Crooked maps, crooked solutions

Anything to elect more Democrats!

The Wisconsin State Journal accepts as immutable fact that Wisconsin’s legislative districts are gerrymandered. This assertion is not confined to the opinion pages but appears as standard boilerplate in the midst of supposedly objective “news” stories.

The Werkes points out that the State Assembly that drew these supposedly crooked maps after the last Census numbered 60 Republicans, 38 Democrats and one independent. Inconveniently for the “we wiz robbed” conspiracists, that legislature was elected from districts drawn by a federal judge!

⇒ After the first election on the new and supposedly gerrymandered map in 2012, Democrats actually picked up a seat, making the party divide 60-39 Republican. 

Editorial page editor Scott Milfred, a good and honest journalist, parried that the Werkes was cherry picking the data, that we started our clock for comparison immediately after the tea party wave of 2010. That in 2008, The Assembly was a 52-46-1 Democrat majority. “So of course the Republicans had a large majority after the 2010 election” (elected before the 2010 Census results were known).

But that makes our point! Which is that political allegiances DO shift! And do so regardless of district boundaries.

⇒ The west side of Madison was once represented in the 1950s by Republican Carroll Metzner and into the 1960s by Robert O. Uehling. On November 3, Republicans lost two Assembly seats in once bright-red Mequon and Brookfield. 

Could Madison spare some Democrats?

Our favorite Madison-based daily newspaper went up Sunday 11-15-20 with a thumb-sucker by Fred (“Smooth as Silk”) Kessler. The former Democrat(ic) legislator is hellbent on making Wisconsin elections more “competitive” and damn the consequences. The State Journal promotes Iowa’s supposedly “non-partisan” redistricting panels. (The New York Times would tell you that it is “non-partisan.”) In any event, Ballotpedia reports that computer-generated redistricting in the Iowa House of Representatives resulted in 2 fewer competitive elections!

To his credit, Kessler will have none of non-partisan. He would go whole-hog partisan.

My proposal requires using the data about how people in specific districts have voted over the past four or five presidential or gubernatorial elections. It also would allow for disregarding some municipal and county lines and some communities of interest. 

In other words, he’d cut across your front lawn if it meant capturing a Democrat in a politically divided family. Right away, Kessler violates established court guidelines on community of interests. In Baldus v. GAB 2012, the state supreme court dismissed the primacy of partisanship over communities of interest: 

It is important not to assume that the mere ability to elect a representative of one’s preferred political party is a perfect substitute for the ability to elect a representative who will more broadly identify with and serve his or her constituents’ needs. The two major political parties are both big tents that contain within them people of significantly different viewpoints. 

In any event, in a geographic-based, district system, how does one make (for instance) the 76th Assembly district on Madison’s isthmus competitive when it is surrounded by districts similarly dominated by Democrats? The Democrat in that downtown Madison district took 88% of the vote November 3 in an open seat. Democrats in two Madison Assembly districts and in one open state senate seat were unopposed.

Look at the map; each and every one of Madison’s districts are overwhelmingly Democrat. To make the 76th competitive, one would have to draw a district that ran along the median strip of U.S. Highway 151 all the way to Beaver Dam to pick up enough Republicans. 

Blaska’s Bottom LineFounder Elbridge Gerry, the original manderer, would be impressed.

Are YOU impressed?

About David Blaska

Madison WI
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14 Responses to Crooked maps, crooked solutions

  1. mapkp says:

    Interesting points, Dave. I guess I’d still prefer an Iowa-like system that would be transparent, public and a bit removed from the sausage makers in the Capitol. Are there arguments against such a system?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good Dog,Happy Man says:

    Redistricting is a mandatory political process. Districts should use common sense, be contiguous, and not linear. The winners always draw the representative maps. Lefty losers like to label it “gerrymandering”, because it sounds much nastier and insidious than simple “redistricting”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • FoodForThought says:

      The existing Districts are very much linear and not common sense – that’s the whole point. Look at the 37th and 38th Districts. Look at 13, 14, 15, 22, 23, 24, 84. All are snakelike Districts that completely unnecessarily stretch across two or even three counties in an obvious attempt by the GOP to advanatage their party by packing voters who tend to vote more liberally in Milwaukee County or Dane County with much larger swaths of WOW County voters. The 56th in the Fox Valley is another obvious example.
      Yes, the Dems do tend to cluster in urban areas, but that didn’t stop the GOP from considerably further exacerbating that advantage with illogically shaped districts that favor their candidates.


