Political Gerrymandering in Wisconsin and Its Implications for Pennsylvania

Wisconsin's Congressional Districts

Wisconsin’s Congressional Districts

— Carol Kuniholm and Barry Kauffman

On Monday, November 21, a panel of three federal judges determined that the Wisconsin Legislature‚Äôs 2011 redrawing of State Assembly districts was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. This case, Whitford v. Gill (originally filed as Whitford v. Nichol), represents the first time in three decades that a federal court has struck down maps on the grounds that they give unfair advantage to a political party. [Read more…]

Recapping Yesterday’s Primaries

Yesterday, House and Senate primaries were held in Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota and Wisconsin. First, for the I-cannot-believe-she-won-AGAIN race: Michele Bachmann with 80% of the vote. Thanks, I feel better for sharing the insanity.

In Connecticut, there were no surprises. Chris Murphy won over Susan Bysiewicz 67.5% – 32.5% to capture the Democratic nomination. He will face, and easily win against, Linda “WWF” McMahon, who captured 72% of the vote over Chris Shays on the Republican side. This is currently Joe “Turncoat” Lieberman's seat. It will be gratifying when this seat returns to its Democratic place in the Senate in January. And yes, I'm sure Murphy wins. There were no surprises in the House primaries, with most races being uncontested. 

In Minnesota, incumbent Senator Amy Klobuchar captured 90% of the primary vote, and will be challenged by, and will win against, Kurt Bills. There were some interesting state house outcomes. with the longest-serving Republican being tossed out by a teabag challenger. But in the national House races, only one surprise. Rick Nolan edged out Tarryl Clark to take on freshman teabagger Chip Cravaack, who is legitimately vulnerable.

On to Wisconsin. Tommy Thompson managed to win the Republican Senate primary against three tea bag challengers. This sets up a heated race between the former governor and Tammy Baldwin, who ran uncontested. This is the seat Herb Kohl is retiring from, and yes, Herb is from the family that owns the chain Kohl's. The polls in the head-to-head have been close, with Thompson slightly ahead. Thompson was a popular governor, and former Federal official. For a Republican, his health care stance is relatively decent, and he did good work in Wisconsin on health matters. Tammy Baldwin is a long-term pol, having held local and state positions before being the first woman from Wisconsin elected to Congress. She was also the first openly-gay non-incumbent ever elected to Congress. She is serving her 7th term. In her first two races, she captured 53% and 55% of the vote, and has consistently won with more than 60% ever since. She voted against invading Iraq. I'm looking forward to the next sets of polls, because it is possible that teabaggers will either come in as “undecided” or “other”, which may propel Baldwin to the lead. The Wisconsin House races were uneventful, and mostly uncontested.

And finally, we have Florida, Florida, Florida. (I still miss you Tim Russert.) Betcha $10,000 that Mittens wished he would have waited a couple days to announce Paul Ryan. John Mica, a 10-term Republican redistricted to run against freshman teabagger Sandy Adams, won with 61% of the vote. Cliff Stearns has apparently lost to veterinarian Ted Yoho, but Stearns has refused to concede, and the vote has not been certified as of this writing. It's close: under 800 votes. Stearns can be blamed, in part, with the rest of the blame resting on Karen Handel, with the implosion of the Susan G. Komen foundation. Karen Handel was the one who got the organization to cut Planned Parenthood funding because of an “on-going Congressional investigation.” Stearns WAS the “Congressional investigation.” Good riddance.

In the Florida 9th, Alan Grayson will be back on the ballot, running against Todd Long, who won over John Quiñones and others on the Republican side. This puts Grayson in a stronger position. 

Connie Mack IV will be challenging Bill Nelson in the Senate race. Every time I think of baby Mack, I am reminded of the 1992 Eddie Murphy movie The Distinguished Gentleman. Baby Mack is a mere shadow of former Connie Macks. This one is married to Mary Bono Mack, Sonny Bono's widow, and holder of her own Congressional seat. The two of them like to spend time together more than they like to go to work. Connie Mack IV has the 7th worst record for missed votes.  Mack claimed that Nelson missed 56% of the votes, but it turns out that number was from a long time ago, and recently Nelson missed one vote. Total. Nelson is on track to re-election not just because Baby Mack doesn't show up, and generally voters want their elected representatives to go to work, but also because Nelson is very, VERY pro-Medicare, and Ryan on the ticket makes Medicare all they're going to talk about in Florida, with a side order of Social Security.

