State Sen. Lena Taylor
Op-Ed

Walker Gets Sued Yet Again

For most partisan gerrymandering in history. Senate Bill 163 would reform the process.

By - Jun 5th, 2016 09:14 am
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Gov. Scott Walker at the executive residence, Dec. 30, 2014. Photo by Kate Golden/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Gov. Scott Walker at the executive residence, Dec. 30, 2014. Photo by Kate Golden of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

For a guy who says he’s just doing the right thing, Governor Scott Walker gets sued a whole bunch. As if the federal trials against voter ID weren’t enough for Republicans, this week marks the start of a new federal trial in a lawsuit against Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative maps. The focus of this lawsuit is the 2011 Assembly map Republicans drew.

The attorney for this case called the GOP Assembly map the “worst partisan gerrymander in modern history.”

This abuse of the public trust by my Republican counterparts must end. The map was so bad that Republicans have already been successfully sued over it once for violating the Voting Rights Act by splitting a longtime Latino district into two. They should have also been sued for drawing half of Wisconsin’s black legislators out of the Assembly. We went from six African American Representatives in 2011 to three in 2013!

Now Republicans are back in court fighting once again to defend their power grab. The results of the map is clear. Democratic candidates for State Assembly received collectively almost 200,000 more votes than Republicans. Yet, Republicans won 60 seats compared to the Democratic candidates’ 39. They won five of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts in 2012 with less than half of the collective votes.

They also won 55 percent of our contested State Senate seats with just 45 percent of the votes. President Barack Obama won the state with 53 percent of the vote that same year. All these election results just go to show that had Republicans not gerrymandered the district lines, they wouldn’t be in the majority today.

Every ten years the state legislature establishes the boundaries for every Congressional, State Senate and Assembly district in a process called redistricting. The redistricting process was created to ensure that our state legislature and congressional districts reflect the diversity of our population in Wisconsin. We’ve learned that when you put Republicans in charge of drawing the maps, the result doesn’t reflect diversity. Instead, they clustered as many Democratic voters as they could into the same districts, ensuring their majority for at least a decade.

Federal law requires that redistricting must comply with the Voting Rights Act to ensure that minority populations have a voice in our government and have an opportunity elect people who reflect our community. Prior to the Voting Rights Act, many states manipulated legislative districts to limit the ability minorities to elect our own representatives.

Kids on the playground would call this level of unfairness cheating. Grownups running our state call it governing.

The Republican-drawn map from 2011 was developed in secret at a private law firm. Why? Because they knew they’d be sued over it. Only certain Republican staff were allowed in and out of the secret room where they drew the maps, and people were required to sign secrecy agreements to keep the public and Democratic legislators in the dark on their sneaky plan to rule Wisconsin’s government.

The public was also denied access to the research and documents used to develop the redistricting plan.

After lawsuits were filed to make the redistricting information available to the public, hundreds of thousands of files were deleted from the Republican computers used for redistricting. Republicans spent over $2 million in taxpayer dollars to defend the secret process used to develop the maps and to keep the information from the public. Can you imagine how many textbooks that would buy?

That’s why, the very next session, I cosponsored Senate Bill 163. The bill would have called for an independent redistricting process so that politicians weren’t choosing their own voters. When faced with the choice to keep the current corrupt system in place of to change Wisconsin’s law something fair, Republicans chose power over good government.

Governor Scott Walker’s administration seems to be learning from County Executive Scott Walker’s administration. It’s almost like on day one, the state people sat down with the county people and asked how they could best mess over the people without getting caught.

Eventually, the voters are going to catch on. Republicans can redraw legislative district lines, but they can’t redraw state lines.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, is a member of the Wisconsin State Senate.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

45 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Walker Gets Sued Yet Again”

  1. Jason says:

    Lena, maybe your right maybe we should construct a map so you will actually have to campaign against a Republican. Must be nice when constituants like myself are force to vote for you because your democratic challenger is further left than you.

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    I support that Jason. I’d love to see competitive races statewide. Let’s redraw the maps and make it happen. Why not?

  3. art says:

    The liar Walker will do anything to hold onto power. He restricts voting, lies to and deceives Wisconsin citizens, gerrymanders district lines, and reverses open records laws. Nothing is below Walker. He is the modern day Richard Nixon. Beware!

  4. Casey says:

    Anything that makes incumbents uncomfortable is a good thing.

