Tag Archives: map

Clinton, Trump and the road to 270

Hillary Clinton continues to hold advantages over Donald Trump in the states she would need to win the presidency in November, but Donald Trump has made gains in some battleground states.

The Associated Press has moved Iowa to leaning Republican after recent polls there by Quinnipiac and Monmouth Universities showing Trump’s lead there in the high single digits.

The AP considers preference polling, recent electoral history, demographic trends and campaign priorities such as advertising, travel and on-the-ground staff.

Many national and battleground state polls have showed Trump gaining on Clinton, but several surveys released last week, including an AP-GfK poll released Thursday, suggest the former secretary of state may be consolidating a national lead ahead of tonight’s presidential debate.

SOLID DEMOCRATIC: California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state (200 total electoral votes).

LEANS DEMOCRATIC: Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin (72 total electoral votes).

TOSS-UP: Florida, Maine 2nd District, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio (69 total electoral votes).

LEANS REPUBLICAN: Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska 2nd District, Utah (50 total electoral votes).

SOLID REPUBLICAN: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Wyoming (147 total electoral votes).

Voters go to court over ‘worst partisan gerrymander’

A dozen Wisconsin voters and their attorneys will go to federal court in May to present their case challenging one of the worst partisan gerrymanders in modern American history.

They count among their supporters Republican and Democratic politicians, good-government forces, First Amendment advocates, progressive philanthropists and fellow citizens who want their votes to count.

To trial

A four-day trial is set to begin May 24 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin over Act 43, the state’s 2012 redistricting plan for the Wisconsin Assembly.

The crux of the complaint, Whitford v. Nichol, is the 2012 map was drawn unconstitutionally in a way to keep Republican control of the state Legislature and minimize Democratic influence.

“The plaintiffs look forward to presenting evidence at trial showing that the plan was drawn in secret, in consultation with a political scientist and without any input from Democrats, in an attempt to maximize Republican wins and minimize Democratic influence over the political process for as long as the plan was in place,” stated Gerry Hebert, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, the co-counsel in the case against the state.

The outcome of the case could have far-reaching consequences in Wisconsin, as well as chart challenges to redistricting maps in other states and guide the drafting and adoption of fair maps.

The case likely will reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which has said excessive partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional but has yet to develop a judicially manageable standard for courts to decide such cases.

The plaintiffs, their attorneys and their expert witnesses think they have the standard — and this is what both sides will focus on at the trial.

The plaintiffs are Democrats William Whitford, Roger Anclam, Emily Bunting, Mary Lynne Donohue, Helen Harris, Wayne Jensen, Wendy Sue Johnson, Janet Mitchell, Allison Seaton, James Seaton, Jerome Wallace and Donald Winter.

Their legal team includes the CLC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works on campaign finance, voting rights and government ethics.

The effort draws strong support from the Fair Elections Project, co-chaired by former Sen. Dale Schultz, a longtime leader in the Republican Party, and Democratic Sen. Tim Cullen.

“We want the practice to end,” said FEP director Sachin Chheda. “This is a nonpartisan effort and we are starting in Wisconsin because the most egregious example is in Wisconsin.”

The defendants are Gerald C. Nichol, Thomas Barland, John Franke, Harold V. Froehlich, Kevin J. Kennedy, Elsa Lamelas and Timothy Vocke as members of the Wisconsin Government Accountability board.

The plaintiffs, as summarized by the federal district court, allege:

• Wisconsin Act 43, the 2012 redistricting plan for the Wisconsin Assembly, is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, “one of the worst partisan gerrymanders in modern American history.”

• The redistricting plan was adopted and implemented in violation of the Equal Protection Clause with the intent to discriminate by benefiting one party and disadvantaging another.

• Republicans were successful in their attempt to maximize their influence and minimize Democratic influence with the gerrymander with GOP gains in Assembly seats in 2012 and 2014.

“There’s always going to be some measure of partisan influence,” Chheda said. “But if it goes too far, if it is just too much, we believe that is unconstitutional.

“Our view is that this map is unconstitutional and peoples’ rights are being violated. It’s not fair.”

Motions denied

The state filed a motion seeking to dismiss the complaint, which the court denied in December 2015 after determining the plaintiffs’ allegations were sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief.

The state also filed a motion for summary judgment, which was denied after considering: Are challenges to a partisan gerrymander justiciable? Do plaintiffs have standing to sue? Have plaintiffs stated a plausible claim for relief?

The court answered yes to those questions.

