In case that could shape future US elections, the Supreme Court will consider the legality of electoral maps purposely doctored to favor one political party.
The case regards Wisconsin but Illinois will provide a more startling change should the court rule against the practice.
The Guardian reports Supreme Court to Decide Whether State Gerrymandering Violates Constitution.
The US supreme court on Monday agreed to decide whether electoral maps drawn deliberately to favor a particular political party are acceptable under the constitution, in a case that could have huge consequences for future US elections.
The justices will take up Wisconsin’s appeal of a lower court ruling that said state Republican lawmakers had violated the constitution when they created legislative districts with the aim of hobbling Democrats. The case will be one of the biggest heard in the supreme court term that begins in October.
Last November, federal judges in Madison ruled 2-1 that the Republican-led Wisconsin legislature’s redrawing of legislative districts in 2011 amounted to “an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander”, a manipulation of electoral boundaries for unfair political advantage.
The judges said the redrawing violated constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law and free speech by undercutting the ability of Democratic voters to turn their votes into seats in the Wisconsin state legislature.
The court ordered a redrawing of political districts be in place by 1 November 2017, in time for the next state election in Wisconsin, in 2018.
The supreme court has been willing to invalidate state electoral maps on the grounds of racial discrimination, as it did on 22 May, when it found Republican legislators in North Carolina had drawn two districts to diminish the statewide political clout of black voters.
But the justices have not thrown out state electoral maps drawn simply to give one party an advantage over another.
A supreme court ruling faulting the Wisconsin redistricting plan could have far-reaching consequences for the redrawing of electoral districts that is due after the 2020 US census. State and federal legislative district boundaries are reconfigured every decade after the census, so each holds about same number of people.
“Wisconsin’s gerrymander was one of the most aggressive of the decade, locking in a large and implausibly stable majority for Republicans in what is otherwise a battleground state,” said Brennan Center redistricting expert Thomas Wolf.
Under the Wisconsin redistricting plan, Republicans were able to amplify their voting power, gaining more seats than their percentage of the statewide vote would suggest. For example, in 2012, the Republican party received about 49% of the vote but won 60 of 99 seats in the state assembly. In 2014, the party garnered 52% of the vote and 63 assembly seats.
Wisconsin the Worst?
When it comes to corruption, think Illinois. It’s what we do best.
Democrats hold a majority in both the Illinois House and Senate. Taxes would be way higher and Illinois would have a budget were it not for a few blue-dog fiscal conservative Democrats. In the 2016 election Democrats lost their supermajority.
Gerrymandering at its Finest
I challenge Wisconsin to come up with anything that looks like the Illinois’s 4th Congressional District.
The 4th Congressional District of Illinois includes part of Cook County, and has been represented by Democrat Luis Gutiérrez since January 1993. It was featured by The Economist as one of the most strangely drawn and gerrymandered congressional districts in the country and has been nicknamed “earmuffs” due to its shape. It was created to pack two majority Hispanic parts of Chicago into one district, thereby creating a majority Hispanic district.
This district covers two strips running east-west across the city of Chicago, Illinois, on the west side continuing into smaller portions of some suburban areas in Cook County, surrounding Illinois’ 7th congressional district. The northern portion is largely Puerto Rican, while the southern portion is heavily Mexican-American. The two sections are on opposite sides of the city and are only connected by a piece of Interstate 294 to the west; the highway is in the district while the surrounding areas are not. It is the smallest congressional district in area outside of New York City and San Francisco.
When is Gerrymandering Unconstitutional?
The Chicago Tribune asks the question: When is Gerrymandering Unconstitutional?
Ronald Reagan was president when Michael Madigan, a Democrat, became speaker of the Illinois House in 1983. Reagan served two terms and died in 2004, and his name adorns schools, roads, parks and an airport. A generation has passed since he left the White House.
And Madigan? He is still speaker, and has been for all but two years since he started. He appears to be as permanent a feature of the Illinois landscape as the Mississippi River.
Illinois is a blue state, voting Democratic in the past seven presidential elections. But the Democratic Party’s control of the state House is not the simple result of its ability to satisfy the citizenry. Democrats have also had the help of district lines drawn to help them at the expense of Republicans.
