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tv   Nick Seabrook One Person One Vote  CSPAN  December 27, 2022 9:55am-10:57am EST

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listening. >> yes, thank you so much. >> thank you. >> if you're enjoying book tv sign up for the newsletter using the qr code on the screen. upcoming authors, programs, discussions and book tv on c-span2 every sunday. television for serious leaders. >> weekends on c-span2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday american history tv documents america's story and on sunday nonfiction books and thors. funding for c-span2 comes from these television companies and more, including cox. >> homework can be hard, but squatting in a diner for internet work is even harder, that's why we're providing lower income students access to affordable internet so homework
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can just be homework. cox connect to compete. >> cox, along with these television companies support c-span2 as a public service. >> nick seabrook wrote this book for, get this right, gerrymandering. hard g. just so you know. >>'s looking at something that this affects us in so many ways than we thought possible, and affected us for hundreds and hundreds of years and all of us handing standing or sitting in this room felt this in wisconsin. these are the types of events that make me so proud to be able to hand the microphone over to somebody and i'm going to hand it over to nick seabrook. ladies and gentlemen. [applause]
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>> well, 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 it famous for two of and cheese, i have a feeling that i'm going to enjoy my time here. the beer and cheese comes after the speaking engagements and it's very 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 original historical pronunciation, gerrymandering in america. whenever i talk about the topic of gerrymandering, with unof the most frequent questions
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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 mass 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 where we've seen particularly bad gerrymandering 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
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districts for political gain, is not a republican problem or a democratic problem. it's an american problem. and it's a quintessentially american people. american problem. it's what democracies the world over have experienced and for the most part have solved. 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 where gerrymandering comes from, if you read the book and hopefully i can explain this today as well, i think you'll most likely find that you are wrong, that the origins of gerrymandering are both older and more interesting than the
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legend that gets generally told in most of the 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 with a gentleman on this theme prior to 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 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 their representatives in government are doing, to throw the bums out.
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... w 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 they are supposed to be fulfilling and government. it undermines the basic responsiveness of the electoral system in a way that prevents voters are holding politicians accountable for the things thatt 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 enacting popular policies, when they know that their seats arekn safe, whn they know that the majority is safe, , they don't have to keep their fingers on the pulse of
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public opinion. they are free to use their power and authority to pursue whatever self interested or partisan goals that they would like to do, but are often constrained fromec doing because those thins will be unpopular with the electorate. and so in addition to the history of gerrymandering, this is also a book about presence of gerrymandering. and for reasons that i i talk about in the book, my goal in writing this was the kind of sound the alarm bells, to send out a warning to the american people that their democracy is not safe. and this is the kind of warning to a lot of people are sending out right now, for a variety of different reasons. i'd i think gerrymandering at
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its core is much more threatening to democratic accountability than any of the of the problems that are routinely and commonly identified in our system. i want to begin with the origin story of gerrymandering. every good villain needsin an origin story, and preferably that mythology should be shrouded in mystery. and when i i began researching this book, i thought that i knew quite af bit about the history f 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 t before tht to the colonial period, and even further back into british antiquity. and so i i want to touch a litte bit to begin with on that origin
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story and what was that gerrymandering camege from. on wednesday i was participating inat an event at the sandra day o'connor institute for american 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
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today have a fundamentally different set of tools by which they can manipulate the outcomes of our elections. tools that were simply not available even 25, 30 years ago, and the effects of that as i'll talk about a little bit later to 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
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a way that it has never previously done in u.s. history. most accounts of the origin of gerrymandering traced back to an individual who had a very long and impressive and storied career in american politics, a guy by the name of elbridge gerry, and the pronunciation of his last name of course lends us the term gerrymandering, or as was pronounced for a roundabout the first 50 years that the term was in use, gerrymandering that when is researching the book i was actually able to uncover the first historic referenced to gerrymandering being pronounced with a soft g as gerrymandering as opposed to the original hard
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g. 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-19thth century. and one of the delegates whose name was john pettit, which coincidentally is actually the name of one of my ancestors who was a british navy lieutenant and privateer. i think privateer is a more politically correct way to say what he engaged in during his career back in the 1700s. but this delicate john pettit made comments during a debate -- delicate -- over a proposed
