Yesterday the Democratic Party of Wisconsin released a statement accusing the state GOP of having "abused the electoral process" by recruiting fake Democratic candidates in order to force Tuesday's primaries.
Did the Republican Party engage in a campaign to defraud the people of Wisconsin? I should say so -- but, perhaps unfortunately, nothing that they did in encouraging and endorsing right-wing candidates to run as Democrats to force primaries and delay the inevitable recall elections against six senate Republicans was illegal. It was an incredibly cynical, anti-democratic thing to do, yes, but it wasn't against the law.
Anyway, we should have faith that the people of this state are only stockpiling each Republican abuse of the system so that come time for the actual recalls, including the coming drive to do the same to Gov. Scott Walker, they'll exercise their democratic right to kick the bums out -- and do it with gusto.
The DPW should be more focused on that get-out-the-vote/signature effort, as well as supporting the best candidates possible and policies that will put Wisconsin on a far better path forward.
After all, Walker may be suffering from his lowest approval ratings yet (lower than Gov. Doyle's lowest ever score) at just 37 percent. The same University of Wisconsin Survey Center poll (PDF) shows that Wisconsinites also overwhelmingly disapprove of the job the state legislature is doing, at 60 percent.
On the other hand a whopping 78% of Wisconsinites believe that the recall option in the state constitution is a "good thing."
Clearly we're ready for this exercise in democracy.
Shoring up the base -- and everything else
If the DPW wants to focus on anything other than the recalls/candidates themselves it couldn't hurt to go full-bore against the current Republican redistricting proposals (and they are).
We've already explored some of the more obvious ways in which the GOP redistricting plan would mess with politics/elections in the state -- like booting several Dems into entirely different districts and consolidating bases in others -- but wait, there's more!
There are now serious concerns being raised, by Democrats and even the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, that the plan would actually violate the separation-of-powers doctrine as well. This is especially facepalm-enducing when you remember back to recent GOP wailing and teeth gnashing over what they called a violation of that doctrine when Judge MaryAnn Sumi blocked the collective bargaining law.
Apparently they only believe in it when it's convenient for them.
And why would the redistricting plan have that potential? The Capital Timeslays it out:
As part of redistricting plans, the Supreme Court would have to assign a panel of judges from three circuit courts to hear legal challenges, and those suing would be barred from substituting any of the judges. Appeals of the panel's rulings would be heard by the Supreme Court without going through the appeals court.
That legislators are trying to determine the course of inevitable court challenges has raised concerns that they're violating the state's separation of powers...
..."In the face of what they argued before the Supreme Court, that there should be a separation of powers, and when you prescribe not only where (a case) should go but then how they should conduct their internal business ... I don't know that that's ever been done before," said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. "I don't believe legally you can direct them in that manner."
A bill drafter from the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau raised similar concerns.
"Please be aware that this draft requires the Supreme Court to take certain actions," legislative attorney Peggy Hurley said in a July 1 note to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. "This may be in violation of the separation-of-powers doctrine and may be rejected by the Supreme Court on those grounds."
Then again, the Supreme Court is currently a pit of partisan bickering weighted in Republican's favor, and based on their decision in the aforementioned collective bargaining case, I'm not entirely confident they would actually stand up for the separation-of-powers doctrine.
There's already a lawsuit filed against the plan in federal court, and it's worth noting that, in the last three decades, federal court judges have "drawn maps for all 132 legislative districts following legal challenges."
Someone explain to me again why we don't have a non-partisan process for redistricting yet?
Marquette University law professor (and blogger) Richard Esenberg, of course, doesn't think the GOP plans would succumb to any legal challenge. Take his testimony with a grain of salt, though: Esenberg was called by attorney James Troupis, who was hired by Republicans to help draw the maps in the first place (Troupis has a colorful history with the Republicans and right-wing organizations in general).
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Craig Gilbert has an excellent breakdown of how the redistricting plan would make senate races far less competitive and overall benefit the Republicans (surprise!) more than anyone. There would also be significant disenfranchisement of voters, as admitted to by even Sen. Fitzgerald aide Tad Ottman in yesterday's hearing (tens of thousands of people would suddenly find themselves in new districts and be made to wait longer than six years to vote for a senate race, for instance).
The GOP redistricting plan is scheduled to be voted on next week in extraordinary session starting on July 19. There's little chance of the plan being stopped in the Legislature -- we've already seen, time and again, how this plays out in our brave new Fitzwalkerstan world -- so the only hope of getting a more just redistricting plan in place is probably through the courts.
And that's no sure thing. You have to hand it to the GOP and their ALEC allies -- they've done one helluva job of monopolizing our democratic processes. It's just part of the bigger plan. Which means we've got an almost herculean job in front of us if we actually want to see Wisconsin (and the country) rescued from the jaws of these specific interests.
Get organized, stay positive. There's nothing else for it, now.