Tuesday, July 01, 2008

How many members of the League of Women Voters does it take to create a permanent Democratic majority?

Christian Schneider over at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Blog catches the "reformers" of trying to give the Democrats an eight-seat head-start.

Translation: All districts have to be competitive, except for the ones that are majority-minority, which (rightfully) can't be touched. If you consider the six Assembly districts currently represented by minorities, then add in a couple more that could very easily be represented by minorities, you're essentially giving Assembly Democrats an eight-seat handicap going into every election. (Kessler's district probably should have a minority representative, but he was helped by his guest spot on rapper Jay-Z's last album.) The bill does nothing but rig elections to favor Democrats, pure and simple.

The first rule in studying any election system is see whom it benefits. There is no politically neutral election law.

Andrea Kaminsky at the League of Women Voters admits she doesn't understand golf, doesn't have a sense of humor, and questions Schneider's workload.

We had asked candidates if they would support and vote for legislative measures making electoral competitiveness a legal or constitutional standard for establishing state legislative and congressional district boundaries following the next census. We also asked them if they would support the creation of an independent commission to handle the task of redrawing districts after each census beginning in 2011. The alternative would be to continue to have our current legislative leaders negotiate behind closed doors, a process which ultimately costs us millions just to maintain safe districts for incumbents.

But never mind the second question, it was the question about competitive districts that grabbed Mr. Schneider’s attention. He said it was answered with the introduction of a constitutional amendment (AJR 63), which ironically none of our groups supported and which never even had a hearing. From there he concluded that the League of Women Voters does not support the Voting Rights Act, something we lobbied very hard for at the national, state and local levels. It’s confusing, but so is golf for me.

In a couple of weeks the League will again partner with Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and Common Cause in Wisconsin to ask candidates to state their positions on issues that get at how to maintain a government that is honest, accountable, transparent and responsive to its citizens. We hope all candidates will respond to our questionnaire, so voters will know how where they stand on these issues and so Christian Schneider will have something to write about.

In other words, shut up until we tell the public how we're going to do this.

Christian Schneider responds by speaking slower so Kaminski understands,

...they don’t seem to make any point that refutes anything I said in the column. For the sake of clarity, let me boil it down:
    When you make electoral competitiveness a standard for legislative redistricting, it is impossible to make inner-city districts competitive. Doing so would require diluting the African-American vote, a strategy of segregationists.

    As a result, there are at least eight Assembly districts (and at least two Senate districts) that will be exempt from the competitiveness standard. This gives Democrats an eight-seat head start in legislative elections.
Ms. Kaminski reiterates her support for having an “independent” board drawing district lines, since the Legislature can’t be trusted to do so. In fact, the courts actually set the boundaries every decade. The Legislature generally writes their plan, then it goes to court, where judges eventually draw the lines. It has been this way in every redistricting since at least 1974.
I think Schneider got the best of the argument, even without his rebuttal. The questions Schneider didn't ask and I will, how does an unelected panel creating legislative districts an improvement over having elected representatives (you know, our voice in government) creating legislative districts? And given the volatile nature of the control of the two bodies, surely we are in an age of already competitive elections?