Friday, December 15, 2017

Special Interests And Spinmeisters Efforts To Surreptitiously Capture Our Legislatures

Originally Published June 19, 2017; Last Updated December 17, 2017; Last Republished December 15, 2017:

Special interests' and spinmeisters' (overlords) efforts to surreptitiously capture our legislatures has stalled in a standoff at the United States Supreme Court.

Our "representative democracy" has retrogressed to a form of feudalism where the overlords convey a fiefdom (safe-seat) to their congressional vassal in exchange for that vassal's allegiance2. What is the voters' roll in such a retrogressive feudalism, beyond revolt?

Today, the court has stayed the Wisconsin gerrymandering1 case of the Western District of Wisconsin, case No. 3:15-cv-00421 while it hears the questions presented by Gill, Beverly R et al. v. Whitford, William et al. (16-1161).

Get media background about the case at Fair Elections Project Newsroom and Loyola, Litigation in the 2010 cycle for status of redistricting lawsuits.


UPDATED 10/07/2017 WP, The Supreme Court discussed my research on gerrymandering. There were some misconceptions and RegisterNapa, Guest editorial: Free pass must not be given to partisan gerrymandering

UPDATED 10/04/2017 Gill v. Whitford Oral Argument Official Transcript October 03, 2017

In a bit of Möbius loop irony the Chief Justice seems to imply that our democracy depends on biased and asymmetric redistricting maps!

A decision by the Court that partisans must run their races on an unbiased and symmetric field is not mandating proportional representation. It's the Court simply saying when partisans run races they must race on the same field. One partisan cannot run the 100 yard dash on a circular inner ring while another runs the hurdles on an elliptical outer ring!
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: No, but you're going to take this -- the whole point is you're taking these issues away from democracy and you're throwing them into the courts pursuant to, and it may be simply my educational background, but I can only describe as sociological gobbledygook.

MR. SMITH: Your Honor, this is -­ this is not complicated. It is a measure of how unfair the map is. How much burden can the party -­

JUSTICE BREYER: Can you say this? Look, don't agree with me just because it sounds favorable, because he won't in two minutes. Can you answer the Chief Justice's question and say the reason they lost is because if party A wins a majority of votes, party A controls the legislature. That seems fair. And if party A loses a majority of votes, it still controls the legislature. That doesn't seem fair. And can we say that without going into what I agree is pretty good gobbledygook? (Laughter.)

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: And if you need a convenient label for that approach, you can call it proportional representation, which has never been accepted as a political principle in the history of this country.

MR. SMITH: Your Honor, we are not arguing for proportional representation. We are arguing for partisan symmetry, a map which within rough bounds at least treats the two parties relatively equal in terms of their ability to translate votes into seats. That's -­

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: That sounds exactly like proportional representation to me.
The Court need not await a protected-partisan to sit on the infield watching others futilely race around the track before providing standards, which cut partisan gerrymandering—or as Justice Anthony Kennedy put it during oral arguments write into law that:

"...all legitimate factors must be used in a way to favor party X or party Y,..."
—Anthony Kennedy, Oral Argument, Gill v Whitford—

UPDATED 10/08/2017 Oyes, Gill v. Whitford Oral Argument Argument Audio


UPDATED 12/09/2017 USAToday, Supreme Court to hear second case challenging election districts and NYT, Justices to Hear Second Partisan Gerrymandering Case and WP, Supreme Court will take up a second gerrymandering case this term
UPDATED 11/22/2017 Jurist, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Orders Lower Court To Hear and Rule on Gerrymandering Case by End of Year and ConstitutionDaily, Pennsylvania Court Will Expedite Big Gerrymandering Case

State's high court  unpersuaded by arguments to stay the gerrymandering case League of Women Voters, et al. v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al. - 261 M.D. 2017 while the Supreme Court decides Gill v Whitford; orders lower court to hear and rule on League of Women Voters et al. before end of the year.

UPDATED 11/04/2017 FiveThirtyEight, The Supreme Court Is Allergic To Math and SciFri, Does Math Have A Place In The Courtroom?

UPDATED 11/02/2017 Quanta, The Math Behind Gerrymandering and Wasted Votes and Quanta, How to Quantify (and Fight) Gerrymandering
UPDATED 10/26/2017 NewYorker, Ginsburg Slaps Gorsuch in Gerrymandering Case and TuftNow, Rebooting the Mathematics Behind Gerrymandering

Understanding all possible district maps is an ongoing dynamic process mostly related to available computational power, which need not limit mandating fair maps today and fairer maps tomorrow!

