aside Michigan Voters Take Charge Over Its State’s Gerrymandering Issue/ Gerrymandering

Because of the focus by numerous governmental agencies on Russian operatives messing with the 2016 US presidential elections, less attention was paid to manipulation that occurred not during the presidential race, but before it — in the drawing of lines for hundreds of U.S. and state legislative seats. The result, according to an Associated Press analysis: Republicans had a real advantage. The term for this is “gerrymandering.”

Currently, their is a Wisconsin gerrymandering case which is under review by the US supreme court. (Supreme Court takes up Wisconsin as test in partisan gerrymanderinghttps://www.washingtonpost.com//Oct 3, 2017) 

Excerpts below from an AP report details well how gerrymandering was a major factor in recent US elections.  There have been steps taken to fight back, as in the below story describing how voters in Michigan banned together to get a referendum on this issue on the next election’s ballot form to be voted on by their neighbors.

Here is the rest of the story…

On June 25, 2017, the AP published the following report, ” Analysis: Partisan gerrymandering has benefited Republicans more than Democrats.”

Excerpts:

“The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage. It’s designed to detect cases in which one party may have won, widened or retained its grip on power through political gerrymandering.”

“The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts.”

“Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010.”

“The AP analysis also found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country. That helped provide the GOP with a comfortable majority over Democrats instead of a narrow one.”

“Republicans also had a geographical advantage because their voters were spread more widely across suburban and rural America instead of being highly concentrated, as Democrats generally are, in big cities.”

Photograph by Leigh Vogel / Getty

“Yet the data suggest that even if Democrats had turned out in larger numbers, their chances of substantial legislative gains were limited by gerrymandering.”

“The outcome was already cooked in, if you will, because of the way the districts were drawn,” said John McGlennon, a longtime professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary in Virginia who ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Democrat in the 1980s.”

“A separate statistical analysis conducted for AP by the Princeton University Gerrymandering Project found that the extreme Republican advantages in some states were no fluke. The Republican edge in Michigan’s state House districts had only a 1-in-16,000 probability of occurring by chance; in Wisconsin’s Assembly districts, there was a mere 1-in-60,000 likelihood of it happening randomly, the analysis found.”

Illustration by Yarek Waszul

“The AP’s findings are similar to recent ones from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which used three statistical tests to analyze the 2012-2016 congressional elections. Its report found a persistent Republican advantage and “clear evidence that aggressive gerrymandering is distorting the nation’s congressional maps,” posing a “threat to democracy.” The Brennan Center did not analyze state legislative elections.”

“The AP’s analysis was based on a formula developed by University of Chicago law professor Nick Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee, a researcher at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. Their mathematical model was cited last fall as “corroborative evidence” by a federal appeals court panel that struck down Wisconsin’s state Assembly districts as an intentional partisan gerrymander in violation of Democratic voters’ rights to representation.”

“A dissenting judge ridiculed the Wisconsin ruling for creating a “phantom constitutional right” of proportional political representation. Wisconsin’s attorney general has argued on appeal that the ruling could “throw states across the country into chaos.”

Packing’ and ‘cracking’

“Throughout U.S. history, Democrats and Republicans alike have been accused of drawing political districts in ways that favored their own interests.”

“It typically occurs in one of two ways:

—“Packing” a large number of voters from the opposing party into a few districts to concentrate their votes.”

—“Cracking,” in which the majority party spreads the opposing party’s supporters among multiple districts to dilute their influence.”

“Another way of explaining it: When the party controlling the redistricting process sets out to draw lines, it has detailed information about the number of supporters the opposing party has, and where they reside. It sets out to shape districts so its opponents’ votes are wasted — spreading them out in some places so they are unlikely to win, and compacting them in others so they have far more votes than they need for victory. Both methods allow the party already in power to translate its votes into a greater share of victories — or, put another way, to be more efficient with its votes.”

“The “efficiency gap” formula developed by Stephanopoulos and McGhee creates a way to measure whether gerrymandering has helped a political party enlarge its power.”

“The formula compares the statewide average share of the vote a party receives in each district with the statewide percentage of seats it wins, taking into account a common political expectation: For each 1 percentage point gain in its statewide vote share, a party normally increases its seat share by 2 percentage points. So a party that receives 55 percent of the statewide vote could expect to win 60 percent of the legislative seats.”

“Michigan provides a good example of how the formula works.”

“Last fall, voters statewide split their ballots essentially 50-50 between Republican and Democratic state House candidates. Yet Republicans won 57 percent of the House seats, claiming 63 seats to the Democrats’ 47. That amounted to an efficiency gap of 10.3 percent in favor of Michigan’s Republicans, one of the highest advantages among all states.”

“That also marked the third straight Michigan House election since redistricting with double-digit efficiency gaps favoring Republicans. Stephanopoulos said such a trend is “virtually unprecedented” and indicative of a durable Republican advantage.”

