tv Nick Seabrook One Person One Vote CSPAN December 27, 2022 4:04pm-5:06pm EST
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gerrymandering,first time i've ever said that and gotten it right . hard g just so you know. nick does more than just see how you pronounce the word, a's look into something that affects us in so many ways that we ever thought possible . it is something that has affected us for hundreds and hundreds of years and i think all of us sitting in this room have felt expressly here in wisconsin over the past couple of years. these are the types of events that make me just so proud to be able to hand the microphone over to somebody and i'm going to hand it over to nick seabrook. >> thank you everybody for the warm wisconsin welcome. this is actually my first time both in madison and in the state of wisconsin and given that the state is famous for two of my favorite things in the world, beer and cheese, i have a feeling i'm
goingto enjoy my time here . the beer and cheese comes after the speaking engagement and its important to get those things in the correct order. unfortunately however wisconsin is also famous or perhaps i should say infamous for something else. and that is the topic of my new book, one person, one vote: a surprising history of gerrymandering or to give it its historical pronunciation, gerrymanderingin america . whenever i talk about the topic of gerrymandering, one of the most frequent questions that i get asked by audiences and interviewers is which is the most gerrymandered state in america? and today for the first time i can say while standing in
that state for the last 12 years or so the answer to that question has been the state of wisconsin. my home state of florida certainly gets an honorable mention, particularly under the recent leadership of governor ron desantis. you can also point veto examples of blue states where we've seen those in recent years, states like new york and illinois are examples of something that i think is a broad and important theme of the book which is that gerrymandering, the manipulation of election districts for political gain is not a republican problem or a democratic problem. it's an american problem and it's a quintessentially american problem. it's a problem that democracies the world over have experienced and for the most part have salt.
and so there are two things that i want to highlight from the book in my talk today. the first of those is the gerrymander's origin story and i think for those of you who may believe that you know ng where gerrymandering comes from , if you read the book and hopefully i can explain this today as well, i think you'll most likely ngfind that you are wrong. that's the origins of gerrymandering are both older and more interesting than the legend that gets generally told in most of its history. the second thing that i want to talk about is the continuing effect that gerrymandering has on our election in states like wisconsin.
in states like florida and all over the nation. and the major problem with gerrymandering as i see it and i was speaking to a gentleman on this theme prior to my talk tonight, the fundamental and most basic function of a representative democracy depends on at least a basic level of electoral responsiveness. and by electoral responsiveness what i mean is that the people at the very least need to have the option when they are unhappy with the things that they are representative governments ti are doing, to throw the bums out and replace them with a new set of representatives who presumably will do something different. and the major harm of gerrymandering is that it severs that link between representatives and the communities whose interests
they are supposed to be fulfilling in government. it undermines the basic responsiveness of the electoral system in a way that prevents closures from holdingpoliticians accountable for the things they do while they are in office . and you probably don't need me to tell you that when politicians don't have to worry about reelection, when the party that holds the majority doesn't have to worry about an acting polymer popular policy, when they know that their seats are safe. when they know their majority is sick, they don't have to keep their fingers on the poles of public opinion opinion. they are free to use their power and authority to pursue whatever self interested or partisan goal that they would like to do but are often constrained from doing because those things will be unpopular. with the electorate.
