Jamelle Bouie wrote an opinion column on September 8, 2023, in the New York Times. The title was “A Breathtaking Contempt for the People of Wisconsin.” It outlined how Wisconsin Republicans have had the legislature in their iron grip through gerrymandering the voting districts dating from the 2010 elections. As an example, in 2018 Republicans and Democrats essentially split the statewide vote, but Republicans won 64 percent of the seats in the Assembly. As a result of gerrymander, Wisconsin Republicans won a supermajority of seats in the Assembly. They did this with gerrymandered districts despite losing the vote for every statewide office and the statewide legislative vote. No matter how much Wisconsin voters might want to elect a Democratic Legislature, the Republican gerrymander won’t allow them to. The gerrymandering alone undermines Wisconsin’s status as a democracy. If a majority of the people cannot, under any realistic circumstances, elect a legislative majority of their choosing, then it’s hard to say whether they actually govern themselves.

Columnist Bouie writes:

“Earlier this year, Wisconsin voters took another step toward ending a decade of Republican minority rule in the Legislature by electing Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal Milwaukee County judge, to the State Supreme Court. In one of the most high-profile elections Protasiewicz won a double-digit victory, with a record turnout. Wisconsin voters wanted her on the court to stand up for their reproductive and voting rights. Protasiewicz made no secret of her views. If elected, she said, she would defend abortion rights and give a new look at the state’s legislative maps, which she criticized as “rigged” and “unfair.” Republicans reacted by claiming fraud .They began actions to remove her from office before she could even serve.

Bouie very correctly concludes:

“Regardless of how this specific situation plays out, it illustrates a broader problem in the structure of American political life. In the absence of national regulation — and against the backdrop of a federal Supreme Court that is, at best, apathetic on issues of voting rights — states are as liable to become laboratories of autocracy as they are to serve as laboratories of democracy. Wisconsin, it seems, is simply the latest flashpoint over a larger question being contested in different arenas across different areas of concern: What is the scope of the power of the states? What is the meaning of American citizenship? And what rights do we actually have, in theory and in practice?

As our constitutional guarantees of barriers of one division of government dominating another and maintaining a balance of equality are eroded our democracy is in peril.

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