  5. Joe says:

    Nearly every redistricting in every state is challenged in court by the party out of power.

    The practice is dirty and it needs to stop, but I’m not confident this lawsuit will go anywhere.

  6. Vincent Hanna says:

    Joe do you know much about how Iowa does it? It’s always held up as a model for other states but I can’t say I know much about how effective it actually is and if we should in fact try to emulate it.

  7. Joe says:

    Vincent I’ve read a bit about it – it seems like a great model for smaller states with no giant cities. I don’t know how well a population-based model would work in a city like New York or Chicago where neighborhoods might value individualized representation, but I’d prefer it in Wisconsin to what we currently do.

  8. Eric S says:

    If not the Iowa model, perhaps the California model then?

  9. Vincent Hanna says:

    What is the model in CA? Would it work here since the size of each state is so different?

  10. Eric S says:

    My understanding is that IA uses nonpartisan legislative staff to develop district maps that are then subject to legislative approval and that CA uses an independent commission to develop district maps (with bipartisan and nonpartisan members) that may be challenged in court but do not require legislative approval. AZ uses a similar approach as CA, with the process completely removed from the legislature’s purview – and was recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

  11. happyjack27 says:

    Iowa model doesn’t consider partisan gerrymandering – it’s blind. The one saving grace is it splits counties with the highest population first. That helps it de-gerrymander cities, where democratic votes are naturally packed. Though obviously a method that’s not gerrymandering-blind would be better.

    California model is just have citizens draw maps and send them in, and them a committee picks. So it’s effectively gerrymandering-blind, too, since the citizens can draw all sorts of maps all the while being totally oblivious to the partisan impact of the maps they draw, and then in turn the committee decides and they’re just as blind.

    Either way, both models are missing a crucial — and obvious — element: actually considering — nay, even measuring! –how partisianly gerrymandered the proposed maps are.

    Overall, both Iowa and California end up being approximately neutral:

    http://autoredistrict.org/all50/version3/CD_PRES/country_pie_sorted_select.php?source=CD_2010

    but as discussed above, mostly by chance.

    If you want a real, permanent solution to gerrymandering, the thing to do is use multi-member districts. Like so:

    http://autoredistrict.org/all50/version3/CD_PRES/country_pie_sorted_select.php?source=CD_FV2

    Note this also increases competitiveness.

  12. Thomas says:

    Yes, Lena, the chicanery in the 2011 gerrymandering needs to be exposed, and the ill effects of it need to be curtailed. Good luck on the suit.

    No, Joe ( comment # 5 ) the “everybody else does it” excuse does not apply here. Nobody in recent history has drawn worse maps than those drawn with malice in secret in WI in 2011. At the risk of sounding like a preacher’s son, I think that this gerrymandering is a sin against democracy.

  13. happyjack27 says:

    “Nobody in recent history has drawn worse maps than those drawn with malice in secret in WI in 2011.” Actually if we’re talking just congressional districts, there are about 16 2011 Republican gerrymanders that are worse than WI.

    http://autoredistrict.org/all50/version3/CD_PRES/country_pie_sorted_select.php?source=CD_2010

    So, in fact, in recent history (namely, the infamous 2010 redistricting cycle) many worse maps have been drawn… all by Republicans.

    “everybody else does it” is true if by “everybody else” you mean other Republicans.

  14. Joe says:

    “everybody else does it” is true if by “everybody else” you mean other Republicans.

    Delusion at its finest. Take a look at Illinois’ congressional districts if you’re this ignorant.

  15. happyjack27 says:

    “everybody else does it” is true if by “everybody else” you mean other Republicans.

    “Delusion at its finest. Take a look at Illinois’ congressional districts if you’re this ignorant.”

    Ummm… I did. I see you don’t follow links. Illinios is one of the 16 republican gerrymanders that are worse than wisconsin’s.

    http://autoredistrict.org/all50/version3/CD_PRES/country_pie_sorted_select.php?source=CD_2010

    Here’s a closer look at Republicans’ partisan gerrymander in Illinios (which is worse than their gerrymander in Wisconsin):

    http://autoredistrict.org/all50/version3/CD_PRES/single_state_embeddable_compare2.php?source=CD_2010&source2=CD_FV2&mode=map_district_partisan_packing_mean&unit=density&count=%2E&state=Illinois

    Unsurprisingly (since minorities predominately vote democratic), it’s also a blatant racial gerrymander:

    http://autoredistrict.org/all50/version3/CD_PRES/single_state_embeddable_compare2.php?source=CD_2010&source2=CD_FV2&mode=map_district_racial_packing_mean&unit=density&count=%2E&state=Illinois

  16. happyjack27 says:

    Also, Joe, please try to keep the level of dialogue above juvenille ad hominem attacks.