Don't understate the importance of the Ryan pick in the Florida primaries: on the front page of every major paper in Florida on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were headlines reminding Floridians about Ryan and Medicare and NOT the primary elections. 


Elections are won one voter at a time.
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Romney Criticizes Obama Wanting To Hire Police, Firemen, Teachers

— Ben LaBolt

After years on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney finally revealed his jobs plan today.  It is a plan of job elimination, not creation.  While the President has put a jobs plan on the table that addresses areas of employment where we need to spur hiring the most right now — keeping police officers on the street and teachers in the classroom, Mitt Romney promised to eliminate even more public sector jobs.  Mitt Romney has also said we should ‘send home’ 145,000 federal workers — those workers are mostly military personnel, VA hospital personnel who care for the wounded and Homeland Security workers.  Not only has Mitt Romney opposed the President’s plan to create one million jobs, he is actually calling for further job loss in the sector that needs the most urgent boost.  While job creation in Massachusetts lagged during Romney’s tenure as Governor despite his promises, calling for job elimination when we’re still digging out from the economic crisis is nothing short of stunning.

Republicans like to claim that Obama and the Democrats have bloated the size of government. Actually, xcept for a brief blip due to Constitutionally mandated census in April 2010, the size of government has decreased throughout the Obama administration.

As can be seen in the graph of the left, more people are employed in the private sector now than when Obama took office. Any net reduction in jobs is therefore solely due to reductions in the size of government.
Obama for America TV Ad: “Jobs”

Obama for America today released a new television advertisement called “Jobs” that asks Americans to join the President in calling on Congress to pass his commonsense bipartisan plan to create jobs now as we continue to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and rebuild an economy that’s meant to last.

Nearly nine months ago, President Obama gave a speech before Congress where he laid out the American Jobs Act, with ideas to cut taxes to help small businesses hire and grow, rebuild American infrastructure, create pathways back to work for Americans looking for jobs, and cut taxes for every American worker and their families — all paid for within the President’s long-term deficit reduction plan. The plan would create 1.9 million jobs, according to an independent economist.

After pressure from the American people, Republican leaders in Congress agreed to end their obstruction and cut payroll taxes, extended unemployment insurance, and created a new tax credit for businesses that hire unemployed veterans. But it left most of the ideas — and over 1 million jobs — on the table. And it has not yet acted on any of the five common-sense ideas in President Obama’s to-do list: cutting taxes for small businesses that hire or raise wages and for companies that bring jobs home, expanding refinancing for responsible homeowners, creating a veterans jobs corps, and investing in clean energy manufacturing.

The President is calling on Congress to put country ahead of politics and take steps to create a million jobs now. America’s businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months but our economy is still recovering from its greatest crisis since the Great Depression and there’s still more work to do.

“Jobs” is airing in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. It will also be airing on national cable starting next week.

Wisconsin Bombshell: Governor Scott Walker Under Investigation

— by Joe Magid

The criminal corruption probe swirling around Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who faces a now neck-and-neck recall election tomorrow, Tuesday, June 5, are swirling ever closer if recent reports regarding progress of the investigation are accurate. As reported in the Huffington Post, Walker vehemently denies he is now a target of the investigation, however, according to the Journal Sentinel, Walker has admitted putting $160,000 in a legal defense fund, including a $100,000 transfer from his campaign account. It has further been reported that Wisconsin law permits the creation of such a fund by an elected official only “if they, or their agent, are under investigation for, charged with, or convicted of violations of Wisconsin’s campaign finance and election laws.”

Walker has clearly stated that the fund will not be used to defend any of his “agents”, the six aids now under indictment (in addition to thirteen granted immunity from prosecution), leaving one to conclude that there is an obvious conflict between the law coupled with his actions and statements regarding the fund and his denials regarding the state of the investigation.

