Republican legislatures flex muscles to keep power in closely divided North Carolina and Wisconsin

by Joshua Brown
Power Consolidation

In 2020, North Carolina appeared as a closely divided swing state, characterized by a tight race between then-President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, with Trump narrowly securing victory by a little over a percentage point. Concurrently, the Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, comfortably won reelection by a 5-point margin.

Despite this balance, the Republican Party has assumed control in North Carolina, driven by recent legislative gains and assertive actions by GOP lawmakers. They have successfully passed changes to voting procedures, even in the face of Democratic opposition. Furthermore, they are poised to vote this week to curtail the governor’s authority over the administration of the state’s elections, a move facilitated by their legislative supermajorities.

Similar power plays are unfolding in Wisconsin, another battleground state where the Republican legislative majority is taking action. Their agenda includes efforts to remove the state’s nonpartisan elections director and the contemplation of impeaching a recently elected justice on the state Supreme Court. This judicial change tilted the court’s balance toward liberalism, potentially endangering the Republican gerrymandering that has bolstered the party’s influence in the state legislature. It’s worth noting that Wisconsin has consistently elected Democrats to most partisan statewide executive offices.

While gerrymandering is a common political tactic for both parties, the situations in North Carolina and Wisconsin illustrate how Republicans are striving to maintain power irrespective of their level of voter support. These maneuvers could grant the GOP an outsized role in various aspects, from redistricting to the certification of the upcoming presidential election.

The concentration of Democratic voters in specific metropolitan areas in both states, such as Milwaukee and Madison in Wisconsin, and Charlotte and the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina, plays a significant role. Even when legislative districts covering these urban areas are reasonably drawn, they tend to lean heavily Democratic, resulting in a surplus of Democratic votes in those districts and granting an advantage to the GOP in the remaining seats.

In North Carolina, Republicans achieved a near supermajority of legislative seats, even with a balanced congressional delegation last year. This was solidified when a Democratic House member switched parties. In the 2022 election, less than 15% of precincts were competitive statewide, indicating a lack of electoral competitiveness.

Furthermore, the GOP-controlled North Carolina General Assembly attempted to tilt districts even further in their favor, but their plan was invalidated by the Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court as an unlawful gerrymander. However, with Republicans now holding the majority on the court, they are poised to redraw districts more aggressively in their favor, potentially securing their supermajority status for several election cycles.

In addition to redistricting, the legislature is pushing through two election bills influenced in part by lingering beliefs among Republican voters that voter fraud influenced the outcome of the 2020 election. One of these bills would eliminate the state’s three-day grace period for mailed ballots received after Election Day and relax poll-watching regulations, which some fear could lead to voter intimidation.

The other bill, of even greater consequence, seeks to transfer the power to appoint members of the state election board from the governor to the legislature. Proponents argue that having both major parties’ leaders appoint an equal number of board members would promote bipartisanship and consensus in election policies. Critics, however, argue that this could result in gridlock and that disputes might be resolved by the Republican-controlled legislature or the Republican-leaning courts, including in next year’s presidential election.

These legislative actions could also lead to the removal of the state’s respected elections director just months before the presidential election, despite no widespread issues with voting during her tenure.

In Wisconsin, the Legislature has become increasingly confrontational with the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, particularly after voters elected a Democratic-backed justice to the state Supreme Court, shifting its majority from conservative to liberal. The Legislature even threatened to impeach the justice before she had the chance to hear a case. Additionally, the Senate voted to remove the nonpartisan election director, sparking legal challenges.

Overall, the political landscape in both North Carolina and Wisconsin showcases how Republicans are employing assertive tactics to secure and expand their influence, emphasizing the critical role of legislative redistricting and electoral administration in their strategies to maintain power.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Power Consolidation

What are the key takeaways from the political situation in North Carolina and Wisconsin?

The key takeaways are that despite being swing states, Republicans in North Carolina and Wisconsin are using legislative maneuvers to maintain and consolidate their power, regardless of their level of voter support.

How are Republicans in these states achieving and maintaining their power?

Republicans in both states are benefiting from the geographic distribution of Democratic voters in urban areas, allowing them to secure more seats in the legislature. They have also redrawn legislative districts in their favor and are making changes to election procedures, such as transferring power over the state election board from the governor to the legislature.

What are the potential consequences of these power plays?

The consequences could include prolonged Republican dominance in state legislatures, potential gridlock in election administration due to bipartisan control of election boards, and a greater influence of Republican-controlled legislatures and courts in critical decisions, including presidential elections.

Is this situation unique to North Carolina and Wisconsin?

While gerrymandering and power consolidation efforts are not unique, the dynamics in these states serve as illustrative examples of how parties seek to maintain control beyond voter support, with implications for the broader political landscape.

How are voters reacting to these developments?

Voter reactions vary, with some supporting these measures in the name of election security, while others view them as attempts to gain and retain power. These actions have generated controversy and legal challenges in both states.

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Analytica23 September 19, 2023 - 12:50 am

This is some deep political chess goin’ on, huh?

WisconsinVoter September 19, 2023 - 3:54 am

They’re messin’ with our electins, ain’t right, man!

PoliticGuru21 September 19, 2023 - 6:06 am

The situa is gettin’ crazier by da day!

Reader87 September 19, 2023 - 8:29 am

yep, it’s like, Republcns r takin’ chrg no matr wat.


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