizens (or about 14% of the people who voted in the 2010 election) will not be allowed to vote for 6 years in a regular state Senate election. Michael Best's motion to dismiss the challenge argued that “” Thankfully, the federal court panel summarily rejected this argument, and the federal court challenge to the gerrymandered maps is alive and well. Michael Best has since been forced to pay attorney's fees to the challengers because the firm's motions were found to be frivolous and violative of previous court orders.

You couldn't make up such a sordid tale. Many others have written many good things, pointing out the hypocrisy and the utter disregard for basic ethics on display. The point I want to draw out is that the position the Republicans use to defend their maps in federal court is directly in conflict with the stated reason for the legislature's attempt to the change the effective date and in conflict with the argument the GOP is using to urge the courts to make that modification for them. In federal court, according to the Republicans, locking in their majority at the cost of delaying the vote for 300,000 people is no matter, but in state court, the judiciary is constitutionally required to take the unprecedented step of activating the maps ahead of schedule--sooner than new maps have ever gone into effect before--all to fix the Michael Best effective date screw-up. The GOP argues this is required so some people don't have to wait until 2014 to vote for state Senate. Up until they withdrew from the state case, it was the same Michael Best lawyers simultaneously making both arguments.

And just because the Republicans are on both sides of the argument, don't think the Dems must be equally hypocritical. Their stance is simply that every ten years the legislature is constitutionally required to reapportion legislative districts. The legislature cannot undertake the decennial requirement in such a way that pure political motives result in disfranchising voters. Further, the Dems take the well-established position that until new maps become effective, natural variances in proportionality are allowed. If they were not, maps would need to constantly change with every election. Of course, it is worth pointing out that if the new maps were not skewed for political purposes in the first place, the potential for distortions because of recalls would be minimized, and the GOP argument for changing the effective date would not exist.

If anything, the GOP's blatant hypocrisy and the cascading series of folly and controversy that surround it, show the extent to which these people have stopped really even trying to mask the assertion of naked political power. Whether it's voter-ID, gerrymandering, cushy arrangements for a Supreme Court Justice, filing frivolous and dilatory motions, considering the use of agent provocateurs or simultaneously advancing convoluted and contradictory arguments to achieve a desired result, these people have given up on creating any halfway convincing facade to conceal their motives.

 

 

 

Published

January 16, 2012 - 7:40pm

Author