    A more adult way to say that would have been simply “Not true — Illinois is a Democratic gerrymander.”, which still would have been false, of course.

  17. Joe says:

    Illinois redistricted in 2011. At that time, its House was majority Democrat, its Senate was majority Democrat, and its governor was a Democrat. The Illinois Redistricting Act of 2011 was filed by John Cullerton, a Democrat. In the state senate, it was sponsored by eight Democrats and zero Republicans. In the House it was sponsored by one Democrat and zero Republicans. It was passed on partisan votes with Democrats for, and Republicans against. It was signed into law by Pat Quinn, a Democrat.

    Do some reading before you post, please.

  18. Joe says:

    Says who?

    Republicans sued in federal court to stop the redistricting and lost.
    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-12-15/news/chi-federal-court-upholds-democrats-map-of-illinois-congressional-districts-20111215_1_map-making-process-new-map-illinois-congressional-districts

    You think Dems would propose, pass and sign a gerrymander law that favors Republicans? You think Republicans would sue to stop a gerrymandering that favors them? Why do you think that?

    “The court agreed with the GOP complaint that the map “was a blatant political move to increase the number of Democratic congressional seats. Still, the court concluded the Republican challenge failed to present “a workable standard by which to evaluate such claims.”

    But you know best. Whatever.

  19. happyjack27 says:

    I’m not claiming to know best.

    I’m just showing you the data.

  20. Joe says:

    OK. Cool data. It doesn’t mean what you think it means.

  21. happyjack27 says:

    And to answer your questions:

    “You think Dems would propose, pass and sign a gerrymander law that favors Republicans”

    You’re assuming the conclusion there. you’re assuming it was deliberate. I’m guessing they were trying to fit the court’s wrongheaded interpretation of the VRA, not realizing that that creates a partisan gerrymander in favor of republicans. I think that yes, they would do that. It would not be the first time they shot themselves in the foot. And you can see clearly from the data that they in fact did do that.

    “Republicans would sue to stop a gerrymandering that favors them?”

    In a heartbeat. Because it doesn’t favor them _enough_. Put it in their hands and they’d do a much better job, as is evident throughout the country, and openly admitted in North Carolina and in the Redistricting Majority Project http://www.redistrictingmajorityproject.com/ .

    “The court agreed with the GOP complaint that the map “was a blatant political move to increase the number of Democratic congressional seats. Still, the court concluded the Republican challenge failed to present “a workable standard by which to evaluate such claims.”

    The court just contradicted itself. If it lacks a workable standard to evaluate the claims, then it can’t evaluate the claim. Yet they claim to have evaluated the claim If it was a “blatant political move to increase the number of Democratic congressional seat ” then it clearly was a poorly executed one, as it had the opposite effect – it had the effect of packing democratic voters and cracking republican voters, resulting in a net Republican gerrymander.

  22. happyjack27 says:

    “OK. Cool data. It doesn’t mean what you think it means.”

    And you accuse me of thinking I know best – oh, the irony!

  23. Joe says:

    OK dude.

    Democrats drew up, proposed, passed and signed a gerrymander that favors Republicans.

    Republicans sued to stop a gerrymander that favors Republicans.

    Only YOU are aware of this! The legislators who drew up the maps didn’t know, the legislators who sued about the map didn’t know, the federal judges who ruled on the map didn’t know, the political reporters on the ground didn’t know.

    They should have hired you as a consultant.

  24. happyjack27 says:

    “They should have hired you as a consultant.”

    Perhaps they should.

    Regardless, the data speaks for itself.

  25. Joe says:

    Democrats in Illinois are tailoring the maps to cause headaches for several Republicans elected in the 2010 wave.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/27/illinois-redistricting-co_n_868113.html

    Can you refute anything in this article? No? OK.

    As to your “data,” I think you need to elaborate. Your links lead me to pie charts showing more blue than red. Nothing in the link indicates that the 2011 gerrymander favored Republicans.

