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tv   Nick Seabrook One Person One Vote  CSPAN  December 28, 2022 4:26am-5:29am EST

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yes and it's amazing amazing that you took that experience and managed to create something wonderful out of it by representing your district. and so i want to thank you for this book and for this great conversation today, which i hope was really illuminating for those listening. yes thank you sonick seabrook w.
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one person, one vote, which is a history of and i'm going to get this right, gerrymandering the first time ever said that and gotten right hard. everybody just so you know, nick's going to teach us much more than just how to pronounce the word. he has looked into something that affects us all. and so many more ways than we ever thought possible. it is something has affected us for hundreds and hundreds of years. and i think that all of us standing are sitting in this room have felt expressly here in
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wisconsin over the past couple of years. these are the types events that make me just like so proud to be able to hand a microphone over to somebody. and i'm going to hand it over to nick seabrook. ladies and gentlemen. well thank you, everybody, for the warm 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 that i'm going to enjoy my time here. the beer and cheese comes after the speaking engagements. it's very important to get those things in the correct order. unfortunately, however, wisconsin is also famous, perhaps i should say infamous, for something else and that is the topic of. my new book, one person one vote
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a surprising history of gerrymandering or to give it its original historical pronunciation gerrymandering in america whenever. i talk about the topic of gerrymandering. one of the most frequent questions i get asked by audience is and interviewers is which is the most gerrymandered state in america and today, for the first time i can say while in that state, for the last 12 or 12 years or so, the 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 to examples of blue states we've seen particularly bad gerrymandering in recent years. states like new york and
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illinois are examples of something that i think is a and important theme of the book. is that gerrymander and the manipulation of districts for political gain is not a republic problem or a democrat problem. it's an american problem. and it's a quintessentially america problem. it's a problem that democracies, the world have experienced and for the most part have solved and so there are two things that i want to highlight from the book in talk today. the first of those is gerrymanders origin story and i think for those of you who may believe that, you know, gerrymandering comes from if you read the book and hopefully i
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can explain this today as well, i think you'll most likely find that you are wrong, that the origins of jerry mannering are both older and more interesting than the legend that gets told in. most of the history books. the second thing that i want to talk about is the continuing that gerrymandering has on our elections in 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 with a gentleman on this theme prior my talk tonight, the fundamental and most basic functioning of a representative democracy depends on at least a basic level of electoral responsiveness and by
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electoral response liveness. what i mean is that the people, at the very least need to have the option when they are unhappy with the things that their representatives government are doing to throw the bums out and replace them with a new set of represented lives who presumably will do different and the major harm of. gerrymandering is that it severs that link between representative parts and the communities whose interests they are supposed to be fulfilling in government. and it undermines the basic responsiveness of. the electoral system in a way that prevents voters from holding accountable for the that they do while they are in office. and you probably don't need to tell you that when politicians don't have to worry about reelection when the party that
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holds the majority doesn't have to about enacting popular policies when they know that their seats are safe, when know that their majority is safe, they don't have to keep their fingers on the pulse of public opinion. they free to use their power and authority to pursue whatever self-interest did or partizan goals that they would like to do, but are often constrained from doing because those things will be with the electorate. and so in addition to, the history of gerrymandering, this is also a book about the present of gerrymandering and for reasons that i talk about in the book, my in writing, this was to kind of sound the alarm bells to send out a warning to the american people that their
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democracy is not safe and this is the kind of warning that a lot of people sending out right now for a variety of different reasons. but i think gerrymandering at its core is much threatening to democratic accountable bility than any of the other problems that are routinely and commonly identified in our system. i want to begin with the origin story of jeremy wandering. every good 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 gerrymander, but it turned out that there was a much richer and longer going back, not just to
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the founding and the framers of the constitution action, but going back even before to the colonial period and even further back into british antiquity. and so i want to touch a little bit to begin with on that origin story and where it was that gerrymandering came from on wednesday, i participating in an event at the sandra day o'connor institute for american democracy in phenix and i had the the pleasure to kind of lavish praise on the state arizona for being among the best in the nation for how they conduct redistrict and on 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
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good about my home state of florida either. but part of the with gerrymandering is while it has always been with us in american history, the politicians of today have fundamentally different set of by which they can the outcomes of elections tools that were simply not available. even 2530 years ago and. the effects of that as i'll talk about a little later, can 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
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functioning democracy, i said, is a modicum of responsiveness and gerrymandering. 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 u.s. history. most accounts of the origin of jerry mannering traced back an individual, all who had a very long and impressive and storied career in american politics. guy by the name of gary and, the pronunciation of elbridge gary's last name, of course, lends us term gerrymandering, or, as it was pronounced for around about the first 50 years that the term was use gerrymander.