so in addition to the history of gerrymandering, this is also a book about the presence of gerrymandering. and for reasons that i talk about in the book, my goal in to kind of s was sound the alarm bell. to send out a warning to the american people that their democracy is not safe. and this is the kind of warning that a lot of people are sending out right now for a variety of different reasons. but i think gerrymandering at its core is much more threatening to democratic accountability than any of the other problems that are routinely and commonly identified. i want to begin with the origin story of
gerrymandering. every orgood villain needs an origin story and preferably that mythology should be shrouded in mystery. and when i began researching this book i thought that i knew quite a bit about the history of gerrymandering. but it turned out that there was a much richer and longer history going back not just to the founding era and the framers of the constitution but going back even before then to the colonial period and even further back into british antiquity. so i want to touch a little bit to begin with on that origin story and where it was thatgerrymandering came from . on wednesday i was participating in an event at the sandra day o'connor institute for american y democracy in phoenix and i had the pleasure to kind of
lavish praise on the state of arizona for being among the best in the nation for how they conduct redistricting. and unfortunately, as i've already hinted at, i don't have good news on that front tonight about the state of wisconsin nor is the news particularly good about my home state of florida, either . but part of the issue with gerrymandering is while it has always been with us in american history, the politicians of today have a fundamentally different set of tools by which they can manipulate the outcomes of our election. rules that were simply not available even 25, 30 years ago and effective that as
i'll talk about a little bit later ecan be seen in the results of elections in states like wisconsin which are fundamentally unrepresentative of the way that people actually vote. and that is the harm of gerrymandering in a nutshell. the most basic level of a functioning democracy as i said is a modicum of responsiveness and gerrymandering while it has always been with us threatens to undermine that responsiveness and that accountability today in a way that it has never previously done in us history. most accounts of the origin of gerrymandering trace back to an individual who had a very long and storied career
in american policy. i guy by the name of eldridge gerry and the pronunciation of his last name lends us the term gerrymandering or as it was pronounced for around about the first 50 years that the term was in use gerrymandering and when i was researching the book i was able to uncover the first historical reference to gerrymandering being pronounced with a soft g as gerrymandering as opposed to the original hard g. this is because obviously when you go back that you don't have to actually. so i set out to look for the earliest possible cervical reference to how the word was pronounced.
and i found that in the transcripts of the constitutional convention of the state of indiana in the mid-19th century, and one of the delegates whose name was john and this which coincidentally is actually the name of one of my ancestors who was a dish tinavy lieutenant and privateer, i think privateer is the more politically correct way to say what he engaged in during his career. back in the 1700s, but this delegate made comments during a debate tsover a proposed clause in the state constitution that would have prohibited the bible and ubiquitous practice of gerrymandering. and he was quoted as saying during the debate criticizing his opponent for constantly gerrymandering the state and
maintaining that this was the way that the word should be pronounced with a soft g. one of the things that i found most surprising when researching the history of this topic was that not only did gerrymandering not originate with elbridge gerry who famously was the governor of massachusetts in 1812. he had been finally elected to that office after running five times without success and after finally being elected governor of massachusetts, he found himself frustrated by divided government. in particular, the majority that his political opponents the federalists held in the state senate time. gerry was a democratic republican. he aligned himself with the presidencies of thomas
jefferson and then also james madison. but during his first term in office he found himself f frustrated by divided government . and he had been helected with all of these grandiose policy ideas. he was going to usher in a democratic republican agenda in a state that had previously been dominated by this federalist points. and the myth of the origin of gerrymandering is that jerry concocted a scheme to rig the results of the 1812 massachusetts election. and he did so by drawing the state senate districts in such a way that even if the federalists were to win the popular vote, the democratic republicans would nevertheless capture all majority of the available seats. kind of similar to what happened in a number of recent elections here in wisconsin.