In 2014, Democrats got 50.5 percent of the vote and 60 percent of the seats. This year, Madigan’s party again won 60 percent of the races.
That’s why Illinois Republicans may side with Wisconsin Democrats on one issue: partisan gerrymandering. On Nov. 21, a federal district court struck down Wisconsin’s legislative map on the ground that it unfairly favors Republicans, who dominate the Legislature. It had been more than three decades since a federal court invalidated a reapportionment plan for partisan bias.
The Supreme Court ultimately overruled that decision, upholding an Indiana redistricting plan. But the justices affirmed that a gerrymander could be so biased toward one party as to violate the Constitution. The district court said the Wisconsin plan fits the bill.
Republicans captured the Wisconsin Legislature in 2010, just in time for the decennial reapportionment. They made the most of the opportunity. In 2012, GOP candidates got 48.6 percent of the statewide vote — but 60 of the 99 seats in the lower house, the Assembly. In 2014, they got 52 percent of the vote and 63 seats.
A scholar they had asked to analyze the plan before its adoption said Democrats would need at least 54 percent of the statewide ballots to regain control of the Assembly. It was a recipe for Republican control in good times and bad.
In 1986, the Supreme Court noted that when legislators are entrusted with redistricting, the results are bound to have a partisan tilt. But it concluded there is a limit to what is permissible. “Unconstitutional discrimination occurs,” it said, “when the electoral system is arranged in a manner that will consistently degrade a voter’s or a group of voters’ influence on the political process as a whole.”
Wisconsin Republicans insist they have a natural advantage: Democrats are concentrated in cities, limiting the number of districts in which they enjoy majority strength, while Republicans are more scattered.
But the federal court said these facts don’t explain the GOP’s formidable edge. It is instead the product of efforts to dilute the votes of Democrats by “packing” large numbers into a few districts, where they can’t lose, and “cracking” the rest into many more districts, where they can’t win.
What they refer to as the “efficiency gap” is enough to lock in GOP control in Madison for a full decade under almost any realistic conditions. The court found that the reapportionment violates the First and 14th amendments by intentionally hobbling Democratic voters. Every affected citizen, it said, is “an unequal participant in the decisions of the body politic.”
Illinois Republicans know how that works. For the moment, partisan gerrymandering favors the GOP because it holds power in more states. But Republicans have been its victims just as often as Democrats — and, if the Supreme Court doesn’t curb the practice, will be again.
In the end, partisan gerrymandering is not really aimed at frustrating the party that is out of power. It’s aimed at foiling voters who might want to remove politicians from office. As Michael Madigan can attest, it really works.
I have no idea how the Supreme Court will rule, but I will be happy if it ends Gerrymandering.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
Jon Sellers said:
A better solution is to cut the number of districts in half, but make the top two vote receivers instead of the top one. Why should I be represented by someone with polar opposite views?
The political process encourages all parties to appeal to prospective voters of any party. This completely democratic process is in place in order to enable you to convince voters of the strength and common sense of your positions. If your positions are credible, you should win the most votes, no matter what “party” you represent.
If this isn’t the case, there is no need for anything other than having voters register with a political party and cease going to the trouble of voting. Just count the registered voters and let the party with the most registrations win.
Of course, since most Americans are too lazy to vote, they are too lazy to register with a party.
Man’s concepts of government are derived from behaviors of the animal world.
A right to form a government (or vote) exists only in the minds of government lovers because their behaviors are dictated by those of the animal world.
Man’s world, red in bullet and bomb, is because of unnecessary gifts of nature.
“Wisconsin the Worst?”
5 out of 5 democrats think so.
I don’t recall this being a problem when Dems were benefitting
Ron J said:
The DNC colluded with the Hillary campaign against Sanders. The Democratic party primary was rigged. Because of rigging, the vote of millions of people did not count.
The mainstream media colluded with the DNC and the Hillary campaign against Trump. First, to get him nominated as the Republican Party candidate, then to defeat him in the national election. The last part didn’t work. They have been trying to overthrow him, ever since.
We don’t have free and fair elections, so what is the point in voting, anyway?