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clause in the state constitution would've prevented by then the ubiquitous practice of gerrymandering. and he wasas quoted as saying during the debates, criticizing his opponents were 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 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
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frustrated by divided government. in particular, the majority that his political opponent, the federalists, held in the state senate at the time. gerry was a democratic republican. he had aligned himself with the presidencies of thomas jefferson and then also james madison. but during his first term in office he foundse himself frustrated by divided government. india been elected with allec of these grandiose policy ideas. he was going to usher in a democratic republican agenda inn a state that had previously been dominated by his federalist opponents. and the myth o of the origin of gerrymandering is that gerry concocted a scheme to rig the result of the 1812 massachusetts elections. and he did so by drawing the state senate districts in such a
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way that even if the federalists were to win the popular vote, the democratic republicans would nevertheless, capture a 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 trying to districts, and one district in particular, , a state senate district in essex county outside of boston, was particularly misshapen and. it was this kind of serpentine district 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 one district, then the 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
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voted for the federalist party than did the democratic republicans, but because of this gerrymandering, the democratic republicans were nevertheless, 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 take it on the historical momentum that it did were it not for the famous cartoon that accompanied that newspaper article. andd you have probably seen that cartoon, if you google the word gerrymander it is pretty much i the first image that'soi always going to come up. i think i have a version of it, clickack a second on the cover of my book. that is gerrymander cartoon of the state senate district in
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essex county massachusetts. what often gets left out of this story is that not only was gerrymandering happening long before elbridge gerry charybdis original gerrymander in essex county but gerry itself is not even responsible for the plan that led to his everlasting historical infamy. that led to his most lasting legacy being -- gerry and solomon which the district said to resemble that became attached to this kind of unseemly practice of manipulating districts for political gain. gerry had, if you believe his biographer, and most of the contemporary historical accounts that i uncovered all suggested
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that gerry itself was not especially keen on the plan. he thought that it was overly partisan. he thought that it was untoward and various, but he kind of went along with it 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 whileri the original gerrymander was created by the massachusetts state legislature, it was gerry's named the became attached to it. so if there's one thing that i hope this book does, it's that it at leastst to some extent indicates the historical legacy of elbridge gerry, who is remembered chiefly for this, even though he went p on to sere as vice president of the united states under james madison. even though he was one of the massachusetts delegates to the constitutional convention in
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philadelphia, 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, and his age was pretty much the only thing that prevented him from being remembered as jamess madison successor as president, rather than for this unseemly practice. gerry, unfortunately, passed away while he was serving as vice president under madison, and the rest, of course, is history. and so was i realize it every thing we knew about the origins of gerrymandering was pretty much wrong, i try to find out what was the earliest historical example of gerrymandering occurring on the american continent. and that took me back almost a century from 1812 massachusetts to the 1730s in the colony of
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north carolina. and itt turns out that the inventor of american gerrymandering was not even an american himself. like me, and if you've detected the head 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 actuallyhi earlier this year i became a fully naturalized u.s. citizen. so having written torts and researched american elections for almost two decades now, this november will be the first time i actually have an opportunity to vote in one. the last election that a vote in was actually the 2016 brexit referendum, and if you have checked in with uk politics recently, that one didn't go
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terribly well for us. the individual who i i make te 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 burlington to give his name the standard british pronunciation. unfortunately, there are no known likenesses of george burrington that survived to the present day, which is why he is represented by the anonymous social media account avatar that he have on the screen here. but burrington was a truly fascinating character. he was an individual who was not 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 shoulder
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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 burrington is political career. but the thing that 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 get i have tried in vain i think it is probably too late at this point to introduce the term burringmander because this is who this should be named after. so burrington was a british colonial governor of north carolina in the 17 \30{l1}s{l0}\'30{l1}s{l0}, and by the time he got around to engaging in the practice of gerrymandering, he was actually
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onha the second stint in that particular position. there's a very interesting story about how he ended up losing and then regaining his job but at the risk of spoiling get it in baltimore 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 had been frustrated by the opposition to his rule but he was receiving from the legislature, and the colonial legislature in north carolina consisted of two houses, and opera house that was made up of appointments of the governor himself and that represented the british crown, andy a lower house that was elected by the colonists and represented their interests. and it was that lower house that burrington that himself