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and when was researching the book, i was actually able to uncover the first historical reference to gerrymandering being pronounced with a soft g as gerrymandering as opposed to the original hard g and this is difficult to do because obviously when you go back that far in history, we don't have recordings of people actually saying anything. so i set out to look for the earliest possible historical reference to how the word was actually 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 john pettit, which coincidentally actually the name of one of my ancestors, was a british navy lieutenant and privateer, i think privateer is the more
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politically correct way to say what he engaged during his career and back in the 1700s. but this delegate pettit made comments during a debate over proposed clause in the state constitution that would have prohibited the by then ubiquitous practice of of gerrymandering. and he was quoted as saying during the debates, i criticizing his opponents for constantly gerrymandering, the state, and maintaining that this was the way that the word should be pronounced with the soft g. one of the things that i found most surprise thing when researching the history this topic was not only did gerrymandering not originate with elbridge gerry, who famously was the governor of
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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 since he found himself frustrated by divided government, in particular, the majority that his political opponents, the federalists, held in state senate at the time. gary was a democratic republican and he had aligned himself with the presidencies of thomas jefferson and then also james madison. but during his first term in office, he found himself frustrated by divided government and he had been elected, with all of these grandiose ideas, he was going to usher in a democratic republic and agenda, in a state that had previous been dominated by his federalist
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opponents and the myth of the origin of gerrymandering is that gary concocted a scheme to rig the results of the 1812 massachusetts elections, and he did so by drawing the state senate districts such a way that even if federalists were to win popular vote, the democrat republicans would nevertheless capture a majority of the available seats kind of similar to what's happened in a number of recent elections here in wisconsin. and so gary about drawing the districts and one district in particular a state senate district in essex county outside of boston was particularly mis shaped and it was this kind of serpentine which snaked its way around the borders of the county, packing together, as many federalist voters as possible. and the idea was that if you put all of the federalists in this
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one district, then democratic republicans can pick up all of the other seats in the county. and that was in fact. what happened in the subsequent election, more citizens in essex county voted for the federalist party than. did the democratic republicans. but because of this gerrymander, the republicans were nevertheless to pick up a majority. the seats, the origin of the term gerrymandering stems from an article was published in a newspaper called the boston gazette and it would not have taken on the historical momentum that it did were it not for the cartoon that accompanied that newspaper article and now you've probably seen that cartoon if you google the word gerrymander,
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it's pretty much the first image that's always going to come up and. i think i have a version of it. if we click back a second on the cover of, my book that the gerrymander cartoon, the state senate district in essex county, massachusetts. but what often gets left out of this story is not only was happening long before, elbridge gary allegedly created this original gerrymander there in essex county, but gary himself was not even responsible for the plan that led to his ever lasting historical infamy that led to his most lasting legacy. being the portmanteau of gary and salamander, the district was said to resemble that became attached to this kind unseemly practice of manipulating
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districts for political gain. gary had, if you believe his biographer and most of the contemporary historical accounts that i uncovered or suggested that gary himself was not especially keen the plan. he thought that it was overly partizan. he thought that it was untoward and nefarious, but he kind of went along with because more than that, he wanted to get the stuff done that he had been elected to do. and getting that done meant controlling the state legislature. so while the original jeremy ender was created by the massachusetts state legislature, it was gary's name that became attached to it. so if there's one thing that i hope this book does, it's that ed, at least to some extent vindicates the historical of elbridge gary, who is remembered
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chiefly this even though he went to serve as vice president of, the united states under james madison, even though he was one of the massachusetts delegates to the constitutional in philadelphia and was extremely influential in the creation of, the bill of rights. gary, i think would made a great presidential candidate. well, if he were a younger and his age was, pretty much the only thing that prevented him being remembered as james successor as president rather than for this unseemly practice. gary passed away while he was serving as vice president under madison and the rest course is history. and so once i realized that everything we thought knew about the origins of jerry was pretty much wrong, i tried to find out
