* From a Tribune editorial entitled “Gerrymandering heads to the U.S. Supreme Court. Will Madigan map-making survive?”…
The justices have agreed to consider whether Wisconsin’s State Assembly map violates the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause because it was drawn to neutralize the votes of Democrats, depriving them of representation.
The standard proffered by a bipartisan group of voting advocates is a straightforward mathematical calculation. It tallies the number of votes that are “wasted,” or assigned to a district in which they could not affect the outcome of an election. A handful of Democrats carved into a Republican stronghold, for example, or the redundant Republicans crowded into a district where half as many would have constituted a majority.
A map drawn without bias would “waste” about the same number of Republican and Democratic votes. The difference, or the “efficiency gap,” is a measure of partisan imbalance. The larger the gap, the harder it would be for mapmakers to convince a court that the lines weren’t drawn to disenfranchise the opposing party.
That makes sense to us. It made sense to the panel of federal judges whose decision is now before the Supreme Court. We hope the justices are impressed as well.
The editorial implies that Illinois’ map-making process is so political that it would be struck down if the Supreme Court whacks Wisconsin’s law.
* But the folks who are behind the Wisconsin case say Illinois law wouldn’t be in danger…
(A)ccording to Nick Stephanopolous, a law professor and lawyer for Wisconsin Democrats, it would leave Madigan’s partisan cartography undisturbed.
“At this point, no, (the Wisconsin case would not affect Illinois), simply because the ‘efficiency gap’ isn’t big enough for Illinois,” he said.
That’s a measure the Wisconsin judges embraced as a means of determining the political unfairness of the Wisconsin districts.
The judges considered total votes cast statewide in legislative races and used those totals to determine how many individual districts each party would have won if the elections were held on a statewide basis.
If you click here and scroll down, you’ll find an explanation of the “efficiency gap.” And if you click here, you’ll see a list of the 15 state legislative maps which the researches say show significant partisan bias one way or another. Illinois isn’t one of them.
* Others disagree…
In 2012, [Illinois] Democratic House candidates got 52 percent of the vote statewide but captured 60 percent of the seats, report political scientist Kent Redfield of the University of Illinois at Springfield and policy consultant Cynthia Canary. In 2014, Democrats got 50.5 percent of the vote and 60 percent of the seats. This year, Madigan’s party again won 60 percent of the races.
That’s why Illinois Republicans may side with Wisconsin Democrats on one issue: partisan gerrymandering. On Nov. 21, a federal district court struck down Wisconsin’s legislative map on the ground that it unfairly favors Republicans, who dominate the Legislature. It had been more than three decades since a federal court invalidated a reapportionment plan for partisan bias.
The Supreme Court ultimately overruled that decision, upholding an Indiana redistricting plan. But the justices affirmed that a gerrymander could be so biased toward one party as to violate the Constitution. The district court said the Wisconsin plan fits the bill.
A few months ago, I attempted to referee this topic between Redfield and the Wisconsin folks. I never really did get to the bottom of it, however. Long story short, they’re looking at the same problem in slightly different ways. So, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.