Sunday, December 03, 2017

New Look Voter Cards First Stage Of Voter ID Law

UPDATED: For not the first time, the Secretary of State has changed the game plan, as announced at a training of election staffers this week; in a surprise there has been an improvement.

Iowa voter cards will have a new look this week as the details of the state's new voter ID law kick in, starting with a big mailing this week.

Under the provisions of House File 516, an Iowa driver's license is the default voter ID. (This also includes Iowa DOT non-driver ID cards. For the sake of brevity, from here on out every time I say "license" I also mean "or non-driver ID.") There are some other limited options, but these options do NOT included licenses from other states or student IDs.

Voters who do not have an Iowa license are supposed to be sent a special ID card to use instead. This provision of the law was added, likely with some reluctance, to help HF516 withstand legal challenge. Rulings on laws in other states have held that, if a voter ID is required, a free alternative must be allowed.

Over the weekend of November 18, the Secretary of State processed a cross-reference between the Iowa license database and the driver's license database. They also changed some reports in the voter system so that new voter cards will conform to the details of the new law.

Many voters who actually have Iowa licenses did not have them on their voter records. Some simply left them off the registration form, because more people remember their Social Security numbers than their licenses. One or the other is required (I'm skipping some detail here). But most of the newly included license numbers were for people who registered before 2003, when the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) kicked in and we started asking for license numbers.

During debate over HF516, the Secretary of State's office frequently cited 85,000 as the number of active status Iowa voters without an Iowa license number, but after processing, that estimate has jumped to 123,000. Under terms of HF516, the Secretary of State will do the initial mailing to these voters. After that, voter ID cards will be sent out as part of the routine work of processing registrations by county auditors (translation: I get to do it.)

There will be two different kinds of voter cards. The terminology is a little confusing, and which one you get depends on whether or not you have an Iowa license. They are fold-over cards and look identical from the outside.

This is the "Voter ID" card that people without Iowa licenses will get. The initial mailing to the 123,000 people currently registered without an Iowa license is scheduled for December 6 - a very off-time for the election cycle, so many of these very very important cards will be ignored, misplaced, or discarded before they're needed next year.

In a change from the original plan, this first wave of cards will be mailed in an envelope with a page of explanation. After that, they will get sent as cards.

It's worth noting that these cards look very, very different than the Iowa licenses that most people will be showing. That singles out these voters and makes them more obvious to people who want to challenge voters at the polls.

See also the PIN listed just below the signature space. If you don't have an Iowa license and want a mailed absentee ballot next year, you will have to include this obscure piece of data on your request form.

And, in a nasty bureaucratic twist: Even though your friendly local election staffer can look at your voter record and see this number, they cannot use it to complete your form. They will have to contact you by phone or by snail mail, during an early voting window that has shortened from 40 days to 29, to get you to give them a number that your friendly local election staffer can not only see, but that they can find more easily than you can.


Voters who do have an Iowa license will not be part of this week's mailing. They will still get a card in the mail whenever they update or change registration. But this will be called a "confirmation card" or a "verification card" to distinguish it from the "ID card."

Note the prominent "This notice will not be accepted as identification at the polls." (It may not be in color depending on your county and its printer.)

One not as big but still significant change with these cards: The correction and change space that was on the old voter cards is now gone. That was an easy and fast way for voters to make changes by mail. Just write in the stuff that changed and sign it. Now they'll have to complete a full voter registration form. There's also a bar code missing from the confirmation card that used to speed up my work a lot.

Both of the new cards were programmed into the state voter registration system over the weekend of November 18, so there are a few already in circulation. After the initial mailing by the Secretary of State next week, both these cards will be mailed out by auditors regularly, each time a voter registers or makes a change. Which one you get depends on whether or not you have an Iowa license.

Any time there is a large voter card mailing, many cards are undeliverable. When mailings are returned as undeliverable by the post office, auditors are normally required to place voters on "Inactive" status, a preliminary step to cancellation. Voters who are inactive through two general elections get cancelled.

Because of the voter ID law, there's an extra mailing going out to a particular, non-random group of voters, and because they're being sent an extra mailing, they're more likely to have a card returned to sender.

In a big change of plan that seems to have been written by lawyers, this one-time mailing will be an exception. The letters (envelopes with a card in them, that is) will go back to the Secretary of State, not the auditor, and voters will NOT be inactivated from this mailing. That's because inactivating people from this mailing could be seen as illegal "targeting" of certain voters.