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particularly frustrated with. and so in a fairly outrageous piece of parliamentary maneuvering, he forced the billl through the upper house, gerrymandering the boundaries of the lower house, to ensure that his cronies would control and majority and that the colonists would no longer be able to obstruct his agenda. moving forward, there are even examples of gerrymandering 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 then another f famous example of how to talk the book as well, an attempt by patrick henry to prevent his arch nemesis james madison from being elected to the first congress. that story ended up in the only time in u.s. history that two
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future presidents have faced off a single seat in congress. the candidates were 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 before the first congress. one can only imagine how differently u.s. history might have gone had patrick henry been successful at gerrymanderinger james madison out of the first congress. so that's most of what i have to say about the history of gerrymandering, but a large part of the book is spent on relating some of the most interesting stories of gerrymandering that occur throughout the 18th, 19th, 20th centuries, and in particular highlighting how this practice has intersected with and influenced some of the major
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events in u.s. history, including the civil war, the career of presidents like abraham lincoln in andrew johnson, and even the civil rights movement as well. 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 dated, the software, the computing power they can be deployed in service ofpu the manipulation of election districts for political purposes. you go backer to early periods d redistricting was done by pouring over reams of census data, and often drawing lines on a map using pencils and erasers. around about the 1970s the
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very first computer software began to be used for the redrawing of district boundaries, but even then those programs were not especially sophisticated. they would allow you to analyze what has 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 would never -- was no 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 that at the time, 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
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under the radar gerrymandering has become the greatest threat to american representative democracy. the way that the lines are drawn today involve 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 that you can use to learn about the 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 u.s. history is the software and the computing power, and particularly the ability to run thousands of stimulations n hypothetical district boundaries and predict how those districts will perform under a wide variety off hypothetical future
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electoral elections. instead of trying to six i givee you an advantage and then finding that that advantage evaporates a couple of elections down the road, maybe because some incumbents retire and jeff open seats, , maybe because you get it but particularly popular presidential candidate from the opposition and the end up winning a significant majority of the popular vote, these are the kinds ofen unforeseen developments that often led to the collapse of thege gerrymands of yesteryear. but now not only can you produce thousands of potential sets of district 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 a results, tinker with the variables and see what's
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likely to happen if incumbents retire. you can see what's likely to happen if your party p loses the popular vote by a certain amount, and you can build a a redistricting plan that will remain robust in the face of all of these plausible future scenarios. this is exactly what has been like wisconsin. and so what concerns me now is that gerrymandering is something that cannot effects are multiple decades at a a time. you can draw districts as asa districts were drawn here in wisconsin in 2010 so that one political party controls and 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 you have a new census. they get to tinker with the
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boundaries, incorporate all of the' new information i have accumulated over that decade, and then roll things back again. this is a relatively new phenomenon, and the kind of gerrymandering that we have 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 well, and some of the states that do redistricting badly. and the state of michigan is the state that has been in both categories in recent decades. and 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 afteren the 2010 census, and thy had used that control to draw the districts so that they remain in the majority in both
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houses of the michigan legislature throughout the decade. they also drew the u.s. house of representativess district so tht 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 the state constitution. this amendment created the michigan citizens redistricting commission. it took control of the drawing of districts in michigan away from the state legislature and gave it to an independent commission made up of ordinary citizens. for republicans -- four republicans, four democrats, five independents, all registered voters selected at random from the pool of all of
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the people who applied. now michigan was not the first day to experiment with this model. in fact, it had been done previously in california as well, and it is now also done in the state of colorado. but this fundamental andun simpe change simply removing politicians from the equation was night and day in terms of the fairness of michigan elections. a map that you can see on the screen here is the u.s. house of representatives that was produced by the michigan citizens redistricting commission. five safe republican seats, four safe democratic seats and four highly competitive seats that couldhe go either democratic 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 called the efficiency gap. the efficiency gap is the
