Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Republicans' Rigged Set-up

"I still think that in many ways the [recall election of State Sen. Van Wanggaard] was illegitimate. To have a recall where someone is going to be serving for the next two years but use the old district lines seems like kind of a rigged setup."  -- Robin Vos, R-Burlington
Assemblyman Vos's concern for the disenfranchised voters of Burlington and rural Kenosha County is indeed very touching. What an outrage that voters in Burlington, Brighton, Paris, Salem and Randall will be represented until the year 2014 by someone they never had any chance to vote for or against!

What Chairman Vos conveniently overlooks is that even without this month's recall election, those people were going to be represented by someone they never had any chance to vote for or against, and they were going to miss out on their previously scheduled opportunity to cast a vote for their State Senator this fall -- all thanks to the Republicans' heavy-handed redistricting of the state.

As a reminder, here's a map of the 21st and 22nd Senate districts as they have been for the past ten years, with an artificial gap inserted between them. The divisions within the Senate districts are the Assembly districts, numbered in yellow. (I hadn't noticed the typo in the cut line before. Oops. The numbers within the map are the correct ones.)
The above Senate district boundaries had changed only slightly in well over half a century. The 21st Senate district included most of Racine County, minus Waterford in the northwest and Burlington in the southwest. The district has flipped back and forth between Republicans and Democrats seven times since 1990. The 22nd Senate district included most of Kenosha County, minus Wheatland in the west but plus Burlington immediately to its north. The district has voted consistently Democratic since 1964.

In 2010, Republicans swept the governorship and majorities in both houses of the legislature (not to mention the state Supreme Court, and that they already held the Attorney General's office). They ignored county borders when redrawing the Senate districts:
Left: the new 21st Senate district. Right: the new 22nd Senate district.
The Kenosha-Racine county line mostly follows the border between the 63rd and 61st assembly districts (green and purple at left), and cuts through the northern arm of the 64th assembly district (orange at right).
The result is a decidedly Republican 21st district of rural and suburban voters (plus much of West Racine and Racine north of Melvin Avenue), and a predominantly Democratic 22nd district throwing together most of the cities of Racine and Kenosha, plus a weirdly gerrymandered 64th Assembly district. A north arm of the 64th A.D. extends out from Kenosha to Elmwood Park and the Lake Park neighborhood in Racine County, while a west arm extends out from Kenosha west of I-94, with a jagged border taking in one property and shutting out the next. And no, it does not follow Kenosha's City limits. But it becomes a winnable seat for Republicans, who have other ways of  deterring the folks who live in the decidedly unfashionable area around 22nd and Mead Streets in Mount Pleasant from voting.

Residents of the 22nd Senate district are served by separate newspapers, school districts, and sheriffs' departments. (The same is true of the larger 21st S.D., too, of course.) Few Kenosha residents know where Kinzie Avenue is, and fewer Racine residents could find the Kenosha Public Library.

Here are a couple other anomalies: voters who live on Athens Avenue in Racine live at the southern tip of the 62nd A.D., which covers northern Racine County from Norway township in the west to Wind Point in the east (orange in the left map). They can easily walk east or south into the A.D. 66/S.D. 22, or west into the A.D. 63. They cannot drive from their street to any other location in their own assembly district without driving through some other assembly district -- unless they can get away with driving on the wrong side of the road.

Residents in the housing development off 144th Avenue in Bristol all live in A.D. 64/S.D. 22 but are completely surrounded by A.D. 61/S.D. 21. Whatever side of the highway they drive on.

And what's the deal with that itty bitty spur of A.D. 63 westward into Walworth County? There do not appear to be any streets within "C17" on the district map. Has Chairman Vos been eyeing a piece of property there? No, the answer turns out to be simple enough: the Burlington municipal airport runway crosses the county line.

The above maps are originally from the Wisconsin State Legislature Legislative Redistricting site, edited by me to highlight the borders between the two districts.

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