Since they're not getting inactived, this isn't AS horrible as what I had feared at first - but sill, these are the people who need to get these cards to vote. And the population getting these cards (or not getting these cards) is the most mobile and least rooted group of voter, exactly the kind of people that the legislators who passed this law would rather see not voting.

Many conservatives (and even some "liberals") have never gotten over Symm vs. United States, the 1978 Supreme Court ruling that held that yes, college students DO get to vote in their college town. Most people have begrudgingly accepted that students should get to vote for president (the only ballot most students actually cast) but resent young people weighing in on local things like tax questions or how old you have to be to get into the bar.

The unspoken implication of HF516's refusal to accept valid out of state licenses and student IDs at the polls is: Kid, you're supposed to be voting an Illinois absentee ballot. But 20 years on the job tells me that the most likely way a student gets to cast a counted vote is to do it at school.

After the Secretary of State's match-up between the voter file and the license database, there were 7030 Johnson County active status voters without Iowa license numbers, who should be getting cards in this week's mailing. That's 7.7% of the county's total active registration.

Because the last "big" election was the presidential, most voters have not updated their address since the fall of 2016. In my town, most young people move every year on August 1, so the voter ID cards will be getting mailed to LAST year's address - which means more cards returned to sender and not getting delivered.



So let's guess at just how accurate these addresses are.
425 people without Iowa ID numbers have voted since the presidential election. Another 165 have registered since the presidential election and not voted yet. Odds are these are good addresses.
4324 last voted in the presidential election, and these voters are likely still registered at their fall 2016 addresses.

1306 last voted before the presidential election, and 810 registered before the presidential election and have never voted. Many of these people have moved away, and actually should be inactivated and ultimately canceled.
Any of these people needing to re-register will need to do a paper registration form - because Iowa's online voter registration system is only good for people who have Iowa license numbers.

Here's some more stats on the 7030 voters without license numbers.
  • 5977 of them are going to addresses in the city limits of Iowa City. Iowa City is 51% of Johnson County's registration, but is getting 85% of this mailing.
  • 3437 cards are going to the core student precincts - Iowa City 3, 5, 11, 19, and 20. That's  49% of the mailing going to just 11.5% of the registration. 1334 cards are going to dorms, almost all to fall semester 2016 addresses.
  • 55% of the people getting mailed ID cards live in apartments or dorms vs. 23% of all active status Johnson County voters.
  • 1621 cards are going to voters under age 21; almost all of that is students because townie kids living with parents are likely to have Iowa licenses. 
  • 260 cards will go to voters over age 80, another group at risk under the ID law.  Some of them have surrendered or lost their licenses and not bothered with non-driver IDs. Other have never has an Iowa state license or ID, and have moved here late in life to live closer to children and caretakers. (People who are in nursing homes and care centers are exempt from the ID law, but not every facility qualifies.)
  • And if you want to get partisan: The mailing of 7030 cards is 5% more No Party than overall registration, 4% less Republican, and 1% less Democratic.
Mail can be iffy, especially at the holiday season. Anyone who believes they should have gotten an ID card (remember, only the people without Iowa licenses will get these) and hasn't gotten one by Christmas should check in with their auditor.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Gala Grumbling

I skipped out on the Iowa Democratic Party's big event Monday night, not out of any objection but in part because of the scheduling. I will say one more time that while the name change needed to happen, the new name of the event formerly known as Jefferson-Jackson is so aesthetically lame that I refuse to use it. Sounds like a new variety of apple.

So I see predictable praise of candidates from supporters, comments that it was a nice event from many who were there, and assorted grumbling from some who were there and from more who were not.

The grumbles fall into three categories:
  1. the weeknight timing and choice of speaker;
  2. the optics of having an event that is very obviously two-tiered with "elite" and "cheap" seats; and
  3. the larger issue of high dollar fundraising. (And even the "elite" seats at The Event Formerly Known As JJ are mid-dollar seats. There's always a truly high-dollar "clutch event" where the biggest donors get face time and a picture with the Big Shot.)
I've been in the periphery of speaker recruiting on the local level and it's challenging. Iowa makes it more challenging, and the year after a presidential election without your party in the White House makes it even harder. The axiom is no politician goes to Iowa by accident, and the 2020 hopefuls are just not ready to put themselves under that First In The Nation spotlight yet, says the man who used to have a Days Since Hillary Has Been To Iowa countdown on this page.  

That limits you to either an Obama (and even Michelle is not immune to speculation) or a non-politician. And measured by attendance and entertainment value, Alec Baldwin was a success. 