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measure that social scientists have developed to capture the severity of gerrymandering in a state here 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 of an extremely fair electoral map. and importantly, you have a critical mass of competitive seats 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 u.s. house delegation. another example of a state that does things well, i mentioned thisly previously, is the statef arizona. arizona, notnt coincidentally, also has an independent
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redistricting commission. it was also created by the people through a ballot initiative in the 2000 election. and this illustrates a 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 redistrictingtr reform measures half past in blue states, like california and new york. they have passed in swing states like florida and michigan. at that passed red states like utah. all of those states when given an opportunity to vote on the question, the people decided that they wanted w to reduce the influence of politicians on the drawing of districts. arizona as you can see has a nice mix of red districts, blue districts, and competitive
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districts. this is what you want to see in the redistricting map. a slight bias towards democrats, but i think when you see the next map you will see that things l can get a whole lot woe in terms of the level of bias that you can find in a redistricting map. this is home state of florida, and we have of course been in the news quite a lot recently for some of the various componentsno of governor desantis his policy agenda, which has been not without some controversy. but governor desantis also, controversially, vetoed the m redistricting map that the republican state legislature hasn't drawn. and this is one of the very only times in u.s. history where a governor has vetoed a redistricting plan that was created by a legislature
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controlled by his own political party. the problem that governor desantis had was that while the gop legislatures map at a bias towards republicans in it, that life was not large enough for his liking. so it took control of the process and what came out of that was this map that was drawn by the governor's office in consultation with various republican redistrictingng opportunists. the subject of that is 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 ofse competitive seas that are on the electoral playing field, and you create as many safe seats for your own political party as you can, and as you safe seats for your opponents. the result is that in the state
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of florida, by pretty much any metric, a swing state, although a state that partially because of gerrymandering, has been controlled by the republican party going all the way back to 2000. but florida and its 28 house districts as a 18 safe republican seats, eight safe democratic seats, and only two competitive seats. so fewer than either michigan or arizona, even though florida has more than twice as many districts as either ofth those states. you can also see by the efficiency gap metric that this map is ten times as biased towards republicans as the arizona map was towards democrats. and efficiency gap of 20.2% towards republicans is just about the most biased congressional map ive have seenn all of my research on this topic. but that is i not to say that
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democrats won't engage in these kinds of shenanigans given the opportunity. in new york, despite a ballot initiative in new york that created a redistricting commission, the legislature nevertheless, reassumed control of the process. and this i think illustrates a crucial lesson when comes to redistricting reform, that when you take 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 commission's role was an advisory one, and the law allowed the legislature to override it in exceptional circumstances.ce of course everything these days is an exceptional circumstance. democrats in new york drew a map that is almost as bad as the one
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for republicans drew in florida. 20ep safe democratic seats, four safe republican seats and two competitive seats were andnd efficiency gap of d+ 8.6. not the worst in the world but still a pretty heavily biased set of districts. and thenet something happened. the new york courts overturned a map of the legislature has put in place, and instead they replaced it with this one. and this kind of illustrates how you can make a gerrymander go away. what you do is you draw more competitive seats. the map thatco the court put in place, while still tilted towards democrats, , neverthele, added five competitive districts to the new york landscape and removed five safe democratic seats, moving the buys much closer towards parity. this is an example of how the
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courts can play a role in scrutinizing what legislatures do. thee problem is that you're relying on the justices or the judges to read the state constitution to prohibit these types of practices. there are plenty of other states or similar lawsuits have been filed which did not lead to this kind of result. which brings me back inevitably to wisconsin. a lot of the focus when it comes to gerrymandering tends to be on federal elections. if you followed any of the political news over the last six months or so, almost all of the coverage of this topic seems to be about what gerrymandering will do for democrats or republicans chances of winning control of the house. and that's certainly a valid
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concern, but the point i been repeatedly attempting to hammer home is bad really severe effects of gerrymandering are happening at the state level. they're happening in state legislatures and they're happening in places like wisconsin. and the font here may be a little too small for you to read on the screen there, but basically in the 2008 election, democrats won about 1.5 million votes in the wisconsinn statehouse, and republicans -- sorry, democrats won 1.5. republicans want about 1.2 for democrats then one a slight majority of the overall seats. in 2010 you had a republican wave, and a surprisingly the gop took control of the state legislature and this of course gave governor scott walker the opportunity to control the
