By State Representative, Leon D. Young
Hearty congratulations are indeed in order this week. Democrats literally ran the table in terms capturing three of the most prominent statewide offices up for grabs during the just concluded midterm election. Tony Evers (the governor-elect), Josh Kaul (attorney general-elect) and Sarah Godlewski (state treasurer-elect) were all successful in their election bids for high office. In fact, Democrats swept the five statewide contests.
The midterm election in Wisconsin was remarkable for another reason as well: the unprecedented voter turnout for a midterm contest. According to unofficial returns from the Associated Press, nearly 2.7 million people voted. Without question, that is easily the most ever votes cast in a midterm election in Wisconsin. It is also higher than the 2,516,065 that voted in the 2012 recall election for governor.
Moreover, in the last midterm, 55 percent of the state’s voting-age adults turned out, placing Wisconsin second in the nation in turnout. In the 2012 recall, it was close to 58 percent. In the 2010 election, it was under 50 percent. However, it should be noted that the recent turnout did not approach presidential levels, which have ranged from 67 to 73 percent in recent elections in Wisconsin.
Based on the Democrats’ statewide success in Tuesday’s election, it’s safe to say that more voters came out to support Democratic candidates than their Republican counterparts. With that being the case, how did the Republicans increase their firm grip on the Legislature while losing five statewide contests? There are many reasons, but it’s important to remember that Republicans gladly redrew the district lines after the 2010 census to ensure their legislative majorities in both houses.
Let’s not forget that “Wisconsin is the most extreme partisan gerrymander in the United States in the post-2010 cycle. It’s about as far out from what you would consider to be fair as you can imagine.” (Attorney Gerry Hebert, who’s the executive director of the Washington, D.C.- based Campaign Legal Center. Wisconsin Public Radio, May 24, 2016).
Make no mistake, partisan gerrymandering is a tradition as old as the Republic. However, the way Republicans rigged the district maps in Wisconsin in 2011 was a blatant infringement on the voters’ will. The newly elected Democratic governor will have an opportunity to address this egregious issue of political gerrymandering following the next census in 2020. As we saw once again on Tuesday, the current maps are a travesty and must be thrown out!