The Election and the Electorate
November 12, 2020
The political divisions that were on full display on post-election state electoral maps lately painted Wisconsin’s rural counties red and metropolitan areas blue. But those living in rural Wisconsin know that there’s considerable diversity of opinion and political affiliation in their communities, as testified by Trump signs and Biden signs in neighboring yards that grew testier as the campaign went on.
Overall, Wisconsin voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, but many down-ballot seats remained unchanged, and state voters supported keeping the statehouse in Republican hands.
Some will say that Democrats didn’t make their case compellingly enough, that Biden didn’t have long enough coat-tails, that the down-ballot candidates weren’t compelling, or that Democratic campaign tactics were clumsy. I think some of those things myself. But regardless of those factors, one thing is clear: Wisconsin’s gerrymandered configuration of state and congressional districts played an outsized role in this election’s results. In Wisconsin Assembly races, for example, Democratic candidates received 46% of total votes cast but won only 38 of 99 seats. Democratic state Senate candidates received 47% of total votes cast, but only won 38% of the seats. Clearly, gerrymandering affected the outcome of this election.
It is often said that voters should choose their elected officials, rather than the other way around. If one believes in the tenets of representative democracy, then it’s axiomatic that the state’s interests are not optimally represented when distorted maps influence the outcome of an election. Legislators who are able to run in a district that’s designed for their party to win are less responsive to the every-day needs of citizens. This is true for issues affecting rural voters, whether it’s schools, farm profitability, water quality, or many other topics.
The Legislature will again take up re-districting over the next few months and citizens should plan to express their commitment to maps that represent the electorate’s makeup.