In addition, David Shuster of Take Action News and Current TV has posted a report stating that “government lawyers familiar with a Milwaukee criminal corruption probe, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is now a ‘target’ of the investigation.”

[Read more…]

Voting Today in Maryland, DC and Wisconsin

The Romney campaign claims he has a lock on the nomination. However, he is saturating the airwaves in Wisconsin as if his political future depended on it. Wisconsin is voting today in a winner-take-all primary. It is an open primary so anyone can vote regardless of party affiliation.

According to Politico, “Romney’s campaign and the super PAC Restore Our Future are spending a combined $1,917,764 over the next seven days, including $742,928 from the campaign and the balance from ROF. The pro-Romney super PAC is the only group on the radio in Wisconsin and has a major TV presence across the state.”

Meanwhile, Santorum is responding in kind (albeit with a much smaller budget). According to ABC News, “Rick Santorum is closing out his Wisconsin primary battle with a ferocious new television ad that portrays Romney and President Obama as the same person.”

According to projections from the Associated Press, Romney has 572 delegates (of 55% of the 1031 projected so far) which puts him exactly halfway to the total of 1144 to lock in the nomination. He would need 45.5% of the remaining delegates to avoid a brokered convention.

The Santorum campaign contests those numbers. Many of the states which have voted already have a multi-stage delegate selection process which has not yet been completed, and as we saw recently in North Dakota the results can diverge surprisingly from the initial straw vote. According to DemConWatch only 869 delegates have actually been chosen of which 503 have endorsed or are pledged to Romney. This includes the 50 delegates from Florida chosen in an early winner-take-all primary which is against the rules and likely to be challenged at the Republican National Convention.

However, in the battle for campaign merchandising, Santorum is beating Romney hands down. According to the Washington Post,

The campaign has looked for them, selling official Mitt Romney Super Fan T-shirts for $30 apiece. At last count, it had sold 346. Rick Santorum, by contrast, has sold 3,000 of his $100 souvenir sweater vests.

Primary results after the jump.
Color Key  

Romney: Orange.
Santorum: Green.
Gingrich: Purple.
Paul: Gold.
Rick Perry: Blue.
No Votes: Black.
No vote yet: Grey.

Next Contests  
Apr 24: CT DE NY PA RI
May  8: IN NC WV
May 15: NE OR
May 22: AR KY
May 29: TX
Jun  5: CA MT NJ NM SD
Jun 26: UT

States Won

Newt Gingrich: SC GA

Will Someone Tell Mitt That Losing Your Job Is Not Funny

Romney was campaigning today in Wisconsin and tried to inject a little humor into his stump speech in order to show how “down to earth” a guy he really is before their primary next Tuesday.

One of most humorous I think relates to my father.
You may remember my father, George Romney, was president of an automobile company called American Motors… They had a factory in Michigan, and they had a factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and another one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And as the president of the company he decided to close the factory in Michigan and move all the production to Wisconsin. Now later he decided to run for governor of Michigan and so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign… So every time they would start playing ‘On, Wisconsin, On, Wisconsin,’ my dad’s political people would jump up and down and try to get them to stop, because they didn’t want people in Michigan to be reminded that my dad had moved production to Wisconsin.

Audio follows the jump.

Which Candidate Connects Better With His Base?

Gov. Mitt Romney spoke on  February 24, 2012 at Detroit’s Ford Field. At a similar stage in 2008 election, Sen. Barack Obama spoke on February 12, 2008 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

As he battled to claim his due in Michigan, the state of his birth and state in which his father served as Governor, Romney’s economic message missed its target in a nearly empty stadium. The stands are empty and seats are still available in the fourth row. Romney had written a New York Times editorial “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”, so protesters outside Ford Field carried banners reading “Let Romney Go Bankrupt”. Meanwhile, a standing room only crowd enthusiastically greeted Obama’s message of change, and Obama had to apologize to his supporters outside the stadium who were turned away for lack of space.

Which candidate connects better with his base?

Does Romney really think he is the Republican candidate with the best chance of beating President Obama?

Prison-Based Gerrymandering in Wisconsin

–by Peter Wagner

This article was prepared on Monday. On Wednesday, the Assembly passed the plan and it is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting signature.