  26. Joe says:

    “There’s no question the current map is rigged to disadvantage the GOP.”
    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-11-30/opinion/ct-edit-remap-20111129_1_latino-voters-map-majority-latino-district

    Apparently the Tribune isn’t nearly as smart as “happyjack27.”

  27. happyjack27 says:

    There’s nothing to refute in either of those articles.

    They don’t present any evidence of gerrymandering.

  28. happyjack27 says:

    “As to your “data,” I think you need to elaborate.”

    It’s not “my” data, the data belongs to everyone. It’s from the U.S. census bureau and Illinois state government.

    Though the analysis (charts, etc.) is of course the result of putting the data together.

    Anyways, on with it…

    There are two different measures of partisan gerrymandering presented there (not counting the map) – the seats/votes curve, and a packing/cracking pie chart.

    You can read more about how to read a seats-votes curve here: http://autoredistrict.org/news.php#measure
    And you can read more about how to read the packing/cracking charts here: http://autoredistrict.org/news.php#mcwavp

    They both show the same phenomenon: democratic votes were packed more than republican votes.

    Democrats got more seats than votes because of the natural multiplying effect of single-winner elections, which you can read about here: http://autoredistrict.org/news.php#math_gerrymander But as you can see by the seats-votes curve, if the votes were flipped, republicans would have a bigger advantage than democrats do now. If the seats-votes cuve was symmetric (no gerrymandering), democrats would have picked up a few more seats.

  29. Joe says:

    During the entire redistricting process, Democrats held a majority of the seats in the Illinois Senate and Illinois House of Representatives, and the Illinois Governor was a Democrat. Democrats exercised exclusive majority control over the entire process of enacting the Redistricting Plan at the legislative and executive branch levels of Illinois state government.

    As the Republicans stated in their complaint, “The Redistricting Plan pits 25 incumbent Republican members of the General Assembly against one another while pitting only eight incumbent Democrat members of the General Assembly against one another, without any neutral justification for this partisan discrepancy.”

    But go ahead and keep thinking it’s a “Republican gerrymander.” You’re literally the only person in the world who thinks that. Enjoy.

  30. Joe says:

    “democratic votes were packed more than republican votes.”

    Your data doesn’t play out in the real world.

    In 2010, Illinois elected 11 Republicans and 8 Democrats to Congress.

    After the 2011 redrawing of Congressional districts, in 2012, Illinois elected 6 Republicans and 12 Democrats to Congress.

    So whatever conclusion you’re drawing from the packing data in your link, it simply doesn’t hold true in the real world. The redraw proposed, passed and signed by Democrats took 5 Congressional seats from Republicans. And they didn’t sue because the redraw helped them. They sued because it didn’t, until you can provide proof to the contrary.

  31. happyjack27 says:

    Ah, so you’re not talking about packing/cracking gerrymandering, you’re talking about hijacking/kidnapping.

    (described here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering#Gerrymandering_tactics )

    hijacking/kidnapping as long-term partisan neutral because it doesn’t significantly change the distribution of voters.

    I have no data about hijacking/kidnapping gerrymandering for Illinois state legislature, so I can’t speak to it.

    Sorry this whole time I though you were talking about partisan gerrymandering. That’s what I was talking about. Also I’m talking about congressional districts, not state legislative districts.

  32. happyjack27 says:

    “They sued because it didn’t, until you can provide proof to the contrary.”

    You really wren’t paying any attention, were you. I have provided proof that it helped them (albeit not greatly). That’s what we’ve been talking about this whole time.

    Still, that doesn’t speak to their reasons, real, imagined, or claimed, for suing.

  33. Joe says:

    You didn’t provide any such proof. They lost 5 of their 12 seats immediately after the redraw. You haven’t shown they’d have lost even more without the redraw.

    The best way to glean their reasons for suing is to read their lawsuit, which complains of the negative partisan effect of the redraw. Your claim that they actually sued because the map helped them but didn’t help them enough is the only thing imagined here.

  34. Joe says:

    Anyways, I really only responded to your initial absurd claim that this was a “Republican gerrymander.” That’s not true. It was drafted, proposed, passed and signed into law 100% by Democrats with literally ZERO Republican input whatsoever. Your claim that it incidentally helps them even though they lost 40% of their Congressional seats as a result of the redraw doesn’t make it a “Republican gerrymander.” It’s a Democrat gerrymander.

