Each redistricting dataset merges the electoral data the SWDB collected and processed over the preceding decade with the most current census data (PL94-171). The result is a census block level dataset that allows for longitudinal analysis of electoral data over time on the same unit of analysis. Electoral data consist of the Statements of Vote (SOV) and Statements of Registration (SOR) for each statewide election. These data are collected from the Registrars of Voters for each of the 58 California counties with each election.
The SWDB collects the Statement of Vote and the Statement of Registration along with various geography files from each of the 58 counties for every statewide election. The Statement of Vote is a precinct level dataset and precincts in California change frequently between elections. The goal of the SWDB is to make election data available that can be compared over time, on the same unit of analysis – a precinct, a census block or a census tract.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI) - Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Author: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Staff
It really is this simple: Do Wisconsin voters want to choose their representatives? Or do they want to allow their representative to choose them?
Without reform of the state's redistricting law - reform that would take the power to redraw political boundaries out of the hands of politicians - the latter will continue to be the law in Wisconsin. That's wrong; the redistricting law must be changed for the good of the state's election system.
Creative redrawing of state legislative and congressional boundaries helps ensure incumbents remain in office and destroys competitive elections in most districts. Common Cause Wisconsin says that fewer than 10% of seats in the state Legislature now can be considered competitive.
This is one of the reasons partisanship runs amok: When the general election is not competitive, the contest shifts to party primaries, and candidates move to the far wings of their parties to compete and then stay there. In safe districts, there is little competition for voters in the middle or from the other party.
When Democratic voters are packed into Democratic districts and Republicans are crammed into Republican-friendly areas, some voters are disenfranchised.
In the November congressional races, for example, Republicans won five of Wisconsin's eight seats. But overall, they captured fewer votes than Democrats. Republican congressional candidates received 48.9% of the vote statewide while Democrats received 50.4%, according to statistics compiled by the state Government Accountability Board.
In legislative races, Republicans also cleaned up, retaking the state Senate and holding on to a commanding majority in the Assembly.
Wisconsin may be a 50-50 state in political identity and in presidential politics. But thanks to the Republicans' handiwork, that's not the case in elections.
Understand, we have no doubt that if the Democrats had controlled both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office, they would have done the same for their party. That is precisely what happened in Illinois.
We favor a change that would transfer the power to redraw district lines, which must be done to ensure equal representation after each census, to a nonpartisan agency. In Iowa, the Legislative Services Agency has drawn up new districts for the past 30 years. The LSA gets three tries before the process is turned over to the courts. Last year, the process, as usual, worked well and at far less expense than the gaggle of attorneys Wisconsin Republicans needed to 1) draw the maps and 2) defend them.
Wisconsin taxpayers are on the hook - so far - for nearly $1.9 million, reports the Journal Sentinel's Jason Stein. About $431,000 went to the law firm Michael Best & Friedrich for drawing the maps; $1 million to the law firm Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren to defend the maps; and $443,000 to plaintiffs who successfully challenged Latino districts.
The legal fight is likely to continue: On Friday, groups suing the state asked a federal court to let them search three state computers used to draw up the maps, and they may ask to see the computers of an attorney and consultant who worked on them.
Republicans have argued that the Iowa model isn't as accountable as entrusting the job to elected officials. Here's what they ask: Do you want faceless bureaucrats doing the job? And here's our answer: Yes. It's better to have a trusted, nonpartisan organization, such as the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, do the work than a political party, which brings in hired guns to figure out who can vote for whom. Partisan politicians will never create a less partisan system. The incentive is to do just the opposite.
Legislators also should consider another model. In California, voters in 2008 turned redistricting over to an independent group of citizens. The result: more contested races.
Politically, there is an opening for change in Wisconsin. Most legislators, if history serves as a guide, will not be in office by the time the changes take effect. But we're under no illusions.
Republicans, who control the Legislature and governor's chair, show no interest in reform. We give Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) credit for honesty for telling us in December: "I'm not incredibly supportive of the concept." And that's likely because the partisan maps designed last year make it possible for Republicans to hang on to power for a very long time - possibly long enough to have a shot at redrawing the maps again in 2021.
But Vos and his colleagues should remember that one day the shoe will be on the other foot. And on that day, they'll be wishing that the process at least was fair.
Let's make it fair now. Let voters choose their representatives.