Supreme Court Would Like A Word With The Mapfuckers!

Hey, Liberals! How about we take a little break from the circular firing squad of recrimination over 2016, mmmkay? Are there problems in the Democratic party? SURE. But the Republicans have been able to hold together a coalition of robber barons and the very people they rape and pillage for two generations now. So, let's talk about the elephant in the room here: THIS COUNTRY IS GERRYMANDERED TO SHIT!

Which is not news, of course. California has two senators for 39 million people, where Wyoming has the same two senators representing 586,000. California has 55 electoral votes, or 1 for every 709,000 people. Wyoming's three electoral votes represent 195,000 voters each. Lucky Wyoming, where every voter gets 3.6 votes per Californian! This shit is more or less baked into our system -- it would require a Constitutional amendment to change. State level vote rigging is another story, however. And it's a story that the Supreme Court just agreed to hear!

In the past decade, Courts have said that partisan gerrymandering was Ay-Okay, as long as it didn't violate the Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising minority groups. Republican legislators took that ball and ran with it, employing an army of demographers to draw maps that would produce permanent Republican majorities. And your $5F lives in Maryland, which is comically Democratically gerrymandered, so yeahyeah #BothSidesDoIt. But Republicans control 33 state legislatures, so one side's doin' it a lot more!

Last November, a federal court in Wisconsin finally said, "ENOUGH, ALREADY!" Wisconsin Republicans had ratfucked the maps with such mathematical precision that Democratic votes were basically useless. The state had similar numbers of Democrats and Republicans, but Democrats were sliced up so that they could NEVER win the statehouse.

In 2012, the Republican Party received 48.6% of the two-party statewide vote share for Assembly candidates and won 60 of the 99 seats in the Wisconsin Assembly. In 2014, the Republican Party received 52% of the two-party statewide vote share and won 63 assembly seats.

The Wisconsin federal court used a new standard to evaluate whether gerrymandering is so partisan that it violates the Equal Protection Clause. And this morning, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case this fall. If the lower court's ruling is upheld, it will revolutionize voting across the country. So please forgive a math-heavy Lawsplainer, but this shit is really important!

The Efficiency Gap

The Efficiency Gap is a mathematical formula to waste as many of your opponent's votes as possible. Cracking and Packing is yesterday's gerrymandering. Today's mapfuckers are using granular data and computer modeling as a force multiplier. This is Cracking and Packing on steroids!

If a candidate only needs 51% of the votes to win, any votes over and above that are essentially wasted. Similarly, votes for a losing candidate are also wasted. The entire purpose of partisan gerrymandering is to cause your opponent to waste as as many of his votes as possible.

Here's a table that Kid $5F generated to illustrate the issue. (NB, even linebackers can be stats nerds!)

Imagine a state called Gerrymander with three electoral districts, each of which has 100 voters.

Republicans got fewer votes, but won the majority of districts. NOT AN ACCIDENT. You'll notice that the Republicans won in close races, where the Democrat won in a landslide. ALSO NOT AN ACCIDENT. Remember, all votes for a losing candidate are wasted, and any votes for the winner over 51 are wasted.

In the two Republican districts, Democrats wasted a lot of votes on their losing candidates, where Republicans voted efficiently -- they got their guys over the finish line without a lot of surplus votes. In Race 3, the Democrats only needed 51 votes to win, but they got 78. So across the state, Republicans wasted only 27 votes, while forcing Democrats to waste 120.

I feel reasonably confident that Republicans drew the electoral maps in the fictional state of Gerrymander!

To measure how inefficient Democratic votes were compared to Republicans, we use this handy formula.

Efficiency Gap = (Total Democratic Wasted Votes – Total Republican Wasted Votes) ÷ Total Votes


(120 Democratic Wasted Votes - 27 Republican Wasted Votes) ÷ 300 Total Votes = 0.31

But what does that even mean? means that Republicans were 30% more efficient in converting their votes into seats. And it means the system is really fucking rigged. So rigged, in fact, that the Wisconsin federal court found that it violated the Equal Protection rights of Democratic voters.

To be fair, Wisconsin's efficiency gap only favored Republicans by about 14%. But under this map, Democrats will never be able to get a majority in the Wisconsin legislature, despite making up half the state's voters. Even a wave year doesn't produce a 14% swing.

The Wisconsin court said that there has to be a point where partisan gerrymandering is so unfair that it violates the Constitution. So, they came up with a new standard.

We conclude, therefore, that the First Amendment and the Equal Protection clause prohibit a redistricting scheme which (1) is intended to place a severe impediment on the effectiveness of the votes of individual citizens on the basis of their political affiliation, (2) has that effect, and (3) cannot be justified on other, legitimate legislative grounds.

The plaintiffs argued that anything over a 7% Efficiency Gap should be considered to violate Equal Protection, unless the state can demonstrate another justification. (Think one blue city in an otherwise red state.) The Wisconsin federal court was unwilling to apply a specific percentage, but they did buy into the Efficiency Gap as a fair rubric for measuring the mapfuckery. The court threw out the state's maps and told them to redraw them in time for the 2018 elections.

Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case. On the one hand, this stays the redistricting order, so Wisconsin will probably be able to run the 2018 elections using its old maps. BOOOOO!!!!

On the other hand, if the Supreme Court agrees that there has to be a limit to partisan gerrymandering, it will be a political earthquake! And not just in state legislatures, either. In 2016, Republicans won 49.9% of the votes, but took 55.2% of seats in Congress. If Republicans can't mapfuck themselves into state legislatures and then mapfuck the House of Representatives, it's a whole new ballgame!

[Decisions, Whitford v. Gill / Brennan Center / Order, Whitford v. Gill / WaPo]

We did the math so you don't have to. MONEY PLEASE!

Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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