Brian E Considine (@e_considine) said:
Who exactly voted for Sanders in a primary but their vote ‘didn’t count’? You can say the DNC thought Hillary was a better candidate but right or wrong the purpose of a political party is to win the elections that actually count. The fact that some DNC higher ups said mean things about Sanders in emails is NOT very convincing that anything was ‘stolen’. Republicans say and do much worse when the nominations are over and the general election begins. If Sanders folds so easily then it would have been even worse in the general election.
BTW, same sour grapes happened back in 2008. Obama supposedly ‘stole’ the nomination from Hillary because the rules back then said Main (or some other state) didn’t count because they did their primary before Idaho. or Iowa.
William Entriken (@fulldecent) said:
Surely it is coincidental that all leaders of the DNC resigned after their emails were made public.
3 officials resigned (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/08/02/democratic-national-committee-ceo-amy-dacey-resigns-in-wake-of-email-breach/?utm_term=.2959d4895334). They were the CEO, the Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Communications Officer.
It isn’t uncommon for top leaders to resign when something really bad happens, even if the bad thing is not directly their fault. That’s part of what goes with being a leader, you may lose your job as CEO not because your company did anything wrong but simply because some other company was luckier or something entirely outside your control harmed your company.
“in 2008. Obama supposedly ‘stole’ the nomination from Hillary because the rules back then said Main (or some other state) didn’t count because they did their primary before Idaho. or Iowa”
The state was Florida, for being 3 days ahead of New Hampshire (traditionally first primary state), and it would have made Hillary the winner, as she also won California by a large margin. But then again, Hillary could have taken the fight to the convention floor. Instead she made a deal to become Secretary of State and rake in billions for the Clinton Foundation. This allowed Hillary State Dept aides like Huma Abedin (some say more than just a work relationship, that the Weiner marriage was just a cover) to simultaneously and legally collect two salaries (Clinton Foundation and State Dept) will serving Crooked Hillary. Combine that with Democrats “owning” the Deep State and mainstream media, and country would as Trump said have been lost for the next 100 years.
Brian E Considine (@e_considine) said:
No Trump supporter has a right to ever complain about a charity ever again. But regardless the point is first rules change with political parties just like the NFL changes their rules to make the games more appealing. Hillary made a call to campaign in Florida even though they had previously decided to punish the state by not counting its delegates. She took the risk that the rules might be changed yet again and she lost.
Bernie supporters have zero right to carp that some DNC higher ups trashed him on email. If they didn’t that still wouldn’t change the fact that he lost in the primaries and it ignores the fact that the primaries are uphill battles, often a bit unfair. The general election is even more uphill and even more unfair so both parties need the nomination process to be hard
First, no Trump supporter has a right to ever imply any charity associated with Clinton was corrupt.
Second, as you point out the rules change every election cycle. This is not some abstract philosophical system. Political parties want to select the best nominees so they tweak their rules all the time in an attempt to do that. Hillary bet that Florida’s ‘punishment’ wouldn’t stand so she spent time campaigning there when Obama didn’t. It didn’t work for her. Obama didn’t ‘steal’ from her nor did Hillary ‘steal’ from Sanders.
Third, you can’t even say Sanders faced unfair rules. No one said the delegates he won, for example, didn’t count. You have DNC leaders saying on email that they thought Hillary was better than Bernie. That didn’t change anyone’s actual votes in the primaries. Nothing was stolen from Bernie let alone ‘millions of votes’ not counted.
Hillary’s nonprofit foundation is not a charity. The corruption was pay for play, and that is solely a function of Clinton actions, which she acknowledges as true (but says were legal). Ethics, morality open to debate. Of course, DNC has a right to pick presidential nominees any way they want. Including super-delegates to prevent primaries from selecting a bad candidate (like McGovern, whose drubbing led to super-delegate system). Fairness is irrelevant. But now Dems are paying a price, as disgruntled Sanders supporters are forming their own socialist third party for 2020.
As to Florida 2008, agree, Obama did not steal it. Hillary conceded the nomination after WINNING California by a landslide and cut a deal. If Hillary had challenged Florida via a convention floor fight, she might have prevailed, as delegates voting openly on national television to disenfranchise Florida would have been a big mess (undemocratic for a party calling itself democratic). So Hillary cut a deal, perhaps for good of party, and made out like a bandit as Sec. of State, raking in tons of money for her family and Clinton Foundation. But Hillary screwed up in Middle East, and Florida shafted her 8 years later by voting Trump.
