Christian Schneider Proved Gerrymandering Exists in Wisconsin.

Ironically GOP shill and right wing apologist, JSOnline’s Opinion blogger Christian Schneider recently set out to damn the federal court ruling on WI redistricting and prove gerrymandering didn’t exist. When in fact he proved that it does.

In typical Mr. Schneider style book meanderings he starts off with something that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand. And as most of us know, statewide elections whether it be for president or senator or governor hasn’t a thing to do with voting districts. But he digresses with:

It goes without saying that Donald Trump’s victory in Wisconsin nearly two weeks ago was unexpected. But according to a three-judge federal panel who just declared Wisconsin’s legislative maps unconstitutional, Trump’s stunning victory would have been all but impossible.

When you guys figure out what that has to do with the price of corn in Iowa county, let me know.

After throwing out chaff to put everyone off the scent, he got off track and proved the fact he was intent on disproving. And after talking about how assembly districts couldn’t have possibly have been designed to favor republicans, he goes exactly here:
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A good number of Democrats win large victories without a Republican challenger, which artificially inflates their share of the statewide vote.

Now the last half is meant to deflate the rational that Democrats get the majority vote in the state but don’t hold the majority assembly seats…but in those districts without a Republican challenger there aren’t ANY Republican votes. Yes, that is all kinda round and roundy logic and you can see it from either perspective you want.

And the big BUT is “A good number of Democrats win large victories without a Republican challenger…”. Why do you suppose that is? No Republican challenger? Because the GOP leaders in Madison did in fact gerrymander all of those pesky Democrat voters into their own little safe blue districts. Far far away from the red districts just so they couldn’t muck up the Republican incumbents.

So yes, the WI redistricting was in fact gerrymandering…and this helps support that…if the other clues in the mass media weren’t already proof enough!

Federal Court Blocks WI Gerrymandered Districts But Now What?

Some transitory good news came out yesterday when a federal court voted 2 -1 to block the gerrymandered Wisconsin legislative districts.

Here is a synopsis:

A dozen voters sued in July 2015, arguing the maps unconstitutionally discriminated against Democrats by diluting their voting power. They called it the worst example of gerrymandering — a term for dividing districts to gain an unfair advantage — in modern history.

Attorneys for the state countered Wisconsin is trending Republican and argued there’s no legal way to measure gerrymandering. They added that partisanship should be expected when one party draws legislative boundaries.

Of course the GOP will appeal this to the US Supreme Court so nothing is going to happen in the short term…and the outcome may totally depend on who is sitting on the court given the Trump presidency.

But what should the Democrats in the state legislature be doing in the meantime? They should be drafting and presenting a bill that requires that future redistricting be handled by an independent agency with the consent of the legislature similar to provisions in Iowa. Something that seems to be going swimmingly in Iowa right now!

Will it fly in Wisconsin? Probably not…particularly given our recent experience with the destruction of the Government Accountability Board and the new better partisan election commission….the GOP will stop it dead in its tracks. But it should be brought up anyway…and the GOP made to defend their position once again in the light of day under the dome…and be forced to say they are against one person one vote and equal representation.

But that won’t happen either as the minority will just wimp out and hope the US Supreme Court saves their posteriors…

Wisconsin’s an example of gerrymandering to the extreme

Given President Barack Obama’s call in last night’s State of the Union address for changes to how legislative districts are drawn all across the nation, this article from The Isthmus in August 2015 seems appropriate, given that Wisconsin could stand as a national example of the negative impact of ultra-partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts.

The 2012 presidential year was a banner election for Democrats, who saw their standard-bearer Barack Obama beat Republican challenger Mitt Romney with 51.1% of the vote. Democratic candidates for the state Assembly did almost as well, capturing 50.7% of the statewide vote. Yet they won just 39% of Assembly seats.

How could Republicans win so many districts with so few votes? Because the 2010 redistricting they engineered used “packing” and “cracking” to frustrate the will of the voters: Some liberal-leaning seats were packed with an overwhelming percentage of Democrats, and others were cracked apart to create districts that leaned just rightward enough to make them safe for Republicans.

The result was that the average Democratic Assembly winner needed 37,300 votes to win office, and the average Republican winner needed only 23,166 votes.