UPDATED 10/14/2017 NYMag, Will Justice Kennedy Sink Partisan Gerrymandering — or Save It?

UPDATED 10/12/2017 NYT, How Computers Turned Gerrymandering Into a Science

It seem brazen, at best for partisan proponents of extreme gerrymandering to argue that state legislatures have need unconstrained power to engineer extreme partisan redistricting maps they publicly pretend are the result of chance.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Thank you, counsel.

MS. MURPHY: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: Plaintiffs have not identified a workable standard for determining when the inherently political task of districting becomes too political for the constitution to tolerate. Indeed, the only thing plaintiffs have added to the mix since LULAC is a wasted votes test that identifies court-drawn maps as enduring partisan gerrymanders and conveniently favors their own political party.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: You've probably considered the hypo many times. Suppose a state constitution or state statute says all districts shall be designed as closely as possible to conform with traditional principles, but the overriding concern is to increase -- have a maximum number of votes for party X or party Y. What result?

MS. MURPHY: I think if -- if you have something that says the ultimate principle that we're going to follow is abandon all other criteria in favor of partisan advantage, at least you're closer at that point -­

JUSTICE GINSBURG: I don't think -- I don't think that was the question. It was it satisfies all the traditional criteria, contiguous, but it was a deliberate attempt to maximize a number of seats that Republicans would hold.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: This is mandated by the state constitution.

MS. MURPHY: I don't think that in a world where the legislature is required to and is, in fact, complying with a number of other metrics and is as one of those things taking into account partisan advantage, that you've proven a constitutional violation.

JUSTICE ALITO: That's not a -- that's not a manageable standard. It's not a manageable standard that you cannot have a law that says draw maps to favor one party or the other.

MS. MURPHY: I think it's -­

JUSTICE ALITO: That seems like a perfectly manageable standard.

MS. MURPHY: If it's on -­

JUSTICE ALITO: You cannot have that.

MS. MURPHY: -- the face of the statute, I think you have a different scenario because at least at that point, you know the intent. You know there's no debate to have about the intent of what the legislature is doing and if they are intentionally drawing for one purpose or another.

JUSTICE KAGAN: But there are plenty areas of law, Ms. Murphy, where we look at intent beyond the face of a statute. And, you know, sometimes that's harder than other times. We understand it can be difficult. We understand in other cases it can be easy. But we do it all over the place in our law. We don't -- we don't say, oh, if it's not on the face of the statute, we're never going to look at it. So if your answer to Justice Alito is well on the face of the statute, that's certainly a manageable standard, I guess I would ask why not if it's not on the face of the statute? But you absolutely -- you know, but you have good evidence that there was the intent here, and you have good evidence that the intent led to a certain kind of effect, which was to entrench a party in power.

MS. MURPHY: I think what differentiates this from a lot of other contexts is that here we have opinion after opinion from this Court, dissenting opinions, concurring opinions, plurality opinions, what have you, saying that considering politics in districting is not in and of itself inherently unconstitutional.


MS. MURPHY: So just finding the intent isn't a problem.


JUSTICE GORSUCH: I'd like to go back to Justice Breyer's question, and it would be helpful to get an answer for me on that. What criteria would a state need to know in order to avoid having every district and every case and every election subject to litigation? Because the -- the standard that's given in -- in the lower court here was, well, a little bit of partisan symmetry problem, a little bit of an efficiency gap problem, not a real set of criteria. And here, you know, is it 7 percent, how durable, how many elections would we need? How much data would we have to gather? Walk us through Justice Breyer's question and provide some answers, if you -- if you would.

MS. MURPHY: Sure. So I think some of the problems with the criteria that have been suggested, in particular with the test that's focus on these symmetry metrics, is that so far the metrics that we have, I mean, they identify false positives roughly 50 percent of the time. And I don't know how a legislature is supposed to comply with criteria that can't differentiate between a court-drawn map and a map drawn for partisan advantage. So, when you start with the partisan symmetry concept, you automatically have the basic problem that you have to have some way to decide what is the appropriate partisan asymmetry.

JUSTICE GORSUCH: Okay. But what are the questions -- you know, I need two years or two cycles worth of data. I need an S curve of a certain shape and size. I need an efficiency gap of something. What are the numbers, what are the criteria we'd have to fill in as a constitutional matter in order for a state to be able to administer this?

† The author conducts sponsored conferences and workshops for Tufts, Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group, Geometry of Redistricting Summer School.

UPDATED 10/09/2017 Hoover, Gerrymandering at SCOTUS

It's unclear why the author would want to ever return to partisan gerrymandering once having left it? Partisan politicians capable of understanding, representing, and responding to a diverse cross-section of residents in our states is exactly what the nation is lacking and so desperately needs! Our Supreme Court routinely does optimization problems with multiple constraints.