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what was the earliest historical example of gerrymandering occurring on american continent and that took me back almost a century. 1812 massachusetts to. the 1730s in the colony of. north carolina. and it turns out that the inventor of american was not an american himself, like me and. if you've detected the hint of an accent, i, in fact, born in great britain, i emigrated to the united states to study for my ph.d. in american government and actually earlier this year, i became fully naturalized. us citizen. so having written torts and researched american elections for almost two decades now, this
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november will be the first time that i actually have an opportunity to vote in one. the last election that i voted in was actually 2016 brexit referendum. and if you've checked in with uk politics recently, 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 american gerrymandering is actually a british colonial governor by the of george barrington or to give his name the standard british pronunciation unfortunate. in italy there are no known likeness is of george barrington that survived to the present day which why he is represented by the anonymous social media account that i have on the screen here. but barrington was a truly fascinating character. he was an individual who was not
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born an aristocrat but always strived to run in the same social circles as the british upper class. and i think this is in some way responsible for the enormous chip that he had on his shoulders throughout his political career. in the book, go into some of the many and sometimes violent stories that marred the history of george barrington's political career. but the thing that he actually, in fact, not remembered for is the creation of american gerrymandering. and ironically, he was responsive all for doing exactly what elbridge gary is accused of. and yet i have tried in vain. i think it's probably too late at this point to introduce the term amanda into the american political lexicon. but i'm going to keep because
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this is the guy who this practice should fact be named after. so barrington, the british colonial governor of, north carolina in the 1730s. and by the time got around to engaging in the practice of gerrymandering he was actually on his second stint in that particular position. there's a very interesting about how he ended up losing then regaining his job but at the risk of spoiling it, it involved him threatening to murder the chief justice, the north carolina colony and, assaulting the attorney general with chair. more on that story in the book. but like gary, he been frustrated by the opposition to his rule that he was receiving from the legislature and the colonial legislature. north carolina consisted of two houses, an opera house that was
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made up of appointments of the governor himself. and that the british crown and a lower house that was by the colonists and represented their interests and it was that lower house that barrington found himself particularly with. and so in a fairly outrageous piece, parliamentary maneuvering. he forced a bill through the upper house, gerrymandering, the boundaries of the lower house to ensure that his cronies would control a and that the colonists would no longer be able to obstruct his agenda moving forward. there are even examples of gerrymandering occurring after in dependance, but before the creation of the term in 1812, massachusetts in particular in the first few elections in the state of new york and some of the early elections in south carolina. and in another famous that i
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talk about in the book as well, an by patrick henry to prevent his arch nemesis, james madison from being elected the first congress that story ended up in the only time in u.s. history that two future presidents have faced off for a single seat in congress as the candidates were. james madison and james monroe and spoiler alert madison up winning the election despite. patrick henry's gerrymander and went on to introduce the bill rights before the first congress. one can only imagine how differently u.s. history might have gone had patrick been successful at gerrymander, luring james madison out of the first congress. though that's most of what i have to say about the history of gerrymandering, but a a large part of the book is on relating
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some of the most interesting stories of gerrymander writing that occurred throughout the 18, 19th and 20th centuries, and in particular highlighting how this practice has intersected with and influence some of the major events in u.s. history, including the civil war, the career of presidents 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 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 manipulate portion of election districts, political purposes. you go back to early periods and
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redistricting was done by poring over reams of census data and often drawing lines on a map using pencils and. around about the 1970s, the very computer software began to be used for, the redrawing of district boundaries. but even then, those programs not especially sophisticated. they would allow you to analyze what had happened in last couple of elections for districts based on best guess about what might happen forward and often. while gerrymandering did 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 perhaps for one election or, a couple of elections. but it was very hard using the data and the tools that they had
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available at the time to make any kind of accurate prediction about what might happen down. the road the line draws 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 being collected constantly. you can find all kinds of information about people that you can use to learn about preferences and how they might vote in elections. but the major thing that sets the gerrymandering of the 21st century apart from eras in u.s.
