There are a number of legislative and congressional races each cycle that involve the stateline area, and for years the Beloit Daily News has endorsed one candidate or another in at least some of those elections.
We’ll skip that part this year in order to discuss a pressing issue that turns the voters’ exercise of casting ballots into little more than a formality.
Here’s why: It will be a miracle if incumbents Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, or Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, lose their re-election bids.
Likewise, it’s all but a sure thing Democrat Mark Pocan and Bryan Steil will be re-elected to Congress.
That’s not to say there’s anything inherently wrong with those incumbents or their challengers—Democrat Elizabeth Lochner-Abel in the 31st Assembly; Republican Tawny Gustina in the 45th Assembly; Republican Peter Theron in the 2nd Congressional; or Democrat Roger Polack in the 1st Congressional.
Here’s how it works. The Legislature is tasked with drawing new district lines based on population as measured during the decennial census. When a given political party controls all the levers of government—as Wisconsin Republicans did after the 2010 election—the partisans draw the lines to their own advantage. Thus, Wisconsin Republicans packed Democrat voters as tightly as possible while looping traditionally Republican voters into enough districts to control legislative majorities. That might have happened anyway, but why leave to chance what can be guaranteed by cheating?
Lest anyone conclude Republicans have been naughty while Democrats are devoted only to good and fair governance, keep in mind when Democrats were in control and easily could have enacted redistricting reforms, they did not. Why? Because they expected to win in 2010, which would have allowed them to rig district lines and elections.
It’s one of the few bipartisan relics in modern government. Either party in power always opts to keep a death grip on control, and if drawing lines that make a mockery of choice works, count on them to do it with no remorse.
It’s called gerrymandering, defined by the dictionary as a practice intended to “achieve a result by manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency.”
For 10 years, Wisconsin has witnessed what happens under a gerrymandered legislative map. One-party control pushes partisanship to extremes.
The 2020 election, conducted under the 2010 census redistricting, almost certainly will produce the intended result of keeping the Legislature solidly Republican with nary a chance of flipping a district. Yes, you will cast your ballot on Nov. 3 or before, but the outcome is mostly preordained.
Skeptics might point out that Democrats won the governorship and other statewide offices in 2018. True. But it’s impossible to gerrymander any race run border-to-border. That’s why those races—and the 2020 presidential contest—are still competitive.
With a Democrat governor and a Republican Legislature, maybe there will have to be reasonable compromises made in the post-2020 census remapping process. But first, count on a fierce battle between the governor and the legislative majority.
At stake is whether voters in all these regional districts will have a choice instead of a made-up sham of an election.