Reducing partisan gerrymandering is a path of no return our Supreme Court and nation should not just happily travel, but sprint down!

UPDATED 10/04/2017 C-SPAN, Greg Stohr on Gerrymandering

UPDATED 10/03/2017 Reuters, U.S. Supreme Court Justices Divided in Major Voting Rights Case and Twitter, #FairMaps and ScotusBlog, Tuesday round-up and C-SPAN, Gill v. Whitford Oral Argument Reaction

Imagine our nation with a Supreme Court that is diffident, concerned, or anxious about constraining "raw assertions" of Machiavellian-like political power by our politicians or worse becomes a partisan in such assertions?

It's highly likely that Chief Justice John Marshall did not have in mind a manageability standard or plan to handle the hoped for centuries of litigation that would follow his Supreme Court decision in Marbury v Madison!

UPDATED 09/28/2017 AmerProspect, Slaying the Partisan Gerrymander  and Governing, Will the U.S. Supreme Court Take a Stand Against Partisan Gerrymandering?

It's not clear how an unbiased symmetric redistricting map threatens, even infinitesimally, any legitimate state interest? Our Constitution's 10 Amendment does not stand for the proposition that a state has a protected interest to do whatever its politicians can dream up and that special interest will fund†!

† Special interests view these "partisan-protected-seats" as a beneficial investments. Economists view them as harmful and inefficient rent-seeking, which in the case of redistricting can last 10 or more years! Our citizenry view them as unresponsive corruption, which harms our democracy. How will the justices on our United States Supreme Court view them from their "partisan-appointed-protected-seats"?

An interesting question, which the justices will not directly decide is: can a "partisan-appointed-protected-seat" turn into a "partisan-protected-seat"? If yes, how can that transformation be quantified and its chance reduced? Should it?

...don't forget to laugh...

UPDATED 09/21/2017 Reuters, Fight over electoral district boundaries heads to Supreme Court
UPDATED 09/16/2017 NYT, Splitting 5-4, Justices Put Texas Redistricting on Hold
UPDATED 09/01/2017 SPG, Fighting Gerrymandering with Blue Waters and Vox, The Algorithm That Could Help End Partisan Gerrymandering

Generating a very large population of random unbiased redistricting maps seems extraordinarily useful, with applications far beyond providing judges with a simple and accurate method for judging a proposed redistricting map's fairness (i.e. skewness or asymmetry). Hopefully, it's receiving the necessary funding and super computing (Blue Waters) time (processing nodes)?

"...if you look at the data in all U.S. House elections in the last say four decades the average re-election rate is in the mid 90s, so these elections are not competitive..." --Wendy K Tam Cho--
UPDATED 08/28/2017 USAToday, Political maps under fire as Supreme Court case on tailor-made districts looms and USC, 16-1161 GILL V. WHITFORD Oral Argument Scheduled for October 03, 2017 @ 10am

At least Pennsylvania's creative politicians used a seafood and steak house (Creeds) instead of the usual boring old uninhabited interstate highway to make sure the district is contiguous!

UPDATED 07/24/2107 Ozy, Not So Supreme and Vox, The Research That Convinced SCOTUS To Take The Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case, Explained

UPDATED 07/10/2017 BostonGlobe, It’s unfair and Unjust. So Why Has Gerrymandering Lasted This Long? Isn't gerrymandering just one of many methods used to manipulate election outcomes in modern democracies?
UPDATED 06/30/2017 Wisconsin Gazette, Milwaukee County supervisors urge state to change redistricting process as issue heads to high court and Quartz, The Supreme Court case that could shift how Americans vote rests on a simple math equation and WP, The Supreme Court is in no hurry to protect voters from gerrymandering


UPDATED 09/06/2017 GISGeography, The Ultimate GIS Dictionary
UPDATED 06/25/2017 MTCommerce, Geographic Update Partnership (GUPS) Training Webinar and The U.S. Census Bureau's Geographic Update Partnership Software (GUPS), a QGIS based solution and 2017 U.S. Census Bureau's BAS Program Webinar and Census, Block Boundary Suggestion Project Participant Guide

UPDATED 06/22/2017 GIS Fundamentals and Mapping 1-20: Introduction (playlist) and QGIS for Your Platform and Documentation for QGIS 2.14 (Practice Data, TIGER/Line Shapefile, 2016, nation, U.S., 115th Congressional District National)
UPDATED 06/22/2017 OSGeo Foundation, and API Earth Engine


