gerrymandering

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Wisconsin: Elections official blames Schimel for keeping him from talking | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The head of the state Elections Commission says the attorney general is effectively stopping him from participating in a forum on Wisconsin’s gerrymandering case — a move that he says amounts to a top Republican limiting the speech of a Democrat. Attorney General Brad Schimel counters he is simply following a rule for lawyers to make sure one of his clients doesn’t talk to opposing attorneys without his own lawyers present. The dispute comes as state officials adjust to a new elections agency that is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Mark Thomsen, a Democrat and chairman of the commission, was invited to speak Friday on a panel that also features attorneys challenging Wisconsin’s election maps and voting laws. Thomsen wanted to participate in the forum but Schimel barred Thomsen and the attorneys from appearing together because Thomsen is a named plaintiff in the lawsuits at issue. Read More

North Carolina: Partisan gerrymander trial highlights differences from Wisconsin case | News & Observer

Morton Lurie is a Raleigh resident who describes himself as a conservative Republican. On Monday, he was one of the North Carolina voters standing outside a federal courthouse in Greensboro, criticizing a map drawn in 2016 that has given Republicans a 10 to 3 edge in Congress. Though it can be difficult to keep up with all the redistricting lawsuits filed this decade in North Carolina, Lurie is one of the challengers of maps adopted by the Republican-led legislature last year to correct two of the 13 congressional districts found by federal judges to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. Lurie objects to districts that are essentially safe seats for one party or another. “The House of Representatives is that part of our government designed to be sensitive to the interests and will of voters spread across the country,” Lurie told media during a break in a trial that started Monday in his lawsuit. Read More

North Carolina: New district maps get hearing from judges | News & Observer

North Carolina’s redrawn legislative districts were debated Thursday before a panel of three federal judges who had struck down previous district maps for racial bias. The judges must decide whether to force another redrawing of the boundaries approved by Republicans over the summer or allow them to be used in the 2018 elections. Lawyers representing GOP legislative leaders and dozens of voters who successfully sued to throw out previous districts were subjected to 3½ hours of questioning by the judges, who did not immediately rule. Later Thursday, the judges opened wider the door to choosing an outside expert to make map changes on their behalf. Candidate filing starts in February. The judges had ordered the GOP-dominated legislature to approve new maps by Sept. 1, in keeping with their decision last year that 28 House and Senate districts drawn in 2011 were unlawful racial gerrymanders. Read More

Editorials: The Math Behind Gerrymandering and Wasted Votes | Patrick Honner/Quanta Magazine

Imagine fighting a war on 10 battlefields. You and your opponent each have 200 soldiers, and your aim is to win as many battles as possible. How would you deploy your troops? If you spread them out evenly, sending 20 to each battlefield, your opponent could concentrate their own troops and easily win a majority of the fights. You could try to overwhelm several locations yourself, but there’s no guarantee you’ll win, and you’ll leave the remaining battlefields poorly defended. Devising a winning strategy isn’t easy, but as long as neither side knows the other’s plan in advance, it’s a fair fight. Now imagine your opponent has the power to deploy your troops as well as their own. Even if you get more troops, you can’t win. In the war of politics, this power to deploy forces comes from gerrymandering, the age-old practice of manipulating voting districts for partisan gain. By determining who votes where, politicians can tilt the odds in their favor and defeat their opponents before the battle even begins. Read More

Wisconsin: How We Got to Gill v. Whitford, the Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case | The Weekly Standard

We Wisconsin political watchers are used to having the Badger State’s redistricting fights end up in court. So used to it, in fact, that some form of court has played a role in the matter since 1931. What is surprising this time, is that redistricting has ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court. While much of the political world has their attention focused on Gill v. Whitford, the case which could decide the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering, the reality for most Wisconsinites is that the case is nothing but the culmination of decades of backdoor deals, partisan incumbents protecting their own, recall elections to try to overturn previous election results, more. In other words: Politics as usual. Read More

