As part of his new job defending Republican gerrymandering across the country, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made a splash on Fox News this week. He warned fellow Republicans that Democrats plan to “pick a state, any state,” and “sue until it’s blue.”
As Walker tells it, Democrats — led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder — are attempting a “nationwide judicial power grab” to force the redrawing of congressional and legislative voting districts to favor Democrats. As finance chairman of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, Walker hopes to raise millions of dollars to counter Holder’s group.
The former governor is right that liberals are energized by the issue. Democrats hope to convince more judges that voting maps in Wisconsin and elsewhere are unconstitutional gerrymanders favoring Republicans. Three judges in Ohio last week ruled that districts there are rigged to favor GOP majorities and must be redrawn. A federal court in Michigan made a similar determination last month.
But as much as Walker wants to blame federal judges for getting involved, he’s rooting for legal intervention of his own from the conservative-leaning high court.
“The Supreme Court can and should swiftly bring clarity and restore reason to what has been profoundly flawed processes,” Walker tells Fox.
Some clarity on how far state lawmakers can go in drawing oddly shaped districts to thwart the will of the people would be nice. But the ultimate solution isn’t for one partisan side or the other to rig the maps. Gerrymandering is wrong no matter if it’s Republicans in Wisconsin using computers and voting data to skew the lines so they can cling to power, or if it’s Democrats doing the same thing in Illinois.
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The real answer is to take the politics out of redistricting, so voters of all stripes are treated fairly and can hold their elected officials accountable — without getting stiffed for millions of dollars in legal fees.
That’s the Iowa model, which Wisconsin and other states should emulate.
In Iowa, a neutral state agency draws the lines after each major census to account for population changes. The agency does so under guidelines requiring compact districts that respect communities of interest, rather than protecting incumbents.
Walker says he opposes “putting redistricting in the hands of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.” But that’s not what the Iowa model does. In Iowa, the Legislature still gets to approve the maps or seek revisions. They just can’t monkey with the lines for partisan advantage.
For decades, huge majorities of Republican and Democratic lawmakers have approved Iowa’s maps with little controversy.
We don’t expect Walker to embrace the Iowa model, given he’s now paid to defend gerrymandering. But the rest of Wisconsin should strongly support Iowa’s good-government model.