One of the most striking graphics emerging from the 2018 election comes from Isthmus, a Madison, Wisconsin alt-weekly newspaper.
Democrats romped through Wisconsin on Election Day, winning each of the five statewide offices on the ballot and winning the statewide popular vote in the state assembly by eight points. Nevertheless, Republicans won a 63 vote supermajority in the 99 seat Wisconsin assembly.
Wisconsin, in other words, did not have a democratic election for the state assembly. Something resembling an election took place and voters cast their ballots in earnest, but the entire state assembly race was rigged.
This is not a new state of affairs for Wisconsin. As a federal court decision striking down Wisconsin’s gerrymandered state assembly maps explained in 2016, “in 2012, the Republican Party received 48.6% of the two-party statewide vote share for Assembly candidates and won 60 of the 99 seats in the Wisconsin Assembly. In 2014, the Republican Party received 52% of the two-party statewide vote share and won 63 assembly seats.”
But, of course, that lower court decision ultimately did very little to restore democracy to the state. Last June, in one of retired Justice Anthony Kennedy’s final acts on the Supreme Court, the Court punted this case back down to the lower court and left Wisconsin’s rigged maps in place. Gill v. Whitford was expected to be a death blow to one of the most aggressive gerrymanders in the nation. It wound up being a crushing defeat for democracy.
Just nine days after the Court’s non-decision in Gill, Justice Kennedy retired — and that retirement likely destroyed any meaningful hope that the Supreme Court would stop partisans from rigging legislative maps. Though Kennedy expressed openness to striking down partisan gerrymanders, his replacement, Brett Kavanaugh, appeared to threaten revenge against Democrats during his confirmation hearings.