Republicans have argued they simply redistricted as Democrats did in the past. In fact, a split Legislature drew the lines in 1971, and disagreements between the parties led to the courts making the decisions in 1981, 1991 and 2001. The result in all four cases was redistricting that had little or no edge for either party. (And prior to 1970, the Republicans always held power in Wisconsin.)

Indeed, a new study by Simon Jackman, a political statistician at Stanford University, puts Wisconsin’s situation into stunning perspective. Jackman set out to measure the “efficiency gap” — the ratio of one party’s wasted vote rate to the other party’s wasted vote rate — over the last 42 years. Because complete data was not available in some states, he had to eliminate nine states. The result was an analysis of the efficiency gap in 786 state legislative elections in 41 states from 1972 to 2014.

Looking at Wisconsin’s efficiency gap of 13% in 2012 and 10% in 2014, he concludes that no other redistricting in the nation generated “an initial two-election sequence” of efficiency gap scores as large as those in Wisconsin. In short, the level of gerrymandering in Wisconsin is “virtually without historical precedent” over the last 42 years, he concludes.

Wisconsin needs nonpartisan redistricting

This is great news for anyone who wants to see fair elections in our state.

A lawsuit filed by Democrats challenging Wisconsin’s 2010 political map reached a small milestone recently when it filed a rebuttal to state Republicans’ motion to dismiss the case. The Democrats also learned the names of the appeals court justices who would hear their case — known as Whitford v. Nichols — if it moves forward.

Sachin Chheda, director of the Wisconsin Fair Elections project, fully expects the case to get a hearing later this fall by an appeals court panel of three judges. The side that losses will probably appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has never ruled in a case challenging a political map due to overt partisanship, as this case does, Chheda said.

In the past, the U.S. Supreme Court has found maps unconstitutional for being drawn in a way that discriminated against minority voters or failed to uphold the principle of “one-person-one-vote.”

“We think we have a strong case (and) we hope to get passed the motion to dismiss and get to the trial stage so we can have a full examination of the issues,” he said. “We’re trying to establish a new Constitutional standing. The Supreme Court has said that there could be an instance in which a map is too partisan to be constitutional. They’ve never had a measurement by which they can make this judgment. We’re proposing that measurement.”

Chheda is hopeful that a fair and politically neutral map will be in place in time for the presidential election in November 2016.

I’ve been a proponent of nonpartisan legislative redistricting similar to what’s used in the state of Iowa, because it’s a model that makes a heck of a lot of sense.

In a locked windowless chamber across the street from the Iowa State House, three bureaucrats sequester themselves for 45 days every decade after census data is released. Their top-secret task: the “redistricting” of the state’s legislative and congressional boundaries.

But here, unlike in most other states, every care is taken to ensure the process is not political.

The mapmakers are not allowed to consider previous election results, voter registration, or even the addresses of incumbent members of Congress. No politician — not the governor, the House speaker, or Senate majority leader — is allowed to weigh in, or get a sneak preview.

I’d love to see Wisconsin implement a nonpartisan legislative redistricting system similar to Iowa’s, but I’d also like to see it as an amendment to Wisconsin’s state constitution.

Guest Blog: The Issue of Gerrymandering Legislative Districts in Wisconsin

A recent post from billmoyers.com was brought to my attention. It discusses the actions being taken by the Arizona Legislature to have the power to set Congressional boundaries instead of a non-partisan committee, actions including taking the case to the Supreme Court. The post enumerates a list of reasons why having partisan politicians deciding district boundaries are not in the best of public interest.

The issue in Arizona reminds me of what is going on in Wisconsin. Much has been talked about recently regarding the absolute power over the three branches of Wisconsin government the Republicans have obtained. One item that has been brought up repeatedly is the issue of re-drawing legislative districts for voting purposes. The state of Wisconsin is divided into 99 Assembly districts of roughly equal population. The Assembly districts are grouped by threes to form each Senate district. It is necessary to re-align the district boundaries after each U.S. Census to ensure the Assembly districts remain equally populated. In some states, this process is controlled by a non-partisan group that will not involve politics. In other states, the process is controlled by the political party in power. Wisconsin is one of those states.

From Webster Dictionary: To divide (a State) into districts for the choice of representatives, in an unnatural and unfair way, with a view to give a political party an advantage over its opponent.