“In denying Wisconsin’s motion for summary judgment and setting the case for trial … the three-judge court has left it to us to develop a workable standard that reflects a voter’s right to fair and effective representation,” Ruth Greenwood, senior redistricting counsel for the CLC, stated in a news release. “And that’s exactly what we plan to do.”

Cracking and packing

There are some buzzwords trial-watchers will hear and read about: “cracking,” “packing” and “efficiency gap.”

The efficiency gap, the challengers contend, is a tool or figure showing the difference between parties’ “wasted votes” in an election. High school civics teachers and get-out-the-vote advocates may tell people every vote counts, but the plaintiffs in Whitford maintain a lot of votes are wasted under the Wisconsin legislative map.

A vote, in their argument, is wasted if it is cast for a candidate who lost the election or cast for the winning candidate in excess of what the candidate needed to win.

The efficiency gap, when applied to an election, measures the difference between the parties’ total wasted votes among all of the districts, divided by the total number of votes cast.

And the gap, the plaintiffs maintain, reveals the extent to which voters of a party are “packed” and “cracked.” Packing is concentrating one party’s supporters in a few districts so they win by overwhelming margins. Cracking is dividing a party’s supporters among multiple districts so they fall short of majority in each one.

Chheda pointed to the assembly results in recent elections.

In 2010, before redistricting, Republicans won a decisive victory and converted that win into seats.

Two years later, when Wisconsin elected Democrat Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate and re-elected Barack Obama, voters went Democratic in legislative races as well.

“The Democrats won a smashing victory,” Chheda said. And yet, he said, the Republicans kept their seats because of the new map.

The map’s challengers argue a high level of packing and cracking, and thus a large efficiency gap, demonstrates discrimination. “The plaintiffs have a very good intellectual argument,” said Schultz. “This is about watering down the value of the vote, about wasting a vote.”

The court has said that if the plaintiffs can prove discriminatory intent and effect during the trial, then the state must prove the map’s “severe asymmetry” was unavoidable because of the “state’s legitimate political geography and legitimate redistricting objectives.”

After trial

Whichever party loses at trial likely will appeal, making the U.S. Supreme Court the body that will decide whether the map stays or goes.

The map’s challengers have said similar cases could be filed in other states, and they’ve stressed that both major political parties have engaged in partisan gerrymandering.

Beyond the courthouse, fair-election proponents and good-government forces are working to change the redistricting process in Wisconsin.

“The lawsuit doesn’t address the process,” said Chheda. “It addresses the standard. Other folks, including our co-chairs, are advocating reforms to the redistricting process.”

“People ought to be empowered to choose their representative,” said Schultz, who said partisan redistricting, among other efforts to minimize voter influence, is one reason for intense public anger and animosity in 2016.

“People aren’t dumb,” he said. “They have figured out they have been disenfranchised.”

For more information

To learn more about fair elections and the lawsuit, go to fairelectionsproject.org and campaignlegalcenter.org.

Dems say they have a shot at Senate in 2016

During the once-a-decade redistricting process in 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican majority carefully crafted a map of political districts that guaranteed them the majority in the state Assembly and Senate, as well as in the state’s congressional representation, until 2022.

A challenge to the hyper-partisan, gerrymandered map is winding its way through the courts. Meanwhile, Republican candidates continue to dominate the Assembly, even when, as in the last election, Democrats receive far more Assembly votes on the whole. 

Gov. Scott Walker frequently claims he’s a conservative Republican who’s able to draw support in a purple state, but in reality the state is very blue in presidential-election years and very red in midterm election years. Since 2016 is a presidential year, Democrats have the best prospects they can possibly get at picking up seats in the Senate.

The GOP is trying hard to prevent traditionally Democratic constituencies, including blacks, Latinos, the poor and college students, from voting. They’ve created a voter ID law and closed down or reduced hours at DMV sites that can issue those IDs — particularly sites in poor and minority areas. Republicans hope to toss out the ballot of every voter who’s moved since registering, which poor people do more often than middle-class and wealthy people.

But despite all of the undemocratic measures, some Democrats believe their party might pick up the state Senate. Republicans hold a narrower majority there — 19 to 14 — than in the Assembly, because Senate districts are larger, making them harder to manipulate for partisan purposes. Democrats need to pick up three seats in the Senate.

With Democrats holding the presidential advantage in Wisconsin and with the popular former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold near the top of the ticket in a rematch with the unpopular incumbent Ron Johnson, there might be Democratic momentum in the state. Figure in Walker’s low approval rating and the field appears even more open to change, especially if the Democratic presidential candidate wears long coattails.

