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Wisconsin case shows the importance of voting March 5th

Ronald Mitchell
Wisconsin case shows the importance of voting March 5th
“Listen brother, this year more than ever, every vote counts.”

No election season is complete without appeals to exercise your constitutional right to vote. That includes making your voice heard in next week’s March 5 presidential primary in Massachusetts, one of 15 states casting ballots on Super Tuesday. On the Democratic side, President Joe Biden is facing off against gadfly Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips. On the other side of the aisle, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, coming off lopsided losses in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, the U.S. Virgin Islands and her home state, is continuing her fading quest to deny Donald Trump the GOP nomination.

For Democrats, the results in the Bay State are a foregone conclusion, with few doubts about how many of the state’s 116 delegates to the nominating convention will be pledged for Biden. While some Republican Party delegates from Massachusetts may be up for grabs, the role of independents in the state — who make up 61% of the state’s 4.7 million voters — could make things very interesting if they choose to vote in the GOP primary to give Haley a boost.

As if Black voters needed further reminders why Haley — who was dragged kicking and screaming into acknowledging the primacy of slavery as the cause of the Civil War — is preferable to Trump and his baggage of 91 indictments, let’s roll the tape from South Carolina, where the 45th president, speaking to a crowd of Black Republicans, compared his felony charges to the injustices faced by Black people in America.

“A lot of people said that’s why the Black people liked me, because they had been so hurt so badly and discriminated against,” said Trump. “And they actually viewed me as I’m being discriminated against.” Adding fuel to the fire, he then said his mug shot from the Georgia election interference case has struck a chord among African Americans. “When I did that mug shot in Atlanta, that mug shot is number one,” he said. “I’m being indicted for you, the Black population.”

In some states, voters are showing dissatisfaction over the primary choices by casting blank ballots, a time-honored method of registering a protest vote by sending a clear message: “None of the above.” But at least they’re voting, exercising their electoral muscles in preparation for the expected high-stakes rematch of Biden and Trump in November. The steady erosion of minority rights under the Supreme Court facilitated by Trump’s appointees during his four years in the White House should be motivation enough to get Black voters to the polls for the final election showdown.

In the meantime, as if anyone really doubted the secular power of voting, just look to Wisconsin, where the signing of new legislative maps last week demonstrated once again just how important it is. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers approved new districts that will equitably divide legislative power between Republicans and Democrats in the state.

The stage was set for the reform last April, when progressives narrowly voted in Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz to the Wisconsin bench, thereby ending the GOP majority on the court. Protasiewicz’ ascension ensured that long-overdue new district maps would be drawn up with GOP support in order to avoid having the liberal-leaning court create the new map themselves.

For the last 14 years, Democrats routinely won more votes statewide than Republicans in state legislative elections but ended up with just over a third of the seats due to partisan gerrymandering that diluted Democratic voting power. For example, Democrats in 2018 won 200,000 more votes than the GOP in Wisconsin state Assembly elections but took only 36 out of the 99 seats. The gerrymandered districts allowed the GOP to virtually never lose power in the state.

This was especially damaging to Wisconsin’s Black voters, who have been targeted by the Republicans through a variety of initiatives seeking to quash the Black vote in areas like Milwaukee, where 70% of the Black population lives. Strict voter ID laws may have tilted the 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump, and since that time Evers, who won by a very slim margin in 2018, has vetoed more than 12 bills aimed at making it harder to vote.

Undeterred by the repressive politics of the disempowering Right, Judge Protasiewicz won by 55% of the vote in the 2023 Supreme Court election. Democrats are now poised to win a fairer share of Assembly and Senate seats. This is just another reminder of the power of the vote as well as a positive outcome for Wisconsin voters, especially voters of color who will be able to cast their ballot and have a fair shot at representation.

editorial, legislative maps, redistricting, voting rights, Wisconsin