  35. happyjack27 says:

    I’m tired of trying to explain things to you, Joe.

    I gave you resources on how to learn how to read the data, like you asked, and the data.

    You don’t appear to be retaining any of the information.

    It’s there for you to review at your leisure on a future date.

  36. Joe says:

    Go to sleep then. Maybe when you wake up you’ll do a better job of convincing anyone that a Democrat gerrymander was a Republican gerrymander.

  37. happyjack27 says:

    I just compared Census year 2000 districts to census year 2010 districts for Illinois.

    CY2000 was a worse Republican gerrymander than CY2010. On balance the changes in the last cycle were to the benefit of the Democrats, but not enough to completely undo the Republican gerrymander:

    http://autoredistrict.org/all50/version3/CD_PRES/single_state_embeddable_compare2.php?source=CD_2010&source2=CD_2000&mode=map_district_partisan_packing&unit=density&count=%2E&state=Illinois

    See the links in above comments for how to read the charts. (notably, seats/votes and packing/cracking)

    Important here to distinguish between a relative change and an absolute measure. 4 minus 2 is still greater than 0.

  38. Joe says:

    LOL. So because the 2011 redistricting only took away 40% of Republican seats, that makes it a Republican gerrymander because a decade ago they gave themselves more seats than they lost when the Dems did their own gerrymander?

    Jesus christ, you must be pretty limber to engage in that sort of mental gymnastics. All in defense of a stupid statement that is objectively untrue. Just stop.

  39. Vincent Hanna says:

    I feel like this argument is just more proof of how important it is to come up with a system that draws maps as fairly and as removed from partisan politics as possible.

  40. happyjack27 says:

    “I feel like this argument is just more proof of how important it is to come up with a system that draws maps as fairly and as removed from partisan politics as possible.”

    This is what we call in the CompSci world a “solved problem”. You can just use a heuristic optimization algorithm. Like so:

    http://autoredistrict.org/all50/version3/CD_PRES/interactive_map.php?source=CD_SM&mode=map_district_partisan_packing_mean&unit=district

    Or better, multi-member districts:

    http://autoredistrict.org/all50/version3/CD_PRES/interactive_map.php?source=CD_FV2&mode=map_district_partisan_packing_mean&unit=district

    The remaining unsolved problem — which is a much harder problem — is getting politicians to actually do this.

    Having said that, I feel this argument is proof of something entirely different…

  41. Vincent Hanna says:

    OK then maybe we can just all agree that partisan redistricting is wrong and bad and we need to find another way in Wisconsin.

  42. Thomas says:

    Yes, Vincent, “maybe we can agree that partisan redistricting is wrong. I confess to being guilty of hyperbole when I called the 2011 WI redistricting “the worst in recent memory.” I also confess to ignorance of Illinois politics. The 2011 WI redistricting was the worst I have seen since I moved here nearly 40 years ago. Back then WI had a reputation for progressive and relatively clean government. That reputation has been lost for now. Something needs to be done soon if we want that reputation back.

  43. Sam says:

    The redistricting argument from Democrats is hallow at best. They could have changed the law in 2009-2011 when they had control of the Assembly, Senate and a Dem. Governor. It didn’t happen because they thought they’d keep the power and draw lines. In fact they hired a law firm to the tune of $120,000 to start the process in secret. Just a reminder, Lena Taylor was in office at the time and I don’t believe we heard a word from her on the redistricting process.

    If you truly didn’t want any type of gerrymandering you’d push to change the Voting Rights Act which mandates gerrymandered minority majority districts. The Republicans drew the 8th & 9th Assembly districts with the assumption that both districts would be become majority Hispanic in the upcoming decade. The Democrats and Voces de la Frontera sued to ensure the seat for JoCasta Zamarippa rather than the long term gain.

    The cost for legal fees in 2002 was over $1 million dollars and that’s with court drawn lines and a divided legislature. The current $2 million cost seems to be in line considering the legal onslaught from the Democrats.

    Lastly, the vote totals mentioned are quite skewed. The vote totals for the legislature include non contested seats, which the Dems had more of. When only contested seats are counted, the numbers change the story.

  44. happyjack27 says:

    Sam, they imputed the uncontested elections with the presidential vote, adjusted to match the partisan swing of the contested congressional elections. see page 866 of this: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2457468

    The rest of what you said is just ad hominem tu quoue.

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