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history is the software and the computing power and particular the ability to run thousands of simulations on a hypothetical district boundaries and predict how those districts will perform, under a wide variety of hypothetical future electoral conditions. so instead of drawing districts that give you an advantage and then that 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 particular popular presidential candidate the opposition and they end up winning a significant of the popular vote. these are the kinds of unforeseen developments that often led to the collapse of the gerrymander of yesteryear, but now not only can you produce thousands of potential sets of district but using algorithms
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and them and find ones that are most likely to lead to your side, winning as many as possible. but you can also simulate future election results. tinker with the variables and what's likely to happen if retire. you see what's likely to happen if. your party loses the popular vote a certain amount and you can build a redistrict plan that will remain robust in the face of all of these future scenarios. and this is exactly what has been done in states wisconsin and what concerns me now is gerrymandering is something that can have effect from multiple decades at a time. you can draw districts as districts were drawn here in wisconsin in 2010. so that one political party
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controls a majority of the legislative seats throughout the entire decade, no matter how the people vote, then of course that party gets to draw the districts again when have a new census, they get tinker with the boundaries incorporate of the new information they've accumulated that decade and then roll things back again. this is a relatively new phenomenon and the kind of gerrymandering that we in places like wisconsin is, i think, unprecedented in u.s. history. what i want to do now is illustrate some of the states that i think do redistricting and some of the states that do redistricting badly and the state, michigan is a state that has been in both categories in recent decades and years ago. michigan was one of the most gerrymandered states in america
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just like wisconsin. the republican party controlled the levers of in michigan after the 2010 census and had used that control to draw the districts 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 edge when it came to control of congress. and then something happened. the people of michigan passed a ballot initiative that amended state constitution. this amendment created, the michigan citizens redistricting commission. it took control all of the drawing of in michigan away from the state legislature and gave it to an independent commission
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made up of ordinary citizens for republicans, for democrats five independents, all regular registered voters selected at random from the pool of all of the people who applied. now michigan was not first state to experiment with model. in fact, it had been done previously in california as and it's 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 the fairness of michigan election as the map that you can see the screen here is the us house map that was produced by the michigan citizens redistricting commission. five safe republican seats for safe democratic seats and four highly competitive seats that
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could go either democratic or republican, depending on how the popular vote turns out in the state. you can also see that the slide i have a metric, the efficiency gap. the efficiency gap is measure that social scientists have developed to capture the severity of gerrymandering in a state. the closer it is to zero the fairer the map is, the more impartial the districts are, the less of a bias they have built into them, towards one side or the other. this is an example, an extremely fair electoral map and importantly, you have a critical mass of competitive seats, which means that you have you have accountability, you have the ability of the citizenry to affect the composition of the legislature. in this instance, the us house
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delegation. another example of a state that things well, i mentioned this previously is the state of arizona. arizona not coincidentally also an independent redistricting. it was also created by the people through a ballot initiative, the 2000 election. and this illustrates a broader theme. the book, i think, which is that getting rid of gerrymandering, something that is popular across the political spectrum, what we've seen in recent years is that redistrict reform measures have passed in blue states like california and new york, they've passed in swing states like florida and michigan and. they've passed in red states like utah. all of those states, when given an opportunity to vote on the
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question, the people decide that they wanted to reduce the influence. politicians on the drawing districts, arizona as you can see, has a nice of red districts. blue and competitive districts. this is what you want to see in a redistricting map. a slight bias towards democrats, but i think when you see the next map, you will see that things can get a whole lot worse in terms of the level of bias you can find in a redistricting. this is my home state of florida. and we have, of course, in the news quite a lot recently for some of the various components of governor policy agenda, which has been not without some controversy, but governor desantis also controversially