UPDATED 08/28/2017 Tuft's, Metric Geometry & Gerrymandering Group


UPDATED 08/28/2017 OhioStateUniversity, Moritz College of Law
UPDATED 08/28/2017 SCOTUSBlog, Gill v. Whitford


UPDATED 12/14/2017 American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Redistricting and Representation

UPDATED 08/28/2017 NewYorker, A Summer School for Mathematicians Fed Up with Gerrymandering and Wired, What I Learned at Gerrymandering Summer Camp and WP, The U.S. Could Be Free of Gerrymandering: Here’s How Other Countries Do Redistricting

UPDATED 06/25/2017 Census, 2020 Census Program Phases
UPDATED 06/24/2017 TUM, Greater Democracy Through Mathematics
UPDATED 06/22/2017 Loyola, All About Redistricting and Brennan Center for Justice, Redistricting
UPDATED 08/28/2017 Moon Duchin - Metrics of Fairness A geometric group theorist on gerrymandering:

UPDATED 06/22/2017 SnagFilms, How Elections Are Rigged - "Gerrymandering"

Wired, Gerrymandering Has a Solution After All. It's Called Math
Ballotpedia, Understanding Redistricting and Redistricting in Wisconsin

CrashCourse, Gerrymandering: Crash Course Government and Politics #37

Courthouse News Service, Supreme Court Takes Up Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case
NYT, Justices to Hear Major Challenge to Partisan Gerrymandering and CampaignLegalCenter, Supreme Court Will Hear Oral Arguments In Landmark Partisan Gerrymandering Case, Gill v. Whitford


UPDATED 08/30/2017 DukeUniv, Quantifying Gerrymandering
UPDATED 07/17/2017 JoweiChenThe Impact of Political Geography on Wisconsin Redistricting: An Analysis of Wisconsin’s Act 43 Assembly Districting Plan
UPDATED 06/23/2017 BrennanCenter, Extreme Maps
UPDATED 06/20/2017 Wikipedia, Gill v. Whitford and Gerrymandering in the United States
UPDATED 06/20/2017 Priceonomics, Can an Algorithm Eliminate the Unfairness of Gerrymandering?
UPDATED 06/20/2017 Hein, Chicago Law Review, Partisan Gerrymandering and the Efficiency Gap Nicholas 0. Stephanopoulost & Eric M McGheef
UPDATED 06/20/2017 Justia, Vieth v. Jubelirer  541 U.S. 267 (2004) and Davis v. Bandemer  478 U.S. 109 (1986)
Public Mapping Project, Wisconsin
Legislative Technology Services Bureau, Wisconsin Legislative Map Library (Includes Act 43)
GeoPlatform, United States Map with 114th Congressional District Overlay
United States Census Bureau Wisconsin Congressional District Maps: 115th and 113th
Wisconsin's Application for Stay Pending Resolution of Direct Appeal
Gill v. Whitford Opinion and Order 15-cv-421-bbc (Western District Wisconsin)

Redistricting Mathematics:


Census Bureau:


1. UPDATED 09/26/2017 Special interests invest enormous sums of money to corrupt our legislatures, which returns a value near zero if "their" patron politician leaves office. A positive return on investment is more likely if "their" politician remains in office—enter gerrymandering. Eliminating gerrymandering will  decrease that chance and perhaps end the corrupting investments altogether?

Unfortunately, our United States Supreme Court has historically eschewed these "messy political issues" tending to characterize corrupting special interest investments as speech. But, before stalemate and standoff turns into shooting and deadlocked democracy it may want to reconsider what's messier, deadlocked democracy or political questions.

Interestingly, our United States Supreme Court can avoid a "messy political question" by turning it into a mathematics problem, here and there? For background on the case origin see Harvard Law Review, Whitford v. Gill District Court Offers New Standard to Hold Wisconsin Redistricting Scheme Unconstitutional. and Three Practical Tests for Gerrymandering: Application to Maryland and Wisconsin Samuel S.-H. Wang Princeton University 

Explore Gerrymandering in Your State Using Princeton Gerrymandering Project Tool and Info

2. A disobedient vassal is dissiesined from their "safe-seat" (fiefdom) when the overlords choose another perceived obedient vassal for a "primary challenge" against the disobedient vassal. Repossession and reconveyance of the "safe-seat" (fiefdom) by the overlords is known as "getting primaried".

Using the electoral process to make sure an obedient vassal perpetually occupies a "safe-seat" transforms "one-person-one-vote into one-vassal-no-vote and undermines a "representative democracy".

No comments:

Post a Comment