“Republicans controlled both chambers of the Michigan Legislature, as well as the governor’s office, when the maps were redrawn in 2011.”

Image result for photos of Democratic state Rep. Lisa Brown

“As lawmakers prepared to vote on those maps, former Democratic state Rep. Lisa Brown recalls being summoned into a private room near the back of the House chamber. She says a top Republican lawmaker showed her two potential maps. One kept her home in the same district while the other shifted her neighborhood into a predominantly Republican district to the east.”

“Brown said she was offered a deal: Vote with Republicans or get stuck with the less-favorable map. She declined.”

“As a result, Brown said, “I was gerrymandered out of my district.”

“Instead of opting for a re-election campaign, she decided the next year to run for Oakland County clerk, a position she still holds.”

“The Michigan House redistricting effort was led in 2011 by then-state Rep. Pete Lund, a Republican who now is the Michigan director of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative interest group backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Lund told the AP that he doesn’t remember the details of his redistricting conversation with Brown and doesn’t recall trying to draw anyone out of a district.”

Image result for photos of Rep. Pete Lund,
PETER LUND

“He said if Michigan’s House districts appear to have any “distortion,” it’s because Democrats are naturally concentrated in the state’s urban areas and because Republicans tried to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act by ensuring racial minorities have large enough concentrations to elect a representative of their choice.”

“State House Minority Leader Tim Greimel stepped down from his leadership post after his party failed to cut into the Republican majority in 2016.”

Image result for PHOTOS OF State House Minority Leader Tim Greimel

“Is it truly impossible for Democrats to win a majority in the statehouse with the districts drawn the way they are? I don’t know,” he said. “But it certainly makes it far more difficult — and that’s the purpose of gerrymandering.”

“Experts agree with parts of both Lund’s explanation and Greimel’s. The clustering of Democrats in urban areas creates some “unintentional gerrymandering” that works against them, said Jowei Chen, an associate political science professor at the University of Michigan.”

“But overt partisan gerrymandering is certainly a big part of the explanation, as well,” both in Michigan and elsewhere, Chen said.”

Image result for photos of holder obama
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA/ ERIC HOLDER

Democrat Initiative

“Acknowledging Republican dominance in many states, Democrats recently launched an initiative led by former Attorney General Eric Holder and aided by Obama that is intended to better position the party for the redistricting process after the 2020 Census.”

“Their three-pronged approach will target key state races, support legal challenges to current maps and pursue ballot initiatives to change the redistricting methods in some states.”

“Holder says the goal is “to get to a more fair, more democratic system” than what he calls the current “rigged political process.”

“Stephanopoulos and McGhee computed efficiency gaps for four decades of congressional and state House races starting in 1972, finding that the pro-Republican maps enacted after the 2010 Census resulted in “the most extreme gerrymanders in modern history.”

“The AP used their method to calculate the efficiency gaps for all states that held partisan House or Assembly elections for all of their districts in 2016. North Dakota was excluded because it elected only half its House members, and Nebraska was left out because its legislative elections are officially nonpartisan.”

“In addition to Michigan, the analysis found a significant Republican tilt in South Dakota, Wisconsin and Florida, all of which had a Republican-controlled redistricting process after the 2010 Census.”

“The presidential swing states of Ohio and North Carolina were among others that had 2016 state House efficiency gaps favoring Republicans, the third straight such result since Republicans led the last round of redistricting in those states.”

“Democrats had high efficiency gap scores in Colorado and Nevada, two states where they won state House majorities in 2016 even though Republican candidates received more total statewide votes. Colorado’s map was drawn by a Democratic-dominated commission that Republicans criticized as “politically vindictive.” Nevada’s districts were decided by a court, but Republicans complained at the time that they appeared more favorable to Democrats.”

Image result for gerrymandering cartoons

“The AP also calculated efficiency gap scores for the U.S. House elections, although experts caution that those measurements are less statistically meaningful in states with few districts.”

“Among the more than two dozen states with at least six congressional districts, the AP’s analysis showed a significant Republican advantage in such places as North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Michigan and Virginia, all states where Republicans were in charge of redrawing the boundaries after the 2010 Census.”

Artful line drawing

“In Pennsylvania, Republicans won 13 of the 18 congressional seats last year, three more than would be expected based on the party’s vote share, according to the AP analysis.”

“There’s one answer for that, one word: gerrymander,” said Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “In 2011, the gerrymander was the most artful that I’ve seen.”

Image result for gerrymandering cartoons

“Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation already had a 12-7 Republican advantage over Democrats heading into the last round of redistricting, when the state lost a congressional seat because of lagging population growth. Top Republicans who drew the new boundaries sought to diminish Democrats’ overall electoral chances by shifting the borders of numerous districts.”