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redistricting process. in 2012, under the new republican boundaries, the result of the popular vote was remarkably similar to what it was in 2008. 2008. democrats want a slight majority of the popular vote, 1.4 million votes to around about 1.2. but the result was very different. instead of the slight democratic majority of 52-46 that you got in 2008, in 2012 democrats, despite winning the popular vote, 139 seats to republicans 60. andnd that alignment has been pretty much glued in place ever since in all of elections at a been held here in wisconsin since the 2010 redistricting. and that creates the situation that i was cautioning against at
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the beginning. the republicans who control the wisconsin state legislature know that their majority is safe. the individual politicians who have been drawn into the safe seats knowey that their seats ae safe, and that all have to do to win reelection is to win over their 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 were democrats win a majority, and you basically have the exact same results. there is so meaningful change in the percentage of seats that are held by one party or the other. so what can we conclude from this? i tried to avoid this being kind
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of a doom and gloom, all pessimism 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, the one that at the very least prevents politicians from overtlying in the process. and that is the independent redistricting commission. we have seen this work in michigan. we have seenve it work in arizo. we have seen it work in other states as well, but most importantly we have seen it work in just about every nation that uses districts for its legislative elections. begin with new zealand in 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
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simply to remove politicians from the equation entirely, to have some kind of independent entity. now, that independent process will not always produce perfect results. no redistricting map is ever 100% fair, but at the very least it 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 a critical mass of the districts in the legislature are at least competitive enough, that there's a meaningful opportunity for them to change hands. this off course is the key mechanism of democratic accountabilityty and electoral responsiveness. when peopleeeo are unhappy withe politicians in power, , they are going to vote against that political party.
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and if enough districts are competitive, that political party going to lose its majority. majority. this forces them to pay attention, at least to some extent, to public opinion. this forces them, at least to some extent, to attempt to enact policies that are reasonably popular with electorate in their state. whether it iss being done by democrats or by republicans, and a 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 the 1970s and the 1980s, the boot was on the other foot, and it was democrats that were successfully gerrymandering in places like california. i'd say that if there's one kind of pc phrase that you should take away from the book, that encapsulates the message that i'm trying to sell, it's that
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votershould choose the politicians.s. politicians should not choose their voters. and that is everything that i have in termsms of my talk, buti am 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, their maps wisconsin coalition which addresses the very problem you've been speaking about here, wisconsin united to a man which is looking for a constitutional amendment to overturn citizens united, get act constitutional amendment this is only actual human beings are people. churches, buildings corporation socal. free spending is at the same as free speech. and voters first wisconsin which
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is looking to replace partisan primaries with final five voting which is designed to eliminate the divisiveness and the polarization that results from only the partisan activists being involved in determining who the final two candidates are for the election. all three of these good government operations face to make major obstacles. first of all, they're all procedural. they change the way we do business. they are not substantive like thingson like abortion or immigration o or inflation or gs or crime or any of those things that are got issues people can viscerally relate to, and they are sort of abstract in that regard. but the second and major problem 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 system to want to change the current system, which is basically saying please vote against your own self interest.
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and this isi a huge obstacle to overcome. i was hoping you had some helpful hints for us. >> well, thank you for that. certainlyin appreciative of the work that you were doing. and i agree, this is kind of the central dilemma of trying to fix gerrymandering, which is that the people who have the strongest incentives not to fix it other people who are benefiting the most from the status quo. 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 a ballot initiative. so places like california and michigan and colorado, it's possible to collect signatures, get anop initiative put on the ballot for thean people to vote on, and if it passes, that then amends the state constitution which unfortunately is not an
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option that's available in a number of states, including wisconsin. but i did actually think about this ahead of time because i figured that there might be a questionco about what can be doe in wisconsin. so here's my kind of five-step you might go about fixing it, because the central problem right now of course is that there iss no way that 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. your state supreme court shouldn't be more democratically accountable than yourr 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
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are going to be more inclined to scrutinize gerrymandering by the legislature. and at some point, hopefully if you can keep up a legal case and of the state supreme court struck down the gerrymandered boundaries, you canen then get a fair electoral system that makes it more likely that we can elect a majority that might be inclined to propose an amendment to the state constitution. and so i believe the procedures here are that to amend the constitution it has to passed both chambers of the legislature in successive sessions so they have to pass it once, then you have to have an election, and then the new legislature has to then pass the amendment as well. and then it goes to the people for popular vote. so step one is to get the state supreme court packed with justices were going to scrutinize gerrymandering.