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vetoed the redistricting map that the state legislature had drawn and this is one of the very only in u.s. history where a governor has vetoed a redistricting that was created by legislature, controlled by his own party. the problem that governor desantis had was that while the gop legislature's map had a bias towards republicans in it, that bias was not large enough for his liking. so he took control of the process. and what came out of that? this map that was drawn, the governor's office, in consultation with various republican redistricting operatives, the exact details of that are currently the subject of litigation. and in the state of florida. but here you can see how gerrymandering works you reduce
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much as possible the number of competitive seats that are on the electoral playing field. and you create as many safe seats for your own political party as you can and as few safe seats your opponents. the result is that in state of florida, by pretty much any a swing state, although a state that partially because of gerrymandering has been controlled by, the republican party going all the way to. 2000. but florida and its 28 house districts has 18 safe republican seats, eight safe democratic seats, only two competitive seats. so fewer either michigan or arizona, even though florida has more than as many districts as. either of those states. you can also see by the efficiency gap metric that this map is ten times as biased towards as the arizona was
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towards democrats an efficiency gap of 20.2% towards republicans is just about the most biased congressional map. i have seen in all of my research on this topic. but that is not to say that democrats won't engage in these kinds of shenanigan ins given the opportunity in. new york despite a a ballot initiative in new that created a redistricting commission, the legislature. nevertheless, we assumed control of the process and this, i think, illustrates a crucial lesson when it comes to redistricting reform and when you power away from the legislature to do this, you have to be very, very clear that they are not able to reassume it. in new york, the redistricting commissions was an advisory one and the law allowed the
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legislature to override it in exceptional circumstances, of course, everything these is an exceptional circumstance. democrat in new york drew a map that almost bad as the one that republicans drew in florida when he safe democratic seats for, safe republican seats, and to competitive seats for an gap of d plus 8.6. so not the worst in the world but still a pretty heavily biased of districts. and then something happened. the new york courts overturned the map that the legislature had put place and instead they it with this one and this kind of illustrates how you can make a gerrymander go away. what you is you draw more competitive seats the map that the court put in place while still tilted towards democrat
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nevertheless added five competitive districts to new york landscape and removed five safe democratic seats, moving the bias much closer towards parity this is an example how the courts can play a role in scrutinizing what do the problem is that you're relying on the justices or the to read the state constitution to prohibit these types of practices and there are plenty of other states where lawsuits have been filed which did not lead to this kind of result. which brings us back inevitable to wisconsin. a of the focus when it comes to jeremy entering tends to be on elections. if you followed any of the political over the last six
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months or so, almost all of the coverage of this topic seems to be about what gerrymandering will do for or republicans chances winning control of the house and. that's certainly a valid concern. but the point i have been repeatedly attempting to hammer home is that the really severe effects of gerrymandering are happening at the state level. they're happening in state legislatures and happening in places like and the the thought here may a little bit too small for to read on the screen there. but basically in the 2008 election, democrats. about 1.5 million votes in the wisconsin state house and republicans, sorry, won 1.5. republicans about 1.2 democrats then won a slight majority of the overall seats.
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in 2010, you had a republican wave and not surprisingly, the gop took control. the state legislature and. this, of course, gave governors walker the opportunity to control the redistricting process in 2012 under the new boundaries, the result of the popular vote was remarkably to what it was. in 2008, the democrats, a slight majority of popular vote, 1.4 million votes to around about 1.2. but the result was very different instead of the democratic majority of 52 to 46 that you got in 2008 in 2012. democrats despite the popular vote, won 39 seats to the republicans and alignment has
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been pretty much in place ever since in all of the elections that have been held here in wisconsin since the 2010 redistricting. and that creates the situation that i was cautioning against at the beginning the republicans who control the wisconsin state legislature know that their majority is safe the individual politicians who have been drawn into these safe seats know that their seats are and that all they have to do win reelection is to win over primary electorate. 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 and an election where democrats win a majority and you basically have the exact result there is meaningful change in.