“For example, a Republican-held district near Philadelphia that had been trending toward Democrats was stretched westward to take in more conservative voters. And Democratic-leaning voters in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre were shifted out of a Republican-held seat into a Democratic-led district to help protect the GOP incumbent.”

“Both changes were cited in a lawsuit filed this month by Democratic voters alleging Pennsylvania’s congressional districts are “the product of naked partisan gerrymandering” and should be struck down.”

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“In Texas, Republicans gained nearly four excess congressional seats in 2016 compared to the projections from a typical votes-to-seats ratio, according to the AP’s analysis. The efficiency gap scores show Republicans picked up at least two excess seats each in Michigan, North Carolina and New York, although the latter might stem from high concentrations of Democrats in New York City rather than partisan gerrymandering. The analysis showed at least one excess Republican seat in Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.”

“That helped pad a Republican congressional majority that stood at 241-194 over Democrats after the 2016 elections. That represents a 10 percentage point margin in congressional seats, even though Republican candidates last fall received just 1 percentage point more total votes nationwide.”

“There are significantly more pro-Republican maps at the moment than there are pro-Democratic maps,” Stephanopoulos said. “To me, the most important driver of that fact is that Republicans controlled redistricting in a whole lot more states than Democrats” after the last census.”

Voters Not Politician volunteers collecting signatures

Voters Not Politician volunteers collecting signaturesOn December 13, 2017, Virginia Gordon of Michigan Radio penned the following report, “Anti-gerrymandering group full steam ahead in 2018 ballot initiative.”

Excerpts:

A grassroots group of citizen activists opposed to partisan gerrymandering is making rapid progress toward its goal of getting a redistricting proposal on the ballot in Michigan in 2018.

An all-volunteer force, about 4,ooo strong and spread over 83 Michigan counties, has collected about 450,000 voter signatures in four months. That’s according to Katie Fahey, president of the ballot committee called Voters Not Politicians.

“We have blown our goal out of the water,” said Fahey.

Fahey said the group plans to submit the signatures to the Michigan Bureau of Elections on Monday. She said only 315,654 valid voter signatures are required to get on the ballot, and the group could have had two more months to collect signatures.

“From the very beginning since it was just a Facebook post, it just resonated with people that they wanted something that was actually fair, that was transparent, that they could trust again,” said Fahey. “I think also the fact that we are non-partisan is really appealing.”

The ballot proposal would put an independent commission of citizens in charge of drawing the lines of legislative districts.  Under the proposed constitutional amendment, there would be four Democrats, four Republicans, and five members without an affiliation with either party.

Fahey said getting the proposal on the ballot in 2018 is just the first step.  She said a campaign for votes for the ballot proposal will involve a big educational effort, and she expects  fierce resistance  from politicians with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Currently the authority for redistricting  belongs to the  legislature after the census is taken every ten years.

6 comments

  1. Gronda, sitting in NC, both our state legislature and US Congressional districts have been ruled unconstitutional. After failing to make them just, a judge asked a political expert to draw them up. The GOP led General Assembly is in a dither.

    On top of that, our Jim Crow like Voter ID law was ruled unconstitutional. These same leaders are surprised, but should not have been as they were told by the AG they were before signed into law. I questioned it beforehand and had a GOP state lawmaker rip me a new one in an email. My reply was simple – I am a 55 year old white man and former Republican and you and I both know what this law is all about. The judge agreed.

    Democrats have done this too, but I see an orchestration through ALEC with cookie cutter language to suppress votes. Keith

    • Dear Keith,

      I am hoping that the trend developed over the past three election cycles has come to an end. This is the period where Republicans in North Carolina won the governor’s mansion, ousted Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, and built a veto-proof supermajority in the state legislature.

      But with Donald Trump imperiling down-ballot candidates and population demographics in the state undergoing a shift towards the left, those gains could soon be reversed.

      With their attempts to rig (cheat) the voting system having been ruled unconstitutional, maybe there is even more of a chance to turn the State of NC, blue.

      The DEMS have been guilty of gerrymandering as well but not nearly on the same scale as our republican brothers and sisters.

      Thanks for your efforts to fix this.

      Hugs, Gronda

    • Dear Roger,

      The “Coalition of the Decent” are going to be making mincemeat of the elected republican ne’er-do-wells in the upcoming elections in 2018 and 2020.

      In a recently favorable election for democrats in the State of Virginia, the democrats should have become the majority party in the VA Congress. Had the maps been drawn equitably, more Democratic candidates would have prevailed. A map that transforms a 9-point Democratic majority into a 50–50 legislative draw or close to it, is a map that was not drawn fairly.

      But the point is, that the Dems still prevailed to where their power in VA, has become much more significant.

      This will be happening over and over again.

      Hugs, Gronda

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