Redistricting hearing: Day 2 in Franklin court, ‘expert’ says house cards give ‘extreme advantage’

By Al Cross
The rural blog

A Democratic redistricting expert testified Wednesday that State House’s new district map has “perhaps the most extreme advantage to a party in a legislative map that I’ve ever seen,” and a Republican lawyer spent hours trying to discredit the expert and the methodology. he used.

Towards the end of a long day at Franklin Circuit Court, State Representative Derrick Graham of Frankfort, chairman of the State House Democratic Caucus, said the House map had discouraged Democrats from running for seats in the Room. He also objected to the map of Congress drawn by the Republican majority in the legislature.

Graham is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by the state’s Democratic Party against state election officials. He says the cards should be discarded because they are extreme examples of partisan gerrymandering, violating the state constitution’s requirement that “all elections shall be free and equal.”

Representative Derrick Graham

This is an untested legal argument. To make their case, the Democrats hired expert witnesses from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Devin Caughey, an associate professor of political science at MIT, testified Wednesday that while Republicans are likely to get 58.5% of the vote in this year’s State House races, they are likely to win 80 of the 100 seats. They have 75.

Caughey said the plan is more biased than 99% of plans ever rated by PlanScore, a Campaign Legal Center project, which says it “fights for the right of every American to participate in the democratic process.” He used the project’s open-source software to evaluate House and Congressional maps.

Assistant Attorney General Victor Maddox used his cross-examination of Caughey to frame the project as one led by partisan Democrats. Caughey said he was a registered Democrat who voted for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor of California and does not let his political beliefs influence his statistical analyses, and said the software and project was developed and overseen by “leading experts in this field”.

Maddox previewed testimony coming Thursday from Republican experts who say the software and Caughey fail to take into account several factors that can influence the outcome of the election, including Kentucky’s political geography. He asked Caughey many questions about the geography of Kentucky that Caughey could not answer.

Caughey said his analysis was statistical and limited to using PlanScore software, which uses recent election results to measure the partisan bias of precinct plans. It estimates the “efficiency gap” created by “lost votes,” defined as those cast for a losing candidate, or each vote for a winning candidate above the number required for election.

Devin Caughey, MIT

“A party with many wasted votes is inefficient at translating votes into seats,” Caughey said in his written report. “The efficiency gap is thus defined as the difference in the share of lost votes between parties.”

One of the experts who will testify for the defense on Thursday, University of Kentucky political science professor Stephen Voss, noted in a written report that the plan drafted by House Democrats had an effectiveness gap of 10.7%, while the Republicans’ plan was 13.4%. Caughey said that means the Republican plan makes three more seats likely to go Republican, and “it’s the 3% that eliminates that efficiency gap,” more biased than 98% of all other recent legislative plans across the country. country.

Maddox noted that the House redistricting plan passed in 2013, when Democrats controlled the House, showed no gap in effectiveness when Voss executed it through PlanScore. Noting that the Democrats lost 17 seats and their majority in the 2016 election, Maddox asked Caughey, “PlanScore got it wrong, didn’t it?

Caughey said the software is not designed to predict the outcome of any particular election. After the 2016 election, Republicans awarded several of their House seat pickups to Donald Trump’s coattails, which lifted the state by 30 percentage points.

Victor Maddox, Assistant Attorney General, Kentucky

Maddox objected to Caughey being called an expert witness, but Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate overruled it, saying he wanted to create as complete a record as possible for the state Supreme Court to decide. ultimately the question.

Late in the day, Graham said he and other House Democrat leaders had likely made more than 100 calls to recruit candidates for this year’s House election, but found no candidates for 41. of the 100 seats in the House, in part because potential candidates were discouraged by the new map.

“A lot of them said to the three of us, ‘They’ve changed districts, I can’t run in this district’ and ‘I’m not sure I can win in this district, given the changes that are going on. have been brought, nor can I collect the money I’m going to need to run against an incumbent.” In cross-examination, Graham said he couldn’t remember who told him that without see his call list, which he said he did not have with him. He said many were in western Kentucky.

Graham said the biggest impact of the new map is on public policy, because Democrats have so few legislative seats they are “unable to work with the other side to craft policy.” He noted that the recent bill to fund charter schools passed the House 51-46. He agreed with a comment by plaintiffs’ attorney Casey Hinkle that “a few members can make a difference.”

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