Editorials: Does the anti-gerrymandering campaign threaten minority voting rights? | Michael Li and Laura Royden/Vox

When Pennsylvania Democrats went to the Supreme Court in 2004 to ask that Pennsylvania’s GOP-drawn congressional map be struck down as an unfair partisan gerrymander, they drew opposition from an unexpected source: fellow Democrats. Alabama Democrats told the court in a brief they were concerned that ending partisan gerrymandering would “undermine … the ability of African Americans in Alabama to continue the effective exercise of their newly won ability to participate in the political process.” In 2001, they pointed out, “African-American representatives pulled, hauled, and traded with their white colleagues” to achieve greater representation. In short, political gerrymandering — in which it was taken for granted that Democrats sought an advantage — helped maximize the voice of African Americans. Read More

Pennsylvania: Gerrymandering, ‘political laser surgery,’ stokes fresh ire, legal fights | Philadelphia Inquirer

The proposal — letting a nonpartisan citizens commission, rather than politicians, draw lines for electoral districts — isn’t novel. It was presented by Carol Kuniholm, the executive director of Fair Districts PA, last week in Center City at a forum that focused on gerrymandering — a practice in which a party in power contorts legislative and congressional boundaries to its electoral advantage. Complaints about gerrymandering, a name derived from a 19th century Massachusetts governor and U.S. vice president who was a notorious practitioner, date to nearly the founding of the republic, notes David Thornburgh, head of the nonpartisan political watchdog group the Committee of Seventy. What is different these days is that the practices and the efforts to change them have reached perhaps unprecedented levels, said Thornburgh, who participated in that forum at the Pyramid Club, 52 floors above the streets of Center City, which included business and civic leaders. And this has been a particularly brisk period. Read More

Editorials: No such thing as a fair gerrymander | San Antonio Express-News

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a Wisconsin case, is poised to make a historic ruling that could make extreme partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional. Texas, whose maps historically are challenged because of racial gerrymandering, should nonetheless pay close attention. For all intents and purposes, racial and political gerrymandering are the same things in this state. Questions asked during a hearing Tuesday in the case offer a glimmer of hope that the days of gerrymandering might be coming to an end — or at least rendered more difficult to achieve. One question the court grappled with during the hearing: When does partisan gerrymandering — drawing legislative districts to advantage a certain political party — serve a valuable societal purpose? And the answer: Never. Read More

North Carolina: State’s gerrymandering dilemma heats up | Salon

North Carolina has long been a battleground state for Republicans and Democrats. And for many of its politicians, the same timeworn tool has plagued both parties. Gerrymandering, a term used to describe drawing voting districts to benefit whomever happens to be drawing the lines, dates back to 19th century Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry. Gerry was the first noted politician to shape a voting district in favor of himself so blatantly that one voter noted the shape of his district resembled a salamander, to which another voter replied, “No, it looks like a gerrymander,” and the term was born. The practice of gerrymandering for partisan purposes has been a tried and true weapon in the arsenal of political gain since the beginning of democratic elections. However, the practice of gerrymandering to disenfranchise minority groups was a ticking time bomb for North Carolina Republicans. Not to mention completely illegal. Read More

Editorials: Will this US supreme court case uphold American democracy? | Russ Feingold/The Guardian

On Tuesday, the US supreme court hears oral arguments in Gill v Whitford. This will open the door for a potentially precedent-setting ruling on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering – the process of redrawing electoral districts in order to favor one party over another. The past several years have seen a new level of hyper-partisan gerrymandering that defies voters and has subverted our democracy. Thus far, however, the court has refused to rule on the constitutionality of this political ploy, deferring instead to the political process. The result is a system that demands immediate course correction. While there is progress to be made at the state level, in today’s political climate, the supreme court is best poised to demand the needed course correction before this illegitimate political ploy further distorts our elections. Read More