Behind G.O.P. Power Play in Midwest: Fear of Losing a Gerrymandered Advantage

New York Times Dec. 10, 2018

LANSING, Mich. — When Michigan Republicans began moving legislation last week to limit the power of newly elected Democratic officials, some liberal activists shouted “shame!” through the Capitol rotunda while others trailed legislators with boom microphones, live-streaming their interactions online to make them uncomfortable.

But if many on the left see a power grab underway in this state and a similar one in Wisconsin, Michigan’s incoming Democratic governor sees something more: political possibility.

“This gamesmanship will keep voters and activists active through the 2020 election,” said Gretchen Whitmer, who takes office on Jan. 1. Referring to Republicans, she added, “They’re thinking short-term.”

The ongoing legislative maneuvers in Michigan and Wisconsin are part of a broader war for power in the Midwest, a politically prized region for both parties — but especially for Republicans, who are trying to dilute Democratic control ahead of bigger battles. The G.O.P., which lost the House in November as well as four key governorships in the Midwest, depends on its gerrymandered districts in the region for a trove of seats in both Congress and state legislatures. Without these safe seats, they would be unlikely to attempt such last-minute tactics.

But now, with incoming Democratic governors set to have veto power over the next round of redistricting following the 2020 census, a handful of states are confronting either court challenges to the existing districts or new, more equitable rules for drawing the next decade of legislative boundaries. In Michigan, voters this year approved an independent redistricting commission, but Republican lawmakers are using the current lame duck session to try to curb the new Democratic secretary of state’s implementation of it.

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