According to expert political observers, at least three seats currently held by Republicans are in play.

Tom Tiffany, R-12, is especially vulnerable. Tiffany has offended many Wisconsinites since he took office. He was behind efforts to cut scientific positions from the Department of Natural Resources and transform the DNR into a rubber stamp agency for polluters who donate to the Republican Party. He helped lead the effort to change mining regulations so that an out-of-state company could build an open-pit iron mine — a project that was later dropped by the mining company itself because it was too environmentally risky.

Tiffany pushed to make old-growth forests in the state available for logging and he helped to take away the powers of counties to pass tougher zoning standards along their shorelines.

The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters put Tiffany on its “dishonor role,” a position that he called “a badge of honor.” But it’s a badge that’s made him a top target of the state’s well-organized environmental community.

Still, the biggest albatross around Tiffany’s neck is that, as a key member of the Joint Finance Committee, he ignored warnings of growing problems with understaffing and safety issues at the Lincoln Hills School in Wausau, a prison for young male offenders. Because he helped slash 100 positions and $145 million from the Department of Corrections budget, he’s being held responsible for physical abuse at the facility.

The state Department of Justice is investigating the situation, and the issue is not likely to go away soon.

In 2016, Tiffany will face Democrat Dave Polashek, who recently retired as superintendent of the Oconto Falls School District.

Senate District 18 has no incumbent, which makes it ripe for picking. Retiring Republican Sen. Rick Gudex of Fond du Lac won the seat from Jessica King in 2012 by 590 votes, despite outspending her six to one, according to Wisconsin Democratic Party executive director Kory Kozloski.

Gudex is retiring because he knew he faced a tough re-election battle against popular Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, a Democrat. Harris has decreased the county’s debt and built its reserves while increasing public investment in infrastructure, including improvements to roads, a nursing home and UW-Fox Valley. The personable Harris also is a strong campaigner.

But that’s not the only reason Gudex bailed. As a board member of the failed and corrupt Wisconsin Economic Development Council, his name was rightly dragged through the mud during its endless scandals and he was heavily criticized from both sides of the aisle for resisting calls for an investigation. He was personally associated with some of WEDC’s more controversial loans, which critics denounced as cronyism rather than investment in job growth. Sixty percent of all loans made by WEDC went to Scott Walker campaign donors. 

Harris will face Fond du Lac GOP chair Dan Feyen. The district is historically a tossup. In 2008, Republican Randy Hopper won by a 168-vote margin. In the 2011 recall, King upset him with 1,250 votes.

Democrats also hope to unseat Sheila Harsdorf in District 10 and Rob Cowles in District 2, both of whom easily survived recall races in 2011. Republican Luther Olsen in District 14 also survived a 2011 recall, but by a margin of just 52–48. His is one of the races in which strong turnout and presidential coattails could make a difference.

Wisconsin Dept. of Justice wants redistricting suit dismissed

The Wisconsin Department of Justice this week moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed over a state legislative district map.

The lawsuit makes the case that the 2011 lines were drawn to the advantage of Republicans and asks that the map’s boundaries be thrown out. The challenge says the map is “one of the worst gerrymanders in modern American history.”

On Aug. 18, DOJ attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. They argue that no standard exists for measuring the burden a gerrymander places on the right to legislative representation.

The state also claims that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit don’t have standing to sue unless they live in a gerrymandered district.

The case is pending in federal court.

UPDATED: Wisconsin voters file federal suit over ‘one of the worst partisan gerrymanders in modern history’

Wisconsin voters want a federal court to throw out the state Assembly district map, alleging the line-drawing process was “secretive” and “partisan” and the maps are unconstitutional for overly advantaging one party.

“My rights as a voter are being violated,” stated retired university professor Bill Whitford, one of the plaintiffs. “If my vote counted as much as each one of my fellow citizens, I would be able to affect the shape of the Legislature. But I can’t, because they’ve decided through these maps that I simply don’t count.”

The lawsuit, Whitford v. Nichols, argues the map is one of the “worst partisan gerrymanders in modern American history.”

“This kind of partisan gerrymandering is both unconstitutional and profoundly undemocratic,” the complaint states. “It is unconstitutional because it treats voters unequally, diluting their voting power based on their political beliefs, in violation of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection, and because it unreasonably burdens their First Amendment rights of association and free speech.”