and so gerry set about drawing the padistricts and one district in particular, a state senate district in essex county outside of boston was particularly misshapen. it was this kind of serpentine district which snaked its way around the borders of the county, packing them together as many to list voters as possible and the idea was if you put all the federalist in this then the ict democratic republicans can take up all the other seats in the county and that was in fact what happened in the subsequence election. more citizens in essex county voted for the federalist party then did the democratic republicans but because of this gerrymander, the democratic republicans were nonetheless able to pick up a majority of seats. the origin of the term gerrymander stems from an
article that was published in a newspaper called the boston gazette. and it probably would not have taken on the historical moment in that it did were not for the famous cartoon that accompanied that newspaper article. and you've probably seen the cartoon. if you google the word gerrymander, it's pretty much the first image always going to,. i think i have a version of it. click back to second on the cover of my bo. that is the gerrymander cartoon of the state senate district in essex county massachusetts. but what often gets left out of this story is that not only was gerrymandering happening long before elbridge gerry allegedly created this original
gerrymander in essex county but gerry himself was not even responsible for the plan that laled to his everlasting historical infamy. that led to his most lasting legacy being the portmanteau of gerry and salamander which the district was said to resemble that became attached to this emkind of unseemly practice of manipulating districts for political gain. gerry had, if you believe his biographer most of the contemporary historical accounts that i uncover all suggested that gerry himself was not t especially keen on the plan. he thought it was overly partisan. he thought that it was untoward and nefarious but he kind of went along with it because more than that he wanted to get stuff done he had been elected to do. and getting that done and
controlling the state legislature . so while the original gerrymander was created by the massachusetts state legislature it was gerry's name that became attached to it. if there's one thing i hope this book does is that it at least to some extent mitigates the historical led legacy of elbridge gerry who is remembered chiefly for this even though he went on to serve as president of the united states under medicine. even though he was one of the massachusetts delegates to the constitutional convention in a copy of. and was extremely influential in the creation of the bill of rights. gerry, i think would have made a great presidential candidate as well if you were a younger man today it was the only thing that meprevented him from being remembered as
james madison's successor as president rather than for this unseemly practice. gerry unfortunately passed away as he was serving under medicine and the rest of course is history. and so once i realized everything we thought we knew about the origins of gerrymandering was pretty much wrong, i tried to find out what was the earliest historical example of gerrymandering occurring on the american continent. that took me back almost a century from 1812 massachusetts to the 1730s in the colony of north carolina. and it turns out that the inventor of american gerrymandering was not even an american himself. like me, if you detected the hints of an accent, i was in
fact born in great britain. immigrated to the united states to study for my phd in american government and actually earlier this year i became a fully naturalized us citizen. so having written, taught and researched american elections for almost two decades now, this november will be the first time that i actually have an opportunity to vote in one. the last election i voted in was actually the 2016 brexit referendum and if you checked in with uk politics, that one didn't go terribly well for us. the individual who i make the case in the book should be remembered as the creator of american gerrymandering is actually a british colonial governor by the name of george burlington or barrington to get his name
the standard british pronunciation. unfortunately, there are no known likenesses of george burlington survive to the present day which is why he is represented by thomas social media accounts avatar i have on the screen here. but burlington was a truly fascinating character. he was an individual who was born in aristocrat but always strove to run in the same social circles as the british upper-class. and i think this is in some way responsible for the norms chip he had on his shoulder throughout his political career . in the book i go into some of the many colorful and sometimes violent stories that marred the history of george burlington's political career but the thing he is actually in fact not remembered for is the
creation of american gerrymandering and ironically , he was responsible for doing exactly what elbridge gerry is accused of and yet i have tried in vain but i think it's probably too late at this point to introduce the term burrmander into the american political lexicon but i'm going to keep trying because this is the guy this practice should in fact be named after but burlington was the governor of north carolina in the1730s . and by the time he got around to engaging in the practice of gerrymandering, he was on his second stint in that particular position. there's a very interesting story about how he ended up losing and regaining his job . but at the rest of spoiling it, it involves him
threatening to murder the chief justice of the north carolina colony and assaulting the attorney general with a chair . more on that story in the book. but like gerry, he been frustrated by the opposition to his rule he was receiving from the legislature and the colonial legislature in north carolina consisted of two houses: an opera house that was made up of appointments of ththe governor himself and that represented the british crown and a lower house that was elected by office and represented their interests. and it was that lower house that burrington found himself frustrated with so in an outrageous piece of parliamentary human maneuvering he forced the bill through the upper house jen gerrymandering the boundaries of the lower house to ensure his cronies would control a majority colonists