The Wisconsin legislature is rushing through a redistricting plan so they can lock in the maps before the scheduled recall elections can change who has the power to draw district lines. In that rush, prison-based gerrymandering is poised to have an even greater impact on state, county and municipal districts than it did a decade ago.

The Census Bureau counts Wisconsin prisoners as if they were residents of the communities where they are incarcerated, even though they can’t vote and remain legal residents of the places they lived prior to incarceration. Crediting thousands of people to other communities has staggering implications for Wisconsin’s democracy, which uses the Census to apportion political power on the basis of equally-sized state and county legislative districts.

Wisconsin’s 53rd Assembly district has the highest concentration of prisons in the state. The 53rd District claims 5,583 incarcerated people as residents of the district, even though state law says that incarcerated people remain residents of their homes. All districts send some people to prison, although some districts some districts send more than others. But not all districts have prisons, and concentrating 23,000 prisoners in a handful of districts enhances the weight of a vote cast in those districts and dilutes all votes cast elsewhere.

More after the jump.
In Wisconsin, this impact is largest in District 53, where without using prison populations as padding, the district would be 10% below the required size. This gives every 90 residents of the 53rd district the same influence as 100 residents of any other district in the state.

If that seems insignificant, consider that the Supreme Court allows districts to have populations that are 5% too large or small if the state can protect some other legitimate state interest by doing so. The federal judges who have for decades drawn Wisconsin’s state legislative districts have had an even higher standard, allowing only a 1% deviation from strict population equality. The Republican majority of the legislature which drew the new districts took an even higher standard in the Assembly, drawing districts that are, by Census counts, no more than 0.4% too large or small.

The state’s efforts to carefully draw districts that give each district the same population and the same political influence is clearly overshadowed by the decision to use the Census Bureau’s data that credited incarcerated people to the wrong location when drawing districts, and created one of the most distorted state legislative districts in the county. The systematic bias introduced by drawing districts based on Census Bureau prison counts becomes clear when you look in detail at District 53:

District 53 purports to have a large African-American population, larger than 74 other districts. But of the 2,784 African-Americans in the district, all but 590 are incarcerated. The day the people incarcerated in the district are allowed to vote again, they will be on a bus, heading back to their home district. The 53rd District is claiming populations that are not a part of this district and never will be.

The state Assembly is not the only part of Wisconsin to raise the ante on prison-based gerrymandering and draw districts more distorted than they did a decade ago. In our previous research, we found some of the most dramatic examples of prison-based gerrymandering in the country in Wisconsin cities and counties. With two notable exceptions, counties appear to have been unable or unwilling to find a solution to competing state laws that indirectly require them to use the unadjusted Census numbers and engage in prison-based gerrymandering.

The two exceptions are Dodge County, and the City of Waupun. These communities did something clever: they split each large prison between 2 or 3 neighboring districts. Those districts still get credited with an incarcerated population that actually resides somewhere else, but the size of the vote enhancement in any individual district is smaller. And by extension, this reduces the extent to which votes are diluted in other Dodge County or City of Waupun districts.

With Dodge County and the City of Waupun finding solutions, albeit partial ones, the mantle for the most dramatic examples of prison-based gerrymandering is likely going to fall to Chippewa, Juneau, and Waushara counties, all of which saw new prisons built or expanded over the last decade, and all of which appear to be drawing individual county districts that are more than 50% incarcerated. In each of these counties, if you live next to the prisons, you’ll get twice the influence over the future of our county as residents who live elsewhere. That’s not fair. It likely violates the federal constitution’s guarantee of equal representation, and it certainly doesn’t make any sense.

We concede — when fairness and logic aren’t enough to avoid prison-based gerrymandering — that it is technically possible to draw a district that is half incarcerated. One town in Iowa had a district that was 96% incarcerated, until citizens intervened. So what are we watching for at the Prison Policy Initiative headquarters? We’re waiting to see how the cities of New Lisbon and Stanley draw their city districts. There, unless they take action, they’ll be faced with drawing districts that are more than 100% incarcerated. This impossibility could produce some of the most dramatic examples of prison-based gerrymandering in the country. Will those cities follow the state legislature’s blind rush into prison-based gerrymandering and end up drawing one or more City Council districts with no voters? Stay tuned.