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the percentage of seats that are held by one party or the other. so what can we conclude this? and i tried to avoid this being kind of a doom and gloom, all pessimism all the time of book? but fortunately, i think there is an easy and, straightforward solution to this problem. it creates not perfect set of redistrict procedures, but one that at the very least prevents politicians from overtly in the process. and that is the independent redistricting we've seen this work in michigan. we've 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
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its elections, beginning with new zealand, the late 19th century that then spread 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 to remove politicians from the equation entirely, to have some kind independent entity. now that independent process will not always produce perfect results. no redistricting map ever 100% fair, but the very least it prevents kind of pernicious and severe gerrymandering. that has been ubiquitous now in so much of the united states. second, it's very important that a critical of the districts in a legislature here are at least competitive enough that there is a meaningful opportunity for them to hands this of course is
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the key mechanism of democratic accountability and electoral responsiveness. when people are unhappy with the politicians in power, they're going to vote against that party. and if enough districts are competitive, that political party is going to lose its it forces them to pay attention at to some extent to public opinion. this forces them at least to some extent, to attempt to enact policies that are reasonably popular with the electorate in their state. 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, but in 1970s and the 1980s, the boot on the other foot and it was democrat s that were successfully jeremy pandering in
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places like california. i'd say that if there's one kind of pithy phrase that you should take away from the book that encapsulates 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 that i have in terms of my talk. but i am happy to answer any questions that people might have. sir. hi there. i'm richard russell from madison. i'm active in three different good government groups, fair maps, wisconsin coalition, which addresses the very problem of been speaking about here. wisconsin united to amend which is looking for a constitutional
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amendment to overturn citizens united and get a constitutional amendment that says only actual human beings are people, corporations, churches etc. don't count and free spending is not the same as free speech and voters. first, wisconsin, which is looking to replace partizan primaries with final five voting, which is designed to eliminate divisive ness and the polarization that results from only the partizan activists being involved in determining who the final two candidates are for the final election. all three of these good government. operations face two major obstacles. first of all, is that all procedural changes that change the way we do business, they're not substantive things like abortion or immigration or inflation or guns crime or any of those things that that gut issues that people can viscerally to and they're sort of abstract in that regard.
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but the second and major problem that we have in getting any of these things through is that all of them require, the people who are currently in charge of the system, who are the beneficiaries of the current to want to change the current system, which is basically saying please vote against your own self-interest. and this is a huge obstacle to overcome. and i was hoping you had some helpful hints for us. well, thank you for that. and i certainly appreciative of the work that you're doing. and i this is kind of the central dilemma of trying to fix jeremy entering, which is that the people who have the strongest incentives not to fix it are the people who are benefiting the most from status quo and there's a reason why the states that have been successful at least far have tended to be where it's easier to amend the state constitution using a ballot initiative. so places like california and
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michigan and colorado it's to collect signatures get an initiative put on the ballot for the people to vote on. and if it passes that, then amends the state constitution. unfortunately, is not an option. that's available in a number of including wisconsin. but i did actually think about this ahead of time because i figured that there might be a question about what can be done in wisconsin. so here's my kind of five step plan for how you might go about fixing it because the central problem right now, of course, is that there is no way that the state legislature is ever going to vote to do anything about gerrymandering, which means that have to rely on a more democratic institution. ironically, is the wisconsin supreme court on your state supreme court be more democratically accountable than
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your legislature. but that's kind the unfortunate solution that that we find ourselves in. so i think the most important thing to do right now in wisconsin is to elect justice is to the state supreme court who are going to be more inclined to scrutinize gerrymandering, the legislature and at some point, hopefully, if you can tee up a legal case and have the state supreme court strike down the gerrymandered boundaries, you can then get a fairer system that makes it more likely that we can elect a major that might be inclined to propose an amendment to the constitution. and so i believe the procedures here are that to amend the constitution, then it has to pass both chambers. the legislature in successive sessions. so they to pass it once. then you have to have an
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election. and then the new has to then pass the amendment as well. and then it goes to the people for a popular vote so step is to get the state supreme court packed with justices who are going to scrutinize gerrymandering, step two is to elect a majority to the legislature who want to do something about this problem and then step do that twice in a row and then get it put on the ballot. and i appreciate that this is a pretty enormous task. but when you're in a state where you don't have that option for the people to amend the constitution directly, that that's really the kind of thing that that you have to do. so i appreciate that's kind of a big ask, but at least based on my analysis, i think that's really the only way that you could possibly about fixing this problem in in wisconsin. i said i was going to try avoid
