Searching for proof of the power of redistricting to affect government policy? Look no further than the contrast between neighboring states Minnesota and Wisconsin.
There has been no shortage lately of media comparisons of the right-wing policies coming out of Wisconsin and the left-leaning policies coming out of Minnesota.
A recent article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert delves into voting data to explain why.
The crux of Gilbert’s research shows redistricting is the key to explaining how two states that voted so similarly last fall could end up with such different governing outcomes.
As Gilbert points out, Minnesota and Wisconsin both elected Democratic U.S. senators last fall. Voters in both states gave Obama nearly the same share of votes, 52.8 percent in Wisconsin and 52.7 percent in Minnesota. And in both states, Democrats won more legislative votes statewide than Republicans did.
But very small differences in election outcomes, amplified by very different redistricting plans, have led to total Democratic control in Minnesota and total Republican control in Wisconsin.
In Wisconsin, Republicans won control of the Legislature and the governor’s office in 2010.
Such a unified front allowed Republicans to pass a redistricting plan that favored their party and is likely to keep them in power for some years to come. (Redistricting occurs every 10 years.)
In Minnesota, Republicans also took control of the Legislature in 2010. But unlike in Wisconsin, a Democrat was elected governor.
The divided government resulted in what Gilbert describes as a “fairly neutral redistricting plan.”
Democrats in Minnesota then recaptured the Legislature in the 2012 election. Not surprisingly, quite differing policies have resulted in each state.
A recent article by Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Jim Ragsdale also highlights how far Wisconsin has moved into the conservative red zone since Walker was elected in 2010, while Minnesota has remained true blue. CT's Rob Thomas recapped the differences in this post.
The Star Tribune article followed a New York Times editorial detailing the difference approaches Wisconsin and Minnesota are taking on the federal health care reform option to expand Medicaid.
Walker rejected federal funding to broaden Medicaid coverage, while Minnesota opted to expand the federal assistance program.