would no longer be able to agenda . moving forward, there were even examples of very mentoring occurring after independence but before the creation of the term in 1812 massachusetts . in particular in the first few elections in the state of new york, in some of the early elections in south carolina and in another famous example that i talk about in the book as well, an attempt by patrick henry to prevent his arch nemesis james madison from being elected to the first congress .st that story ended up in the only time in us history that 2 future presidents faced off for a single seat in congress . the candidates for james madison and james monroe and spoiler alert, madison ended up winning the election despite patrick henry's gerrymander and went on to introduce the bill of rights
for the first congress.ss one can only imagine how differently us history might have gone patrick henry and successful at gerrymandering james madison out of the first congress. so that's most of what i have to say about the history of gerrymandering a large part of the book is spent on relating some of the most interesting stories of gerrymandering that occurred throughout that 18th, 19th and 20th century and in particular highlighting how this practice has intersected with an and influenced some of the major events in us history including the civil war, the career of presidents like abraham lincoln and andrew johnson and even the civil rights movement as well . but what i'd like to focus on for my remaining time here
today is gerrymandering as it exists in the 21st century. because there has been a sea change in the technology, the data, the software, the computing power that can be deployed in service of the manipulation of election districts for political purposes. you go back to early period's and redistricting was done by pouring over reams of census data and often drawing lines on a map using consoles and erasers. around about the 1970s, the very first computer software began to be used for the redrawing of district boundaries but even then those programs were not especiallysophisticated . they would allow you to analyze what had happened in the last couple of elections, draw districts based on your best guess about what might
happen moving forward and often while gerrymandering did have effects on our elections and i certainly don't mean to suggest that gerrymandering was never effective until the present day, but it would have effects peperhaps for one election or a couple of elections but it was very hard using the data tools they had available at the time to make any kind of accurate prediction about what might happen down the road. the line drawers of 21st-century america are under no such constraints. and this is why i think somewhat under the radar gerrymandering has become the greatest threat to american representative democracy. the way that the lines are drawn today involves not just the reams of information on
individual voters and as we all know our data is being collected constantly. you can find all kinds of information about people abthat you can use to learn about their preferences and how they might vote in elections. but the major thing that sets the gerrymandering of the 21st century apart from previous eras in us history is the software and the computing power and particularly the ability to run thousands of simulations on hypothetical district boundaries and predict how those districts will perform under a wide variety of medical future electoral conditions. so instead of drawing districts that give you an advantage and then finding that advantage evaporates a couple of elections down the road, maybe because some incumbents retire and you have open seats. maybe because you get a
particularly popular residential candidate from the opposition and the end up winning a significant majority of the popular vote. these are the kinds of unforeseen developments that often lead to the collapse of the gerrymander's of yesteryear. but now, not only can you produce thousands of potential of districts using algorithms and scrutinize them and find the ones that are most likely to lead to your side winning as many elections as possible, but you can also simulate future election results. tinker with the variables and see what's likely to happen if incumbents retire. you can see what's likely to happen if your party loses the popular vote a certain amount. and you can build a redistricting plan that will remain robust in the face of all of these plausible future
scenarios. and d this is exactly what has been done in states like wisconsin. so what concerns me now is gerrymandering is something that can have effects for multiple decades dat a time. you can redraw districts as the districts were drawn in wisconsin in 2010 so that one political party controls the majority of the legislative seats throughout the entire decade no matter how the people vote. and of course that party gets to draw the district again when you have a new census r. they get to tinker with the boundaries, incorporates all the new information the accumulated over that decade bull things back again. this is our relatively new phenomenon and the kind of gerrymandering that we have in places like wisconsin is i think unprecedented in us history.
what i want to do now is illustrate some of the states that i think do redistricting well and some of the states that do redistricting me. and the state of michigan is a state that has been in both categories in recent decades. 10 years ago, michigan was one of the most gerrymandered states in america . just like wisconsin, the republican party had controlled the levers of power in michigan after the 2010 census. and they use that control to draw the district so that they remain in the majority in both houses of the michigan legislature throughout the decade. they also drew the us house of representatives district so that the results of those elections would give them an am edge when it came to control of congress.