While attendance was good, there was still the optics problem that a weeknight in Des Moines was "for Polk County only" - a common complaint in IDP circles in the last year.It did contribute to my decision not to attend. (While I'm lucky and have lots of time off work except in October and early November, I was just wrapping up an extended Thanksgiving vacation on Monday and didn't want to extend that another day.)

You don't on-purpose go for a Monday night. The way scheduling this kind of event works is: you line up the speaker and the speaker says "I'm available this date." Then you either set that date or you say "Sorry, Alec, but a Monday night is a deal breaker" and look for another speaker. 

Clearly IDP did not want to deprive all of America from Baldwin's Trump impersonation by asking for a Saturday night, though we could have brought in the whole cast and said "Live, from Des Moines, it's Saturday Night." 



(I'm shocked they had the self-awareness to actually play this clip at a Democratic Party fund raiser.)

As for the optics problem of a multi-tier event, with higher dollar donors seated for dinners and general admission in bleachers: We've heard grumbling about "elitism" from the bleachers but it might be interesting to ask some of the bigger donors. Here's a gentle reminder that all other things being equal (which they admittedly sometimes aren't) it is a good thing to be able to give the Democrats a lot of money.  Most of our high end donors, at least in Iowa, are good people and not corrupt influence peddlers. So let's ask them what they like and dislike about the setup and see what "frills" they would be just as happy to do without.

Johnson County is egalitarian, sometimes to the detriment of our bank account. We have had a long-term and explicit policy that no one is turned away from an event for inability to pay.

The Johnson County Democrats have two main events each year. The big one is our fall barbecue which is low-dollar (usually $20ish) and egalitarian seating at cafeteria style tables. The draw is speakers, usually candidates or out of state big names. We get a few new people at this, usually drawn by the speakers.

The other event is our spring Hall of Fame event which is a little higher dollar, dinner table style seating (though it's just coffee/dessert) and centered around the honorees. The people who show up at this are the long-time activists who know the people being honored. Candidates are introduced but don't speak; Dave Loebsack gives a short speech but the tone is not Re-Elect Me, it's The Congressman Is Here To Honor Your Lifetime Award. He always has a good story about each honoree.

Both these events have "host" levels, but the recognition is just a name in the program and not a better seat. At the BBQ you sit wherever; at the Hall of Fame the front seats are reserved for honorees and their personal guests.

Not every arm of the party is as loud about it as the Johnson County Dems, but it is almost always possible to get into an event for little or no money.

It's not easy to get into a closed door clutch event, because those are often controlled by the Big Name themselves and not the event host. But there are Regular Folks at those. I've never paid the four-figure donation for a clutch event, but I've been invited to them as a Key Local Activist or as a Person With An Interesting Story. My experience is the people who are there based on money only get the handshake and the picture, while the invited Regular Folks get better quality time.

It's almost always possible to get into the main speaking event free. You can volunteer and get in. Despite my lucrative career as a political consultant, I usually don't pay to attend events. I make the invitation list as a volunteer, that's my donation, and I show up. Most events also need regular volunteers without a special skill set.

Another way to get in free: Campaigns or unions buy blocks of tickets and give them to supporters. I was offered tickets to Monday's event by Nate Boulton's campaign because I'm supporting him.

Or if you're a long time activist who's short on bread, the organizers often just let you in.

Here's the problem. Unless you're already to some extent an "insider," you don't know about any of this. You see the price tag, get sticker shock, don't go, and express frustration. 

The best thing you can do as a political junkie - if you're reading a blog, you are - is to let the new people know about this. Make the circle of "insiders" as much bigger as you can. You still won't reach the person who only reads the article, but if you can reach the person who's at their first meeting, that makes it just a little better. 

One SCC member who skipped last night's event suggested an explicit income-based sliding scale. Maybe that would help (Johnson County generally lists something like "student price"), but one problem Johnson County has with its no-pay policy is people who CAN afford to pay but don't. Not a big problem, but one some people take advantage of. In the end, the purpose of the event is to raise money and "it's a fundraiser but you don't have to pay" is a mixed message. There's a risk that if you ask Bill Gates for $25, he will give you $25 and no more.

Also. consider this: No volunteer wants to get told or feel like their hours are less important than someone else's big check. But neither does a donor want to be told "money doesn't matter" as they're pulling out the checkbook. Granted, it's more often one way than the other, but everyone wants to feel good about what they do.


The big picture problem of high dollar based fund raising is harder to address. The real solution, donation and spending limits or public finance, is a LONG way off, will require a super-majority level consensus to amend the Constitution which is impossible in the current polarized environment, and can't happen till we win under the current, bad rules.