When people in the Badger State discuss the issue of gerrymandering, they usually talk in qualitative terms. I wanted to devise a metric so the issue can be discussed in quantitative terms. This way the degree of which gerrymandering exists can be compared and contrasted over a period of time. The metric I came up with is something that is commonly used in statistical analysis – the p-value. In simple terms, the p-value states the probability an outcome is based on random chance or an assignable cause. The lower the p-value, the less likeliness of random chance and instead a greater chance a special cause influenced the result.

After the 2012 elections PolitiFact rated Sandy Paasch’s claim that Republicans captured more seats than Democrats despite being outpolled as “Mostly True”. PolitiFact mentioned it was somewhat misleading to compare total statewide votes when some elections went uncontested. I agree with PolitiFact in this case, I feel it is intellectual honest to analyze only contest with a candidate from the two major parties. So what I did was research previous year’s Assembly elections and analyze only the ones with a Dem and G.O.P. candidate.

I’ve laid out my findings in the following tables. The first column lists the year of the fall elections. The second and third columns list the ratio of the Dem vs G.O.P. vote, leaving out third party numbers. The fourth and fifth columns list the number of contested seats won by each party. The next column lists the calculated p-value, the statistic which determines the degree of gerrymandering vs random occurrence. A p-value of “100” indicated no gerrymandering – a perfect democracy, if you will. A p-value of “0” indicated perfect gerrymandering. A p-value of less than five states gerrymandering existed beyond a reasonable doubt.

In conclusion, looking at the p-values one can conclude beyond a reasonable doubt the Republican Party of Wisconsin has rigged the system to favor themselves.

2010 Census
One doesn’t need to compute a p-value. Just eyeball the numbers and it is clear something doesn’t pass the smell test.

Election Dem % Rep % D seats won R seats won p Favoring
2014 44.5 55.5 14 34 2 R
2012 45.3 54.7 16 56 0 R

2000 Census
Democrats have raised the red flag the last couple of years regarding the issue of gerrymandering, but in actuality it has been occurring for over ten years.

Election Dem % Rep % D seats won R seats won p Favoring
2010 45.1 54.9 24 44 8 R
2008 49.2 50.8 28 40 15 R
2006 49.0 51.0 23 37 15 R
2004 47.5 52.5 17 39 1 R
2002 47.4 52.6 18 30 13 R

1990 Census
The G.O.P. gained the upper hand with the 1996 elections and is still holding it 18 years later.

Election Dem % Rep % D seats won R seats won p Favoring
2000 48.1 51.9 23 35 16 R
1998 49.9 50.1 26 28 70 R
1996 45.9 54.1 28 41 32 R
1994 49.7 50.3 29 24 39 D
1992 51.1 48.9 31 29 84 D

1980 Census
In the issue of fairness, it’s not just the one political party that has done this. The Democrats also did this to a certain extent in the 70’s and 80’s.

Election Dem % Rep % D seats won R seats won p Favoring
1990 55.2 44.8 42 19 3 D
1988 52.0 48.0 37 34 90 D
1986 53.8 46.2 49 29 9 D
1984 49.2 50.8 39 45 27 R
1982 53.7 46.3 47 39 78 D

1970 Census
The Democrats controlled state politics in the 70’s. Govs. Lucy and Schreiber were Dems. They had the Assembly gerrymandered almost to he same extent as the Republicans have it today. Notice how many of the races were contested? The 1972 election saw 94 of 99 seats contested.

Election Dem % Rep % D seats won R seats won p Favoring
1980 52.2 47.8 42 26 9 D
1978 50.6 49.4 44 33 21 D
1976 57.8 42.2 58 25 2 D
1974 50.3 49.7 41 35 40 D
1972 54.0 46.0 59 35 7 D

All politics is cyclical. Will the Democrats ever again have the upper hand? Of course – but it may take 15 or 25 years for it to happen.

GOP Apologist Actually Admits Why Gerrymandering Is Crucial

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s resident conservative op ed writer and GOP apologist held forth on why unlimited money in campaigns isn’t really an issue. I am not going to do into that right now…but his most telling reason why the money isn’t that important is? Well, we’ll let Christian Schneider tell us himself:

Campaigns are extremely complex endeavors, which are affected by any number of factors. Perhaps most important, the partisan makeup of a district controls who is elected; it doesn’t take a seasoned political mind to recognize that Republicans vote for Republicans and Democrats vote for Democrats.

