Wisconsin Spring Elections Part 1: Changing the rules when nobody’s looking

By Gilligan Gonzo —

 

As I typed “Wisconsin spring election 20” into Google, a box appeared below the search bar, filled with five suggested search phrases. They all started with what I had already typed, but the endings differed; they were 16, 13, 14, and 12.  You’ll notice that there is a year missing within these numbers. Indeed, the 2015 Wisconsin spring election is an election nobody knows happened.

 

It was less than a year ago, when an amendment to the Wisconsin constitution appeared on the spring ballot. But, with less than 20 percent of Wisconsinites showing up at that election, it seemed that nobody knew about it, or cared. The people of the state remained silent as a fanatic mob stormed our highest court and pulled the seat out from under an old lady.

 

The Democrats in the Supreme Court were hardly significant even before Chief Justice Abrahamson lost her title and became just normal Justice Abrahamson.  Out of nine seats, there were (and still are) only two with democratic asses occupying them. The rest are all Republican – Republi-‘cans’ if you will.

 

Under the original Wisconsin Constitution, whichever Justice had seniority got to be Chief Justice. It stood that way for 125 years before it was changed. Proponents of the amendment claimed they wanted to change the constitution in order to make the Supreme Court more democratic. But opponents claimed it was aimed at demoting Abrahamson.

 

We’ll never know the true intent of the amendment, but one thing is for sure: this was never supposed to be an election that people knew about. News reports before the election took place had correctly predicted that voter turnout would be below 20 percent.  It’s common for Spring elections to bring low numbers of voters.

 

So why put a constitutional amendment in an election that would bring low voter turnout? In the game of politics, you do whatever you can to win. By putting the amendment on a Spring ballot, and then blasting radio ads supporting the amendment in places where old white people live, the Republicans assured their victory.    

 

As soon as the amendment passed, literally within hours of the election results being certified, the republican Justices all e-mailed each other and picked one of themselves to be the new Chief Justice. That is the story of how our latest constitutional amendment came to be. An amendment introduced by Republicans in the legislature, to benefit Republicans in the Supreme Court, was put into an election that they knew only old white people would vote in.

 

As it stands the Republicans have a 5-2 majority in the court with one of their own as Chief. But one of the five seats that the Republicans have is temporary. After the mysterious death of a Justice inside the court building last September, an election has been scheduled for February 16 to choose a new one.  

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *