Dec 13, 2018

State lawmakers are engineering 11th-hour power grabs to ice out opposition


The Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo: Andy Manis/Getty Images

In state capitals around the country, we're seeing year-end power plays aimed at permanently icing out the political opposition.

Why it matters: The architects of these drives say they’re just running to the tape before they lose juice. But at a time of declining faith in public institutions, these moves can alienate voters, and make it harder for states to be responsive when the electorate demands change.

Driving the news:

  • New Jersey Democrats want to change the state constitution so that the redistricting process is no longer bipartisan, but rather largely led by whoever controls the statewide offices. The state's Democratic governor has vowed to fight the effort, calling it undemocratic.
  • Wisconsin and Michigan Republicans, who lost statewide races but control their state legislatures, are using lame duck sessions to strip incoming Democratic governors and attorneys general of their power and tighten their control on redistricting committees.

The big picture: "The Republican efforts could hurt the party’s image with moderate voters [in the Midwest] ... Yet GOP leaders are determined to push ahead, fearing that their decade-long dominance in the Midwest is coming to an end as newly elected Democrats and the prospect of more competitive districts threaten to shift the balance of power." [NYT]

Be smart: Some of America's most difficult political problems tend to trickle up from the states. Reformers might want to refocus their efforts on where the problems begin.

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