and then something happened. the people of michigan past a ballot initiative that amended the state constitution. this amendment created the michigan citizens mission.cting it took control of the drawing districts in michigan away from the state legislature and gave it to an independent commission made up of ordinary citizens. for republicans, for democrats, five independents, all regular registered voters. selected at random from the pool of all the people who applied. now, michigan was not the first state to experiment with this model. in fact it had been done previously in when you as well. it is now also done in the state of colorado. but this fundamental and simple change simply removing
politicians from the equation was night and day in terms of the fairness of michigan elections . the can see on the screen here is the us house map produced by the michigan citizens redistricting commission. five safe republican seats, for safe democratic seats eafor a highly competitive seats go either democrat or republican depending on how the popular vote turns out in the state. you can also see that on the slide i have a metric call efficiency. the efficiency is efthe measure that social scientists have to capture this severity of gerrymandering in the state. the closer it is to zero, the better the map is the more impartial the districts are, the less of a bias incident towards one side or the other
. this is an example of an extremely fair electoral map. and importantly, you have a critical mass of appendices which means that you have responsiveness. you have accountability. you have the ability of the citizenry to affect the composition of the legislature or in this instance, the us house delegates. another sample of a state that does things well, i mentioned thispreviously is the state of arizona . arizona not coincidentally also has an independent redistricting commission. it was also created by people through ballot initiative in the 2000 election. and this illustrates broader theme of the book i think which is that getting rid of gerrymandering is something that is popular across the
political spectrum. what we've seen in recent years is that redistricting reform measures and asking blue states like california and new york. they passed in swing states like florida and michigan. and they passed in red states like utah all of those states when given an opportunity to vote on the question but people decided they wanted to reduce the influence of politicians on the drawing of districts r. arizona as you can see this next red effects, blue districts and competitive districts. this is what you want to see in a redistricting that. a slight bias towards democrats but i think when you see the next, you will see that things can get a lot worse in terms of the level of bias you can find in redistricting that.
this is my home state of florida and of course we been in the news quite a lot recently for some of the various components of governor desantis's policy agenda which has been not without some controversy. but the governor also controversially vetoed the redistricting map that the republican state helegislature have drawn. and this is one of the very early times in us history where another a redistricting plan that was created by a legislature controlled by his own political. the problem that governor desantis had was while the rd gop legislators online store opens, that bias will not large enough worries like a ritzy control of the process and what came out of that was
this man that was drawn by the governor's office in consultation with various republican redistricting operatives. the exact details of that are currently the subject of litigation in the state of florida. but here you can see how gerrymandering works. you reduce as much as possible the number of competitive seats that are on the electoral playing field. and you create as many ansafe seats for your ownpolitical party as you can and as you state safeties for your opponents . the result is that in the state of florida pretty much any a swing state although a state althat partially because of gerrymandering has been controlled by party all the way back to 2000. but florida in its 20
district has 28 states safe republican seats, the safe democratic seats and only two competitive seats so fewer than either michigan or arizona you go florida will be districts of thoseseat . you can also see by the efficiency gap metric this math is 10 times as biased towards republicans as the arizona was democrats. and efficiency gap of 20.2 percent for republicans is about the most highest and rational i have seen in my research on this topic. but that is not to say that democrats won't engage in these kinds of shenanigans the opportunity. in new york despite a ballot initiative in new york that created haa redistricting commission, the legislature nonetheless reassumed control
of the process and that i think illustrates a crucial lesson when it comes to redistricting reform . and you take power away from the legislature to do this, you have to be very clear are not able to listen. in new york the redistricting commission's role was by anyone and the law the legislature to override it in exceptional circumstances. course, everything these days is an exceptional sense. democrats in new york through a map that is almost as bad as the one that republicans drew in florida. 26), for state republican seats to osee the d+. so not the worst in the world but still a pretty glass. something happened to the new
around about 1.2. but the result was very different . instead of the slight democratic majority, 52 to 46 that you got in 2008, in 2012 democrats despite winning the popular vote 130 nazis to the republican 60. and has been pretty much glued in place percents in all of the elections that have been held in wisconsin since the 2010 redistricting. that creates a situation that w i was cautioning against. the republicans who controlled the wisconsin state legislature know that their majority is safe . the individual politicians who been drawn into these safe seats know that there seats are safe and that all they have to do to action is to win over their primary
source. and so the wisconsin state legislature is no longer responsive to changes in popular sentiment. you can have an election where republicans win a majority ctand an election where democrats win majority you basically have the exact same result. there is no meaningful change in the percentage of seats held by one party or the t other. so what can we conclude from this and i tried to avoid being this being kind of a doom and gloom. is him all the time kind of book. but fortunately i think there is an easy and straightforward solution to this problem. it creates not a perfect set of redistricting procedures but one at the very least
prevents politicians from overtly meddling in the process. and that is s the independent redistricting commission. we've seen this work in michigan. we've seen it work in arizona. we've seen it work in other states as well. but most importantly, we've seen it work in just about every nation that uses districts for its legislative elections. beginning with new zealand in a 19th century, then spreads to the rest of the british commonwealth but every other nation pretty much has reached the conclusion that the way to solve gerrymandering is simply through politicians from the equation entire. to have some kind of independence entity. now, that independent process will not always produce perfect results. no redistricting that is ever
100 percent release prevents the kind of pernicious and severe gerrymandering that has been ubiquitous now in so much of the united states. second, it's very important that critical mass of the district in a legislature or at least competitive enough that there is a meaningful opportunity for them to change hands. this course is the key mechanism of democratic accountability and electoral responsiveness. when people aren't happy with the politicians in power, they're going to vote against that political power enough districts are competitive political party is going to lose its majority. this forces them to pay attention at least to some extent icto public opinion. this forces them at least to some extent policies that are reasonably popular with the electorate in theirstate .