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step two is to elect the majority to the legislature who want to do something about this problem. and then step three, do that twice in a row and then get it put on the ballot. i appreciate that this is a pretty enormousas 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 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 go about fixing this problem in wisconsin. >> i said is going to try to avoid pessimism. that's about the closest iet can get to optimism on that front. >> thank you. i think a book looks like a significant contribution to those of us that are interested in this issue. i initially came up with come to
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ask your question asyo to how yu got interested in the topic of gerrymandering. seems like you are relatively recently came to this country. i wonder if there might be a question there. on the wisconsin supreme court, i will just throw this out there. the wisconsin constitution has a provision that parallels that declaration of independence which talks about the purpose of government being to secure the consent of the governed and that the legislature is institution to do that. in the gerrymandering case where they said were going to uphold the new gerrymanders of the next ten years, there's one sentence and that this ase' that's had nothing to there's nothing in that wisconsin version of the decoration mac this is anything about redistricting. so it's a problem to try to get
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the supreme court to do anything, as long as it has the current composition. >> one of the things i've observed looking at stateur 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 of thing that you're talking about, and a don't notice of the top of my head but a lot of state that 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 stateti 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. and state supreme courts when confronted with this question
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and when the justices are of the opinion that this isat something that needs fixing, have found ways to do it. to answer your other question, i became interested in i gerrymandering about 15 years ago, and there's really not interesting story behind it. i was in grad school and i need a topic to write a paper on and one of my professors suggested this. >> okay, thank you. >> thanks for the talk, very interesting. this is a way i'm trying to think how can we make a difference as we are waiting for the upcoming supreme court election next april. that's one big thing we can do inin wisconsin but i'm curious f you've ever, like, i don't know, talked about her and ask about people from gerrymandered districts who have mobility to actually like moving to other
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districts, , especially with ths rise of teleworking last couple of years. i think more people have that capability. i'm curious your take on that idea. >> i think it's an interesting idea, and this is a solution that you've heard, i think in other contexts moving to a particular state in order to try and say perhaps balance out some of the bias in the electoral college. i have yet to see it be done successfully, largely because you have that kind of collective action problem. you need to get everyone to follow through on it. and then the issue then becomes at the end of the decade to get a new census and you have the opportunity to gerrymandered things again. 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
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meaningful effect. >> so my question is, you and many others who want, you know, who propose the deal, the independent commission is a solution to all of this, and you showed examples of where that's produced better maps. but we also have certainly case of independent commissions have produced maps that had some serious flaws in them, , they gt rejected multiple times, maybe didn't meet the voting r rights act requirements in places ask of the redistricting commissions are a not, come when their independent, not always flawless. think also because so many states go overboard in making sure that 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's
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historically been done. you know,w, you saw the maps tht you showed got that margin down in terms of the bias, but it didn't get rid of it either. and i a think some of that is sophistication of the people there. have you done anyny looking at, about 12 or 13 years ago the redistricting lawyer sam hirsch propose a solution that actually involves an independent commission but still has the political parties very involved as beingng map proposers who thn have to have their maps, you know, evaluated by the commission until they kind of narrow down to the best map possible from each side issue competing ones. you could even go a step further, allowing the public to actually be part of the process, and with all the technology now, you know, present ultimately hundreds of maps until you kind of the best map, both the
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parties as well as a public have put forward. >> no, i think that's, we are still kind of in the early stages i think about figuring out what model is going to be best for doing this. but absolutely, i think having a process that allows for as many submissions as possible, , as mh information as possible, providing expertise to commissions, and i certainly don't want to suggest that they are a panacea. but at the very least they tend to produce on average results that are significantly better, at least in terms of bias. but i but i also think thats important to be clear exactly what criteria you want those commissions to take into account, and thatnd ultimately s 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 being involved with this
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process, and once we have 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 with all of the technology and all that kind oftu stuff. [applause] >> thank you. >> if you are enjoying booktv then sign-up for our newsletter using the qr code on the screen to receive a schedule of upcoming programs, , author discussion, book festivals and more. booktv every sunday on c-span2 or anytime online at, television for serious readers. >> weekends on c-span2 on intellectual feast. every saturday american history tv documents america's stories, and


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