  3. Steve says:

    The state has been gerrymandered by the fact that dems choose to live in very few voting districts in Madison and Milwaukee, leaving the vast majority to rural voters.

    Liked by 2 people

    • FoodForThought says:

      While it’s true the GOP has a natural advantage in the districting process because Dems tend to congregate in cities, the GOP clearly packed them into even fewer Districts than they should have been, and diluted the rest by packing them into Districts that slither far into rural areas.
      A number of GOP legislators and candidates agree such as Dan Kapanke. “What I have said about this, and I’m going to agree with you to a certain extent, if you look at some of the districts,” Kapanke said. “The Democrats right now are the minority, and they’re complaining about these districts and, some of them, they have some merit, some of their complaints. There’s no question.”

      Look at the boundaries for yourself and judge whether they were truly drawn as compactly as they should have been (particularly in the Milwaukee area, and stretching between Dane and Waukesha or Dodge Counties), or if they were instead drawn in illogical shapes to dilute liberal/urban voters:

      Kapanke quote source:


  4. dad29 says:

    computer-generated redistricting

    Why not? Computer-generated voting works so very damn well!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. sentient7 says:

    OT: WordPress, the platform what Dave uses, just ordered Conservative Treehouse to LEAVE the WordPress platform because of ideological incompatibility,…… AKA Censorship.

    So Dave, will you continue to use the platform of censorship?


  6. FoodForThought says:

    Kessler is a fringe voice in this argument, quoting him is silly. Listen to Dale Schultz and Tim Cullen who have held forums on the topic all over the state for years. Every county and town in the state that has voted on the issue (which includes the vast majority of Counties now) has overwhelmingly approved referenda supporting a process removing the politicians from the map drawing. It’s strange you don’t even reference once that the commission Evers is putting together is going to draw maps looking purely at population. That’s the way the boundaries should be drawn though you’d seem loath to ever acknowledge Evers might be on the right track.
    Yes political allegiances change, but often not very quickly – which is exactly what the GOP was counting on when they drew the boundaries last time. You comically had to reach back over 50 years to find an example of a Republican representing Madison in the Assembly.

    Further the GOP actually utilized the exact practices you call out as ridiculous in your example about making the Dane County Districts competitive (and drew them based on the most recent voting data – not just population). Just look at the District maps of the Milwaukee suburbs, they dilute the edges of Milwaukee County into nearly a dozen snakelike districts the stretch across and straddle the County line between Milwaukee and one or more of the WOW Counties. The fact that the Dems flipped a couple of those is a minor miracle and simply speaks to how majorly the suburbs back-lashed against Trump (a rare and geographically concentrated phenomenon). Half those districts should have just been entirely within Milwaukee county and half within the WOW Counties from the get-go. Current state law dictates the boundaries should be drawn as compactly as possible and follow county and municipal lines as much as possible – the current GOP maps very obviously do not. Meanwhile John Jagler’s 37th Assembly District comically stretches from DeForest to Oconomowoc in an obvious attempt to dilute the Dane County vote. The 38th District does virtually the same thing. The fact that you deny the current map is gerrymandered severely undercuts your credibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Robert Fowler says:

    The issue going forward is the ever more intense Democratic vote in the Madison area and the City of Milwaukee versus the much more spread out Republican vote in the bulk of the rest of the state. As long as this reality exists, there is no way Democrats are going to be able to control the Assembly for sure if present voting patterns hold. This reality must be faced and constant invocation of the word gerrymandering will not tell the full story. The facts, you know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • FoodForThought says:

      As I’ve pointed out in my other comments though, while you’re correct the fact also remains that the current maps are gerrymandered by the Republicans to further intensify that advantage. The districts are not compact or logically drawn unless the logic is to protect GOP seats in the Assembly. All the suburban Milwaukee Districts look like tendrils stretching out from Milwaukee into the WOW counties; they are clearly intended to dilute the Milwaukee County vote. The 56th in the Fox Valley is almost comically drawn in how obvious its intentions are to protect the GOP from concentrating too many urban voters in a District. The 37th and 38th are obviously intended to dilute Dane County voters, by packing them into a District the stretches all the way to the exurbs of Waukesha.
      As Dan Kapanke said, “The Democrats right now are the minority, and they’re complaining about these districts and, some of them, they have some merit, some of their complaints. There’s no question.”
      The maps should be drawn by looking purely at where population is located – recent voting patterns shouldn’t even be available for viewing, but the current maps were very obviously drawn instead by looking at recent election data.
      That’s the full story.

      Liked by 1 person

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