whether it's being done by democrats or by republicans and i document examples of both kinds of gerrymandering in the book, republicans have been more successful at gerrymandering in the last couple of decades 0sin the 1970s and 1980s the boot was on the other foot and it was democrats that were successfully gerrymandering in places like california. and so if there's one pithy phrase you could take away from the book, that encapsules the message that i'm trying to sell, it's that voters should choose their politicians, politicians should not choose their voters. and that is everything i have in terms of my talk and i'm happy to answer any questions that people might have.
[applause] >> i'm richard russell from madison. i'm active in three different good government groups, fairness and wisconsin coalition which addresses the very problem you're speaking about here. wisconsin united to a man which is looking for a constitutional amendment to overturn citizens united and get a constitutional amendment that says only actual human people are people, corporations don't count free spending is not the same as free speech and voters first wisconsin which is looking to replace partisan primaries with final five voting which was designed to eliminate the el divisiveness and the prioritization results from only partisan activists involved in determining who the final two candidates are
for the primary election . all three of these operations , these faced two major obstacles. first there all procedural changes. they change the way we do business. they're not substantive things like abortion or immigration inflation or guns or crime or any of those things that are gotten the issues that people can viscerally relate to their abstract in that regard. but the second major problem we have in getting any of these things through is that all of them require the people are currently in charge of the system who are the beneficiaries of the current system to want to change the current system. which is basically saying please vote against your own self interest. this is a huge obstacle to overcome and i was you had some hopeful for us. >> thank you for that and certainly appreciate the work that you're doing and i agree, this is the central dialing the of trying to fix gerrymandering which is that
people who have the strongest incentive not to fix it are the people who are benefiting the most from the status quo. and there's a reason why the states that have been successful at least so far have tended to be states where it's easier to amend the state constitution using ballot initiative. so this is like california and michigan and colorado, it's possible to collect signatures, get an initiative on the ballot for the people to vote on and if it passes, that in a men's the state teconstitution which unfortunately is not an option that's available in a number of states including wisconsin. but i did actually think about this ahead of time because i hear that there might be a question about what can be done in wisconsin . so here is my kind of five-step plan for how you might go about fixing it because the central problem
right now course is that there is no way the state legislature is ever going to vote to do anything about gerrymandering which means that we have to rely on a more democratic institution which ironically is the wisconsin supreme court. york state supreme court shouldn't be more ha democratically accountable s than your legislature but that's kind of the unfortunate solution that we find ourselves in. so i think the most important thing to do right now in wisconsin is to elect justices to the state supreme court who are going to be more inclined to nice gerrymandering a legislature. and at some point, hopefully if you can teach a legal case and have the state supreme court strikes down the gerrymandered boundaries, you
can and get off our electoral system that makes it more likely that we can elect all majority that might be inclined to propose an amendment to thestate constitution . so i believe the procedures are here are that to amend the constitution has to pass chambers of the legislature in successive sessions. so they have to pass it once, then you have to have an election and then a new legislature has to then ask the amendment as well. then it goes to the people for the popular vote. so step one, is to get the state supreme court taxed with justices were going to strychnine gerrymandering. step two is to elect majority to the legislature who want to do something about this problem and then three, do that twice in a row and then get it on the ballot. i appreciate this is pretty enormous enormous task. but when you're in a state
