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Will “Madigan map-making” survive? It depends who you ask

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

* 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.

Efficiency gap?

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

23 Comments
  1. - Grand Avenue - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:06 am:

    Looking at the votes for House Members isn’t the best measure because a lot of Deep Blue seats are unopposed and people just skip voting for them.

    In Illinois in 2016, Hillary Clinton got 55% of the vote. The House Dems got 67/118 seats, or 57% of the seats - seems pretty fair to me.


  2. - The Captain - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:10 am:

    In 2014 Bruce Rauner got more votes than Pat Quinn in 69 House districts, Tom Cross got more votes than Mike Frerichs in 64 House districts and the House Republicans only managed to win 47 seats. It’s not that Republicans can’t manage to win more votes than Democrats in a majority of the House districts under this map, it’s that some sort of ineptitude keeps the House Republicans from doing so.


  3. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:12 am:

    The Wisconsin Map issue, all it really does, at this specific point of the discussion, is just that, puts the Illinois Map up for discussion.

    While our pension language in the constitution mirrors other states, map making in of itself isn’t mirrored “constructively” as maps can differ in rationale just by the populations within subgroups one state may have that another state would not.

    Interesting discussion, to say the least.


  4. - Annonin' - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:15 am:

    The simplest element to remember is Madigan always to comply with the Voting Rights Act while GOPies use that measure to blow their nose. Hence they lose in federal courts.
    Not sure the use of who got what % of vote is especially meaningful.


  5. - Sue - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:24 am:

    Does anyone else find it infuriating that the media when discussing this issue always focuses on Republican gerrymandering and never mentions Madiganstan


  6. - My button is broke... - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:28 am:

    Redistricting is an interesting and extremely complicated topic. I think it is interesting to note that in link that Rich posted about the efficiency gap, the author cites maps where there are all districts are of one party as more fair than the map where there are more mixed districts. The tribune and other reformers say that redistricting would result in closer elections. But using this metric, that might not be the result (at least from the basic explanation of this metric).


  7. - Mike Cirrincione - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    The best way to put this issue to rest, for once and for all is to Amend the U.S. Constitution. Just use the US Geological Survey for mapping of districts and ban gerrymandering.

    Also include a Right to Vote, which does not exist.


  8. - ZC - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:37 am:

    I’m not sure what the “unbiased” alternative in Illinois is supposed to look like, is the thing.

    Super-”packing” as many Dems as possible into as few districts as possible (even if the districts look appealingly rectangular) in the northeast corner of the state? That’s “reform”? It looks like Republican gerrymandering to me, just another form of self-interest cloaked as the public interest.

    I’d be interested in other words what a “fair map” of Illinois would look like. If it didn’t include -some- Democratic advantage, considering how IL has voted in presidentials statewide going back to the 1990s, I’d be highly suspicious of it.


  9. - ZC - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:38 am:

    Mike 11:31 am -

    “Just use the US Geological Survey for mapping of districts and ban gerrymandering.”

    Umm, a few more details please…


  10. - My New Handle - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:38 am:

    What is Madigan’s mapmaking that left him out of the majority for only two years under a Republican map?


  11. - Been There - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:41 am:

    === or the redundant Republicans crowded into a district where half as many would have constituted a majority.====
    Unless everyone in a district is a republican this statement is a mathmatical impossibility.


  12. - lake county democrat - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:41 am:

    If gerrymandering didn’t make a huge difference, Madigan wouldn’t fight redistricting reform as hard as he has, and the Dems would use it as a bartering chip (a cost-free Turnaround Agenda item) in the budget negotiations.


  13. - Blooms of Spring - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:54 am:

    One of my favorite podcasts, Opening Arguments, has 2 episodes explaining why packing and cracking are mostly constitutional if done for partisan reasons, but not for racial reasons. Check out episodes OA54 and this weeks update OA72 for a legal rundown.

    Sue says the media only reports… unfair! Got any proof of your assertion? Like why we don’t hear about more votes for US house demos than republics but repubs hold majority of seats due to Repub gerrymandering?


  14. - Ron - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 11:56 am:

    Hopefully not. Illinois has some of the worst politicians in the nation. Look at what is happening to the crime bill in Springfield. We need to clean house and pay these useless reps $200/term as New Hampshire does.


  15. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 12:13 pm:

    I hope Madigan discovered how his last approach was so successful he suffered blowback from it.

    One can be blamed for being too powerful by governors who can’t govern, ya know.


  16. - Sue - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 12:29 pm:

    Bloom- you must have missed all of the news reporting following the recent case in NC. All of the stories focused on those racist republicans in NC and never mentioned Illinois and how Madigan has routinely fought off attempts to get the Illinois mapmaking onto the ballot


  17. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 12:41 pm:

    ===All of the stories focused on those racist republicans in NC and never mentioned Illinois===

    Why would a story about a Supreme Court ruling in North Carolina include info about Illinois, which wasn’t part of the case?

    You really are clueless sometimes.


  18. - Simple Simon - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 1:55 pm:

    Sue- the article I read specifically mentioned that the NC GOP was only doing what the Dems did when they were in power. I guess you only see what fits your world view.


  19. - Sue - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 2:51 pm:

    you guys are missing the point. The media always harps on Republican mapmaking disenfranchising voters. Has the NYT or awP in their gerrymandering articles EVER mentioned what happens in Illinois? The elections for the legislature here are a joke. As Kass always says- the citizens here are prisoners of Mr Madigan


  20. - walker - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:19 pm:

    Just another case of “Illinois Is The Worst!” being disproved by neutral metrics.

    We don’t have always to be “the worst” or even close, to justify needed improvement.


  21. - Abu Iskandr - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:29 pm:

    Were you thinking of this from Mother Jones, Sue?

    While seemed to lean on reading Justice Kennedy’s tea leaves on his possible inclinations that partisan gerrymandering may be argued against on First Amendment (rather than Fourteenth Amendment) grounds, the SupCt is actually facing several challenges to NC’s redistricting system (with many questions revolving around “race as a proxy for party/party as a proxy for race” justification. (See Election Law Blog for more: https://electionlawblog.org/?p=92837#more-92837)


  22. - Abu Iskandr - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 3:31 pm:

    This was the Mother Jones article: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/05/supreme-court-north-carolina-racial-gerrymander-case-voting-rights


  23. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 30, 17 @ 4:59 pm:

    Sue, you can go home now.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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