How about using the usps zip code as basis for districts?
Brian E Considine (@e_considine) said:
Wouldn’t work since different zip codes have different populations. A zip with more people would mean their votes carry less weight.
Perhaps the French will show us a new way of voting. One of Macaroons ideas is proportional voting. Rather than simply voting for a candidate, one votes for a party and the party supplies the winners. So if Illinois or some other state should go with proportional voting, then the state wide vote would decide, in proportion, the number of blacks elected (according to their vote which might well be en bloc), the number of democrats, the number of republicans, the number of other parties, etc. We might even apportion the votes so that that women are elected via proportion (don’t even think about the puns). Since voter qualification is largely a states rights issue, then such a proposal could be used without court challenge.
Assuming that France does enact this wonderful plan, along with a reduction of seats in the Parliament, then we will see just how effective in might become. Of course it such a plan had been in place, Macaroon would never have been elected.
But more to the point, since the US Supreme court let stand North Carolina’s infamous gerrymandered congressional district that provided black residents with sufficient control to always elect a black representative to US congress, I don’t see much issue with the other gerrymandered plans.The last challenged was based on suppose racial discrimination, not party discrimination.
Brian E Considine (@e_considine) said:
I personally like the idea of cumulative voting. If your state has 20 representatives you get 20 votes. You can bundle them all for one or two particular candidates you really, really like or spread them out. The top 20 win.
This ensures minorities can get representation without resorting to identity politics. A minority could be a racial group or an ideological group (say pro-lifers in a state like CA or NY or pro-gun controllers in a state like Texas). If they feel shut out they will bundle their votes to ensure at least one or two representatives of their view make it in, if they don’t then they will spread their votes around.
You could do a split concept if you feel geographical representation is very important. A state could be divided into a few large districts and you would vote for candidates in your district and then cumulative voting for the remaining ‘at large’ representatives. With fewer districts states would have less freedom to make insane looking gerrymandered districts.
The court could say: Do as you please but no district can have a perimeter length more than, say, ten times the square root of its area.
Some guy wrote a program to create optimal districts.
Gerrymandering creates an unpleasant byproduct, bad signal from electorate. The US demographic shift is unmistakable. Attempting to thwart it can only be temporary in nature. But not seeing/allowing the true demographic shift at the ballot box the republicans risk a discrete loss at the ballot box in the future. Any market needs true signals to operate optimally. Gerrymandering simply creates a bad signal.
Turning it over to “nonpartisan” agencies doesn’t always work out either: https://www.propublica.org/article/how-democrats-fooled-californias-redistricting-commission
Hmm–if IL both parties and Fed, both parties put as much effort into balancing the budget with cost controls as they put effort into gerrymandering and campaigning and fund raising——
Look at Marylands 8 districts
The Supreme Court should rule all districts must be drawn with straight lines only for all states. Boy would that have the politicians scrambling and scratching their heads on how to draw the lines.
There is no way to draw up voting districts without disadvantaging some people and advantaging other people. An absolutely impossible task, for humans or computers programmed by humans. Whichever party is in power will favor itself over the opposition, even if unconsciously. To render it open to endless litigation is to create dysfunction. Evens out, as in WI and IL. Might not be “fair,” but better than endless litigation, unless you are a trial lawyer.
Democrats are a party dominated by trial lawyers with a financial interest in endless election litigation every decade in all 50 states. With tobacco and asbestos lawsuits past their prime, election lawsuits could be the new gravy train. Jill Stein signaled this with her election recount fund raising bonanza. If the test is statistical, like affirmative action racial and gender quotas, then numbers of Democrats and Republicans elected would always need to equal (in percentage) numbers registered. But people do cross party lines to vote, as in all the blue collar Democrats voting for Trump. Should a court invalidate that, too, for not adhering to voter party registration patterns? What about the 6-10 third parties in Wisconsin, as well as independent voters, should they not have rights to super-gerrrymandered districts to achieve legislative representation? For a third party with a few members in every district, the voting district for their representation might have to leap from house to house around the state. It would make the 4th district in IL look mundane by comparison.
Brian E Considine (@e_considine) said:
Cumulative voting does that. Every voter gets the same votes and they can pool or spread them out as they see fit.