Wisconsin Isn’t a Democracy

Sam Spyra

It is no secret that Wisconsin’s electoral maps are unfairly drawn. In fact, many have suggested that Wisconsin should be a much bluer state than it currently is; however, due to unfair map drawing and a state supreme court working with the legislature, our state remains controlled by republicans. At least when it comes to the legislative branch, Wisconsin is not a democracy. It never will be, as long as there are no strong, enforced, federal rules for state elections.

Most likely, this is not news to you. Wisconsin’s GOP isn’t just responsible for one of the most effective gerrymanderings in the country, but also some of the most visible forms of voter suppression. It’s bad when they win and much worse when they lose: from conspiracy theorizing to outright legislative interference with what they can’t control, to simply remaining in positions they have no right to be in. Famously, the Wisconsin legislature had a literal fly-by-night session to strip many executive powers from the Governor’s office after Scott Walker failed to win re-election in 2018. In this naked contempt for the wishes of the electorate, the GOP sought to weaken the executive branch they would no longer have any control over as much as they could. Then, the Wisconsin’s Supreme Court struck down nearly every lawsuit seeking to challenge these blatantly undemocratic laws. 

The actions themselves were unprecedented, but the goal, the blatantcy, and success of these lawmakers is a well-established pattern within Wisconsin. In 2011, after seeing how his actions made him more unpopular within the state, Scott Walker pushed for and signed into law Wisconsin’s current voter ID law, disenfranchising many voters and giving him an edge in any state-wide election. Then to further cement that edge, he closed down multiple DMVs in an attempt to stop people from receiving the necessary IDs. Which, of course, wasn’t enough; which is why he also pushed for ending same-day registration and approved the Republican’s most effectively gerrymandered election map our state has ever seen. All of this would not be possible if it wasn’t for Wisconsin’s conservative Supreme Court and the judiciary in general, which is now seeing more and more members of Leonard Leo’s Federalist Society entering its halls, thanks to Loser McWhinypants (our previous angry orange president.) 

What this amounts to is a political complex that is hell-bent on making sure any kind of state-originating election reforms are blunted, broken, or outright struck down by any means necessary. Only recently have we seen any kind of relief from this pattern with Tony Evers’ newest election map being approved despite republican interference and lawsuits. This is a state that operates against what a majority of its citizenry wants. The fact that the GOP can win more house seats despite having fewer people vote for them is bad enough on its own, but especially in a “Winner Take All” system it’s egregious. In these kinds of elections, one would expect the party with 50% of the vote to take more than 50% of the seats. This is a flaw of our current election process, but it speaks volumes to just how undemocratic Wisconsin has become that even in a style of election that should heavily favor Democrats, who consistently win 50% or more of the vote, the GOP still walks away with more seats.

Wisconsin, in this author’s eyes, cannot call itself a democracy when it comes to state elections. And due to the collusion of all three branches of state government it will be impossible for its ordinary citizens to make it one on their own. This is why we need federal election reform badly. Not just for our state, but for our entire nation.

Unfortunately, of course, the GOP have not only refused to budge on this issue, but have started the process of trying to actively become more anti-democratic. The Supreme Court is set to hear Moore vs. Harper, a case about whether or not a state’s supreme court can overrule a legislature’s election maps. This article will be edited if our extremely conservative and morally bankrupt court breaks their current pattern of ruling in whatever direction would be most beneficial to the GOP, but most likely we are going to see the power of the GOP’s election map manipulation and gerrymandering be further expanded.

With this case, the GOP hopes to export Wisconsin’s anti-democratic processes to the rest of the country. Our systems shape how ordinary citizens can exercise their own power, however small, and there needs to be a recognition that one can’t simply out-vote voter suppression.

So, what needs to change?

As much as I’d like to suggest ranked choice voting, shared election districts, or an independent election map committee that is in charge of drawing the maps, none of these are going to be implemented in the foreseeable future. Mostly because ranked choice voting and shared election districts would also threaten major Democrat holdings as well, and for now remain unfeasible until enough of a coalition forms against entrenched, capitalist interests to demand change. Of course, the moment the concerned man with the bowtie on TV tells conservatives that it’s communism, any positive steps conservatives make will be swiftly reversed.
For now, we need to recognize the Wisconsin state government for what it is: an undemocratic system that does not represent its people. A system which often overrides the wishes of the people living in the state. This makes voting counter-intuitively more important, as state-wide elections still remain representative of the average Wisconsinite, and serve as a crucial counter-balance to the increasingly undemocratic legislature and judiciary.

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