Wisconsin cities and counties where relying on the Census for redistricting creates serious problems for democracy after the 2000 Census. (We also looked at Oshkosh City in Winnebago Co., Fond du Lac City in Fond Du Lac Co., Allouez Village in Brown Co., and Sturtevant Village in Racine Co., but these cities and villages are not affected because their local government is elected at large rather than from districts. Marquette County’s districts were not affected by the prisoner miscount because the county and state concluded that the census erred in placing the Federal Oxford prison in Marquette, when it is actually located in Adams County.) This table is updated from Importing Constituents: Prisoners and Political Clout in Wisconsin with the downsized districts in Fond du Lac County.

County District Percent of district’s population that is in prison Resulting Vote Distortion
Adams 5 & 6 64% 9 votes here = 25 elsewhere
Brown 14 22% 39 votes here = 50 elsewhere
Columbia 8 47% 27 votes here = 50 elsewhere
Dane 33 6% 47 votes here = 50 elsewhere
Dodge 29 53% 47 votes here = 100 elsewhere
Dodge 31 59% 41 votes here = 100 elsewhere
Dodge 35 10% 9 votes here = 10 elsewhere
Dodge 8 54% 23 votes here = 50 elsewhere
Fond du Lac 18 18% 82 votes here = 100 elsewhere
Jackson 10, 11, 12 and 19 24% 19 votes here = 25 elsewhere
Racine 13 17% 83 votes here =  100 elsewhere
Sheboygan  22 6% 47 votes here = 50 elsewhere
Sheboygan  32 25% 3 votes here = 4 elsewhere
Winnebago  12 42% 58 votes here = 100 elsewhere
Winnebago  30 16% 21 votes here = 25 elsewhere
City District
Fitchburg City 4 14% 43 votes here = 50 elsewhere
Franklin City 1 38% 31 votes here = 50 elsewhere
Waupun City 2 63% 37 votes here = 100 elsewhere
Waupun City 3 79% 21 votes here = 100 elsewhere

Two Jewish Groups Oppose Budget “Onslaught”

— Hershl Hartman

Budget-slashing efforts at state and federal levels were labeled “a determined onslaught against the social structure of this country” in a joint statement released today by two national secular Jewish groups.

Citing the “traditions of the Jewish labor and progressive movements,” the statement urges the groups’ members and others in the Jewish community to call upon “reasonable elected officials” to stand up against extremists who would balance budgets at the expense of the least-powerful.”

Joining in the statement were the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations, with 24 affiliated communities and Sunday schools across North America, and the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring, a 111-year old organization dedicated to fostering Jewish cultural identity and social and economic justice.

The full text of the statement follows the jump.
“From the State House in Madison, Wisconsin, to the House of Representatives in Washington, D. C., recent days have seen a determined onslaught against the social structure of this country.

“Under the guise of ‘fiscal responsibility,’ the targets have ranged from government workers to health care, and food for impoverished children, from Planned Parenthood to public radio and television, among many others.

“As inheritors of the traditions of the Jewish labor and progressive movements that contributed significantly to the social structure that today defines the United States, the undersigned organizations call upon all reasonable elected officials-regardless of party-to resist these unconscionable attacks.

“We urge our members and others in the Jewish community to make their voices heard to elected representatives at all levels of government, urging them to stand up against extremists who would balance budgets at the expense of the least-powerful at the behest of those able to expend millions to assure their own profits. We stand in solidarity for the right of all workers to organize and bargain collectively.

“It was everyday working women and men and professionals who created the social structures of this country. We cannot allow right-wing extremists to destroy them.”

Judge Blocks Wisconsin’s Union-Busting Bill On Procedural Grounds

From Talking Point Memo:

A state judge in Wisconsin has just issued a temporary restraining order blocking Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) newly-passed law curtailing public employee unions, on the grounds that the GOP-controlled legislature appeared to have violated state public notice requirements when quickly passing the bill last week.