Badgering the Gerrymander

“Badger” is a noun and a verb. As a noun, it refers to an animal found in most of North America. As a verb, it means to harass, pester, or nag. It is also the Wisconsin state mammal. On November 21, 2016, a federal court in Wisconsin sought to badger the legal system into addressing partisan gerrymandering. Will it work?

The case, Whitford v. Gill, was brought by Democrats but the issue isn’t partisan because either party may be victimized by gerrymandering. The “ox” being gored could be a donkey or an elephant. Gerrymandering can elevate a political minority over a majority. Democratic candidates for the U. S. House of Representatives in 2012 cumulatively won nearly one and half million more votes than Republicans. Yet, Democrats were a minority in the new Congress.

In 2010, Republicans gained control of both houses of the Wisconsin legislature and the Governorship, were free to adopt a redistricting map without Democratic input and passed Act 43 in 2011. Republicans gained seats in the 2012 and 2014 elections. The Whitford Court noted: “Act 43 … achieved the intended effect: it secured for Republicans a lasting Assembly majority. It did so by allocating votes among the newly created districts in such a way that, in any likely electoral scenario, the number of Republican seats would not drop below 50%.”

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