where you don't have that option for people to amend tthe constitution directly it'sthe kind of thing that you have to do . so i appreciate that that's kind of a big ask. but at least based on my analysis i think that the only way that you could possibly go about fixing this problem inwisconsin . >> i said i was going to try to avoid pessimism . that's about the closest i can get the optimism on that front. >> thank you. i think your book looks like asignificant contribution to those of us that are interested in this issue . i initially came up with the ask your question how you got interested in the topic of gerrymandering, seems like you're relatively recently came to this country. and i wonder if there might be astory there. but on the question of the wisconsin supreme court ,
i'll just throw this out there. the wisconsin constitution has a provision that parallels the declaration of independence. it talks about the purpose of government being to secure the consent of the governed and the legislature is the institution to do that. and in the gerrymandering case where they said were going to uphold the new gerrymander for the next 10 years, there is one sentence in their says that's got nothing to do. there's nothing in wisconsin's version that says anything about redistricting. and that's the problem to get the supreme court to do anything as long as it has the currentcompetition . >> one of the things i've observed looking at state supreme court decisions on this question across the nation is that when the justices have the will to try and promote democracy, they
will find provisions in the state constitution that can be read in that way whether it's the kind ofthing you're talking about , and i don't know this office the top of my head but a lot of states have some variation on a free elections clause. i'm not sure if that's an option in wisconsin. but at the very least there's probably language in the state constitution which requires the state to be kind of a basic and functional democracy which in many ways it kind of isn't right now. state supreme court when confronted with this question , when the justices are of the opinion that this is something that needs fixing have found ways to do it. but to answer your question, i became interested in gerrymandering about 15 years ago. there's not an interesting story behind it.
i was in grad school and i needed a topic to write a paper on and one of my professors suggested. >> thank you. >> thanks for the talk, very interesting. this is just i'm trying to think how could we make a difference as we're waiting for the upcoming supreme court election next april. that's obviously one big thing we can do in wisconsin. but i'm curious if you've ever talked about or had people ask about people from gerrymandered tedistricts who have mobility actually moving districts especially with the rise of teleworking. whether more people have that capability and it would require a lot of people to do that but what is your take on that idea ? >> i think it's an interesting idea. and this is the solution you heard come up in other concepts, moving to a
independent commissions have maps and have serious flaws that were projected several times and maybe didn't meet the voting rights act requirements and places so the redistricting commissions when they are independent are not always flawless and i think also because so many states go overboard in making sure the people who serve on those commissions are so removed from the political process that they often don't have i think enough knowledge to completely undo some of what is historically been done and they saw your maps that you showed got that margin down in terms of the bias but it didn't get rid of it either and i think some of that is the sophistication of the people there. have you done any looking at 12
or 13 years ago the redistricting lawyer sam hirsch proposed a solution that actually involves an independent commission that still has the political parties very involved as being map proposers who then have to have their maps you know evaluated by the commission until they narrowed down to the best map possible from each side issuing impeding one's and you could even go a step further allowing the public to actually have a part of the process with all the technology now present all ultimately hundreds of maps and so you have the best map for the the parties as well as public moving forward. >> no, we are still kind of in the early stages about figuring out what model is going to be best for doing this. absolutely i think having a process that allows for as many
submissions as possible and this is as much information as possible providing expertise to commissions and i certainly don't want w to suggest that thy a panacea. at the very least they tend to produce on average results that are significantly or at least in termsbi of bias but i also think it's important to be clear exactly what criteria you want those commissions to take into account and that ultimately is a policy judgment. i could see different states going different ways. for me at least the first up is to get politicians out of being involved in the process and once we have done that we can try and figure out what the best model is for redistricting through commission in this 21st century environment with all of the technology and all of that kind of stuff.