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pessimism. that's about the closest can get to to optimism that front. oh thank you i thank your book looks like a significant to those of us that are interested in this issue. i initially came up with the to ask you a question as how you got interested in the topic of gerrymandering because. it seems like relatively recently came to this country. and i'm wondering if there might be a story there on the question of the wisconsin supreme. i just throw this out there the way wisconsin constitution has provision that parallels the declaration of independence, the facts about the purpose of government being to secure the consent, the governed, and that the legislature is the institution to do that in the gerrymandering case, where they said, we're going to uphold the new gerrymander for the next ten
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years, is one sentence in that that says that's got nothing to do. there's nothing in that wisconsin version of the declaration of independence that says anything about redistrict and so it's a problem to try get supreme court to do anything as long as it has a current composition. well, one of the things that i've observed looking at supreme court decisions on, this question across the nation is when the justices have the will to try and promote democracy, they will find provisions in the state constitution that can be read that way, whether it's the kind of thing that you're talking about and i don't know this off the top my head, but a lot of states, some variation on, a free elections clause. i'm not sure if that's an option here in, wisconsin, but at the very least there's probably language in the state
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constitution which requires the state to be kind of a basic and democracy which in many ways it kind of isn't right now and states supreme courts when confronted with this question and when the when justices are of the opinion that that this is something that needs fixing. i have found ways to do it. to answer your other question i became interested in gerrymandering about 15 years ago and really not an interesting story behind it. i was in grad school. i needed a topic to write a paper on and one of my professors suggested this. so okay, thank you. hi. thanks for this talk. it's very interesting. i guess this just a way i'm trying to think, you know, how could we make a difference as waiting for the upcoming supreme court election, april? you know, that's obviously one
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big thing we can do here in wisconsin. but i'm curious if you've ever like i don't know talked about or had people ask about people from gerrymandered districts have mobility actually like moving to other districts especially with the rise like teleworking in the last couple years, i think more people have that capability. i know it would require probably a lot of people to do that. but i'm just curious your take on that idea. i think it's an interesting idea and this is solution that you've heard come up. i think in other contexts moving to a particular state in order, try and say perhaps balance out the some of the bias the electoral college on i've yet to see it be successfully largely because have that kind of collective action problem you need to get everyone to follow on it and to the same place. it's probably right and then that then becomes at the end of the decade you get a new census
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and you have the opportunity to, to gerrymander things again and i, i like the idea in theory. i'm just a little skeptical that it could be executed on a large enough scale to really have a meaningful effect. so my question is you and many others want to, you know, who propose deal the independent commission is the solution to all of this and we showed some examples of where that's produced better maps but we also have certainly cases where independent commissions have produced maps that had some flaws in them, that got rejected times maybe didn't meet the voting rights act requirements in places. so the you know, the redistricting commissions are not when they're independent, not always flawless.
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and i think also because so many states go overboard in making sure that the people serve on those commissions are so removed from the political process that they often don't have. i think enough knowledge to completely some of what's historically been done. and you know you saw that your maps or the maps that you showed you all got that that margin down in terms the bias but it didn't get rid of it either and think some of that's the sophistication of the there. have you done any looking at about 12 or 13 years ago the redistricting lawyer hirsh proposed a solution that actually involves an commission but still has political parties very involved as being map proposers who then have to have their maps, you know, evaluated by the commission until they they kind of narrow down to the best map possible from each side
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issue competing ones. and you could even go a step allowing the to actually have it be part of a process. and you know with all of the technology now, you know, present hundreds of maps until you have kind of the best map, both largest, you know, both the parties as. well, as the public have put forward. no, i think that's we're still kind in the early stages. i think about figuring out what model is is going to be best for doing this. but absolutely, i think having a process that allows for as many submissions as possible as much information as possible providing expertise to commissions. and i certainly want to suggest that that they're panacea. but at the very least they tend to produce on average results that significantly better least in terms of bias. but i also think that it's important to be clear exactly what what criteria you want
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those commissions take into account and that ultimately is is a policy judgment. and i could see different states going different ways. but for me, at least, the first step is to get politicians out of involved with this process. and once we've done that, we can try and figure out what the best model is for redistricting through, a commission in this kind of 21st century environment, all the technology and all of that kind of stuff. so. okay, thank
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today, we to you, robert samuels told you already part the authors of his name is george


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