Former GOP senator supports Dem lawsuit


As a former Republican state senator who represented the 25th District, I have lent my name to a bipartisan amicus brief ("friend-of-the-court") in support of declaring Wisconsin's "gerrymandered legislative districts" unconstitutional. The constitutionality of Wisconsin's districts will come up before the United States Supreme Court next month. The brief was signed by 65 current and former Democrat and Republican state legislative leaders from eight states.

After the U.S. Census every 10 years, state legislatures are required to create new congressional and state legislature districts to reflect population changes and assure that each district contains about the same number of people. While districts need to be equal in population, how the lines are drawn can greatly impact which party has a better chance of electing its members.

Wisconsin has the dubious distinction of having the most gerrymandered state legislative districts in the nation. In reality, two-thirds of the districts were drawn by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature to favor the election of Republicans. Guess what. About two-thirds of the state Assembly and state Senate districts are represented by Republicans even though more votes were cast for Democrat candidates statewide.

Both parties are guilty of gerrymandering districts to favor their members. In Wisconsin, it's the Republicans because they control the state Legislature. In states like Illinois and Maryland, gerrymandered districts were enacted by Democrat-controlled legislatures.

Having rigged districts allows politicians to choose their voters instead of the other way around. Gerrymandered districts contribute greatly to the polarization of politics with strongly Democratic districts tending to elect very liberal legislators and strongly Republican districts tending to elect very conservative legislators. When those very liberal Democrats and very conservative Republicans meet in Madison, they are so far apart on the issues that they have nothing in common to talk about or compromise on.

Last year, a federal court of appeals ruled that Wisconsin's legislative districts disenfranchised too many voters because the results of gerrymandered districts made the outcomes of elections foregone conclusions. The court declared Wisconsin's legislative district map unconstitutional and ordered the Legislature to come up with new districts.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.