By Matt Pommer
Wisconsin Republicans scored a huge victory when a federal court approved nearly all of the GOP-drafted maps for legislative districts for the next 10 years.
The lines of only two of the Assembly‘s 99 districts were voided.
The three member judicial panel, including two appointed by Republican presidents, scolded the Republicans for the secrecy in developing the new maps. The criticism means nothing; the importance lies in the boundaries.
It clearly could mean Republicans will rule the Legislature in Madison for the next 10 years. It would not be too far-fetched to suggest the state might be reverting to the post-World War II era, when Wisconsin was considered a Republican fiefdom.
The court ruling is the latest in a series of Republican political successes. Corporate donations to political campaigns were allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Citizens United decision.
Under that decision, unions also were allowed to donate to political campaigns. But corporations that donate to Republicans have far more money.
Last year, Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-dominated Legislature made sure corporate donors would be more plentiful. Legislation maimed public employee unions, and the GOP claimed it was an effort to balance the state budget.
Few media outlets embraced that argument. The same budget-balancing moves — limited pay increases and requiring bigger employee fringe benefit contributions — could have been accomplished without breaking the union movement.
That union busting is at the heart of the pending recall challenges.
Then there is the new law requiring a valid photo ID before a citizen can vote. Republicans contend this is an effort to prevent fraud at the voting booths across the state.
Groups such as the League of Women Voters have challenged the law, but Republicans are pushing to get it to the state Supreme Court, where Republicans hold a 4-3 majority. Republicans expect the court to sustain the photo ID law regardless of what the state constitution says.
Republicans say it just makes “common sense.” What it really makes is political sense.
At worst for Republicans, the photo ID law may not be in effect until the November general election, just in time for legislative elections under the new GOP-drawn maps and the presidential election.
At that election, Republicans will be bolstered by corporate donations, newly drawn districts and probably the right to challenge voters without photo IDs.
Oddly, one of the best things that could happen to Republicans would be to lose one of the four state Senate recall elections June 5. That would give Democrats a one vote majority in the now adjourned state Senate.
Republicans might suggest the sky is falling, rallying voters for the November election.
Matt Pommer worked as a reporter in Madison for 35 years. He comments on state political and policy issues.