So the obvious gerrymandering of Wisconsin legislative districts was of crucial importance to the Republican party. More so than PAC money and voter ID!

GOP Senate Majority Provided Shills for Redistricting Hearings.

Last Wednesday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article on the redistricting emails that were withheld from the courts. These emails were withheld even after the attorneys (Michael Best & Friedrich) for the Madison GOP legislators in their gerrymandering scam were fined for doing so. That is a story onto itself and I recommend the article.

But there is a brief description of one of the emails which exposes just how low to the ground the GOP is willing to go to cheat the citizens of Wisconsin of fair representation:

A July 2011 public hearing before a Senate committee was highly orchestrated, with attorneys for the Legislature recruiting people to testify, outlining the testimony of witnesses and writing questions for the Republican members of the committee.

The GOP members of the WI Senate not only participated in gerrymandering WI senate and assembly districts, they made a mockery out of public hearings by providing their own shills to testify. They not only limited our rights to fair representation, they limited our free speech rights and our rights to petition our government. A total affront to the citizens of Wisconsin!

The Shark’s Comment Line is Open!

Zach recently posted the links to the 84 pages of emails that the republicans were desperate to keep from the public. While it is somewhat tame, with just a few gems sprinkled in (they admit to “wildly gerrymandering, they continue to go to convicted felon Scott “scooter” Jensen, etc…), one of the interesting emails involves Professor Rick Esenberg.

It turns out that when they finished their maps they called the good professor to testify on how great and legal these new district maps were. The professor gladly agreed to do so, there was just one problem. He had not even seen them yet. A classic case of the republican party saying “jump” and Mr. Esenberg saying how “yes sir, how high and how often?”

While this did not surprise most political followers in Wisconsin, it was nice to have it confirmed on paper. The Shark himself, took time away from his prior job of desperately trying to minimize the John Doe investigations to address this issue.

The problem is, as is typical for far right extremists, he closed down comments. The republicans in this state have let it be known, they will speak at us not with us.

Finally, I’m closing comments on this. I understand that there all sorts of (generally anonymous) people in the blogosphere who seem to fill some psychic need by flaming people who disagree with them. They can do it elsewhere.

Well, we at Bloggingblue have always welcomed comments from all sides of every issue so I am opening up comments to Professor Shark here. Bloggingblue can be elsewhere.

I will even start the comments(and not even anonymously):

Why anyone cares about my testimony is beyond me

We agree on this completely. I hope that no media outlet ever goes to the Shark again for an actual legal opinion. They can call him up when Reince Priebus is busy and they need a republican party spokesman but let us not pretend he brings an independent legitimate voice to any discussion.

Maybe I’m wrong. But I am consistent.

Agreed! 100% consistent!

Fourth, in case you’re wondering, I was not paid for this. I received nothing. No compenation. No mileage. No parking. Nothing.

Someone once asked “With the fact that there was a secret illegal email network with Governor Walkers top advisors fundraising for a majority of their day 20 feet from his office, what is worse? That the Governor knew this was going on or that he did not?

That being said you look at the political landscape and you see people like Sarah Palin, Sam the plumber and Dr. Tim Nerenz, who use their position within the right wing to milk every single penny they can get out of the “movement” before they get exposed for who they are and are no longer relevant.
Then there are the people like the shark who do it all for free.

That the maps were shared with Scott Jensen a few days before they were made public is not interesting.

They did not feel like driving to Waupon.

There is no prohibition against showing people drafts of legislation that have not yet been introduced

Tell that to Evan Wynn & Steve Nass!

[Evan] Wynn said he has no problem with signing the agreement.

“I agreed not to talk about what I had learned because it was preliminary and not in final form,” he said. “It had nothing to do with secrecy. It was very much like the process we go through when we are developing legislation.”

[Steve] Nass agreed that the agreement had nothing to do with secrecy.

“It’s similar to the legislative process,” Nass said. “You don’t go around publicly discussing bills when they are still in draft form.

I wonder if there was a “convicted felons do not count” out clause in the secrecy agreement that all of the republicans signed.

Those are my comments, to the rest of you “people in the blogosphere who seem to fill some psychic need by flaming people who disagree with them.” The comment box is open!