The complaint continues, “Extreme partisan gerrymandering is also contrary to core democratic values. In the end, a political minority is able to rule the majority and to entrench itself in power by periodically manipulating election boundaries.”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs held a news conference in Madison earlier this month to outline the case and case law — federal courts have harshly criticized the process the Republicans used to secretly draw maps following the 2010 census.

Wisconsin’s map, assessed using a mathematical tool called the “efficiency gap,” dilutes the votes of those who support Democrats in order to ensure Republicans win legislative elections, according to the plaintiffs and their attorneys.

“Wisconsin voters want fair elections, where every vote counts for something and every voice is heard,” said Peter Earle, the lead trial attorney for the plaintiffs. “When one party gains control of the levers of government and then stacks the deck in their favor to keep control, wresting control from the people, that’s contrary to Wisconsin’s tradition of fairness and the requirements of the Constitution for voters and parties to be treated equally.”

The Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting civil rights and ending discrimination, filed the suit. Michele Odorizzi of Mayer Brown and University of Chicago law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos, who co-created the efficiency gap metric, also are on the legal team.

“This lawsuit is designed to return elections in Wisconsin and across the country to fair contests,” said Earle. “Legislative elections in Wisconsin have become increasingly meaningless. We believe that we now have a standard that the courts can use and that will gain the support of a majority of the Supreme Court, to overturn gerrymandered maps. We have an opportunity to make a major change in how politics works in the United States and help end the partisan gridlock that grips the nation.”

ACLU of Wisconsin executive director Chris Ahmuty, responding in a news release to the federal filing, said, “When 53 percent of citizens vote for one party, but that party gets 39 percent of the legislative seats, something is askew. Past redistricting practices and tactics have resulted in unequal voting power among citizens, providing unfair representation for communities of color and fragmentation of communities of interest. No plan is insulated entirely from partisan bias, but elected officials and the courts have an obligation to ensure that the public good is not sacrificed to the self-interest of political parties. Such practices alienate voters and weaken democracy.”

A new bipartisan campaign to support fair redistricting was launched the day the suit was filed.

The Wisconsin Fair Elections Project will highlight “the broken electoral system in Wisconsin.” It involves Republicans Dale Schultz and Dan Theno and Democrat Tim Cullen.

“Democracy requires access for every citizen and it requires truly competitive elections,” said Schultz. “When elections aren’t competitive, we see corruption and we see hubris.”

“These districts have clearly been drawn to protect not only incumbents, but a permanent majority that doesn’t need to worry about voters,” said Cullen. “Many of our fellow citizens — from all political persuasions, from all walks of life — simply have lost faith that their government is listening to them.”

On the Web …

Wisconsin Fair Elections: fairelectionsproject.org.

On the Web …

Wisconsin Fair Elections: fairelectionsproject.org.

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Publisher pulls atlas that omits Israel

A leading publisher has pulled an atlas tailored for students in the Middle East that omitted any references to Israel.

Facing international criticism, HarperCollins UK issued a statement this week apologizing for the book, published by the subsidiary Collins Bartholomew.

On Facebook, the publisher stated, “HarperCollins regrets the omission of the name Israel from their Collins Middle East Atlas. This product has now been removed from sale in all territories and all remaining stock will be pulped. HarperCollins sincerely apologises for this omission and for any offence caused.”

The Anti-Defamation League said in a statement that it “welcomed HarperCollins’ swift apology.”

ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman said, “We welcome Harper Collins’ swift apology and pledge to remove the offensive atlas from sale. The initial explanation offered by Collins Bartholomew rationalizing Israel’s omission was unacceptable and highly offensive.” 

The Tablet, a London-based Catholic weekly, had reported that Collins Bartholomew was citing “local preferences” for leaving out Israel from the “Collins Primary Geography Atlas For The Middle East.”

The book, which came out in June, was designed for English-speaking schools in the region.

Students create homophobic ‘hate map’ of U.S.

Students at Humboldt State University have created a map of the United States that identifies the origins of homophobic hate terms used on Twitter.

The Geography of Hate project also identifies the locations that tweet the most racist messages.

According to the website, the group manually searched through over 150,000 Tweets for 10 hate speech terms that fall under homophobia, racism and disability hate. The data behind the map is based on every geocoded tweet in the US from June 2012 – April 2013, according to the researchers.

The map shows that the worst offenders using the word ‘fag’ include New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois. The word ‘dyke’ was most used in an offensive context in Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa and Kentucky.

aIn Wisconsin, the most offensive are was north of Green Bay.