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Something to be Thankful For

Things might seem pretty dark for Democrats this Thanksgiving, but there are some silver linings.

First, a little-mentioned court decision just happened that could have profound and far-reaching consequences. The reason it has not been mentioned much is that it is extremely wonky, but that doesn’t diminish its importance. Indeed, this decision has the potential to remake the electoral map, and largely in favor of the Democrats.

The court decision struck down redistricting in Wisconsin as being too favorable to Republicans (and the decision was written by a Reagan appointee!). This alone is big news, because it is the first time gerrymandering has been declared illegal on purely political grounds (rather than racial).

But the really important part is that the decision creates an easy-to-calculate measure that can potentially be used to judge whether illegal gerrymandering has occurred. This measure is called the “efficiency gap” (explanation at link, and there is a good short explanation here).

In 2004, the Supreme Court noted that partisan gerrymandering should be illegal, but bemoaned that there was no good measure by which to judge whether it had occurred. This new district court ruling provides that measure. The case will almost certainly end up in the Supreme Court and it has a good chance of passing. If that happens, it can prevent and even overturn quite a bit of gerrymandering.

This could be a big deal for Democrats. As Electoral Vote points out, not only did Democrats get more votes in the presidential election, they also got more votes in the Congressional elections. Anything that makes voting more fair, and especially the reduction of gerrymandering, could help swing quite a few races. It is important to remember that even though that Republicans are about to control all of the government, they are still a minority party, and Democrats are the majority party.



  1. Dave, TN wrote:

    I guess then this will make it all that more important for Democrats to fight the Trump appointment of the vacant supreme court position. It may cost the Democrats in the short term but in the long term it will pay dividends. We will see which way they go, short term gain or play the long game, it depends on the leadership of the Democratic party.

    Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink
  2. The same legal approach can be applied to the Electoral College. The Constitution established the EC but allows the individual states to decide on the procedure for selecting the delegates. The “winner take all” process can be ruled as unconstitutional under the equal protection clause. Awarding delegate proportionally would preserve the intent of the EC (giving balance to the small states) yet allow it to reflect the vote of the electorate.

    Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink
  3. westomoon wrote:

    Agree, this is a thrilling development. Its success depends on the Supreme Court, that sadly broken reed, but it is wonderful to finally have the franchise-stripping effect of gerrymandering recognized.

    There’s one more note of hope today: the Jill Stein campaign has been persuaded to spearhead a call for a recount and examination of the recent vote in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. (Only a candidate can request a recount.)

    In 24 hours, the fund for this has grown from $0 to more than $3.5 million — more than enough for the filing fees, and about half the total estimated cost. Contributions are being accepted at, and they’re happy to get $5.

    “Here are the filing fees and deadlines for each state:

    Wisconsin: $1.1 million by Nov 25
    Pennsylvania: $0.5 million by Nov 28
    Michigan: $0.6 million by Nov 30

    Those are filing fees alone. The costs associated with recounts are a function of state law. Attorney’s fees are likely to be another $2-3 million, then there are the costs of the statewide recount observers in all three states. The total cost is likely to be $6-7 million.”

    This won’t address voter suppression or the decimation of voter rolls by Crosscheck and other means, nor their potential INflation by Russian hackers, but it will look at the mechanisms for counting votes. One of the clearest, most concise articles I’ve found on how this election — top to bottom — was stolen is at . PLEASE READ!

    Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  4. westomoon wrote:

    Just realized — if you haven’t been following this topic, this might sound crazy to you. Here are two appetizers:

    “Sources cited by Rosenfeld say Clinton won only those Wisconsin counties with paper ballots, while losing those with a mix of paper and machine voting by 1-2%, and those with only machines only by 10-15%.” (from RSN article linked above)

    And from an election-night report by Richard Hayes Phillips:

    “Voter turnout, according to the latest unofficial figures, was highest in Sauk County, at 92.28% countywide (34,323 ballots cast, 37,195 registered voters). Upon closer examination, these numbers are not credible.

    In the City of Baraboo, Sauk County, according to the latest numbers posted on official government websites, there were 8,390 ballots cast, and 6,923 registered voters, which equates to a voter turnout of 121.19%.”

    Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    It is ironic that Republicans, who are so very concerned about voter fraud, don’t seem to be the least bit worried about how easy it is to hack voting machines. There has been pressure to use voting machines that include a paper receipt, but that won’t matter unless we actually check those receipts, which is exactly what a recount will do. So a recount is a very good idea regardless of who you think will benefit.

    Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 1:06 pm | Permalink