So we need interim solutions. Unfortunately I only have negative answers. Unilateral disarmament on principle will cost us even more elections. Magic internet small dollar money has only been shown to work on either presidential campaigns or the very limited circumstances of special elections that are the only game in town for a little while. (And which sometimes has the unpleasant side effect of unrealistically raising people's hopes.)

And if we're going to build a stronger small dollar base, we have to ask and ask again and keep asking. A more aggressive effort to solicit small donors runs the risk of creating the impression that we aren't interested in anything BUT money.  We need rank and file people who can't give anything more than a vote. We need volunteers to knock on the doors.

But we need staffers. We need flyers. We need signs. We need offices. Yes, we need ads. 


And to do those things, we need money.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Alabama Senate

Roy Moore is going to win. In the privacy of the booth Alabama Republicans willing to take a chance on a Moore expulsion and a chance at a do-over. But if not, Moore is better than letting a Democrat have a seat from Alabama (!) for 4 years. There's no way in hell  they're gonna let Doug Jones win this. If they can't force Moore off the ballot, which it looks like they can't, they'll vote for him and they'll seat him.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Big Move Into Open Seat!

Now that Mitch Gross has opted out, I'm announcing that I'm planning to move into Senate District 37- an open district where Bob Dvorsky is retiring. Anyone got stickers that say "Senate"?

Watch for a big announcement in early December...

Friday, November 10, 2017

City Election Post-Mortem, Part 1

I'm not ready yet to write about Iowa City's District B race. That may be a while yet.

But after three days I have a few thoughts on other races.

I had a smooth Election Day at work and the only real surprise professionally was a failed stealth write-in effort in Solon.

Mazahir Salih's win is a big, big deal. It's a big deal on the national or even world scale as she becomes, more than likely, the first Sudanese-American woman to win an election in the United States.

It's a big deal locally. Her win doesn't flip the council like the Core Four 2015 sweep did. It solidifies the previous 5-2 progressive council majority into a 6 to 1 majority. And going from Terry Dickens to Mazahir Salih is the biggest single seat shift maybe ever or at least since since Amy Correia replaced Ernie Lehman in 2005. That's how we used to measure progressive wins in Iowa City, one notch or even a half a notch at a time.

We replaced a guy who literally ran for the council because he wanted to stop the homeless from begging in front of his jewelry store to a community organizer who works with Iowa City's most challenged and needy residents.

I don't want to seem less excited than I should be. I was excited - several weeks ago. This race was over a long time ago, and the thrill's immediacy has worn off for me. Salih was a strong enough candidate that she essentially cleared the field.

The old guard Chamber of Commerce faction made the weirdest move possible in quietly recruiting Angela Winnike and then letting her run of the strangest non-campaigns ever. Had they simply let the at large race go entirely, Salih and Kingsley Botchway could have coasted, but with token opposition they worked hard and potentially helped District B candidate Ryan Hall.

And again, I am REALLY really not ready to write about that yet.

In landslides this big it's hard to read anything into result patterns. Winnike's distant last everywhere numbers vary so little by precinct from her 19% overall total that it's hard to ID any "hot spot." Salih finished just 64 votes behind Kingsley Botchway for first place, with rarely more than a handful of votes separating them in each precinct. Both got about 5600 votes, and based on precinct totals it appears that only 300 or so people voted for one but not the other.



The Coralville result is actually more interesting. Even though the self-labeled "progressive" candidates lost, the new council is much more liberal than the old, in a way that most Iowa City people don't get.

Prior to the election the center of gravity on the Coralville council was Tom Gill and Laurie Goodrich, moderates both just re-elected Tuesday, and the retiring Bill Hoeft. It was and always had been kind of a businessy body.

Now, the newly elected Meghann Foster makes up a council majority with the two holdover members, Mitch Gross and Jill Dodds, and this new majority is a mainstream Democrat kind of majority that's far less tone-deaf on, say, affordable housing than Gill and Goodrich. This is the most progressive the Coralville council has ever been and is a big leap forward. It's also, as Foster pointed out to me, the first ever female majority Coralville council (Iowa City had a female majority in 2006-07).

Foster finished in a solid first place with 74%, drawing support from both the business side and the liberal side. Cindy Riley in fourth place in the top-three-win election was trying for a similar appeal but got lost in the shuffle.


The "progressives," Elizabeth Dinschel and Miriam Timmer-Hackert, were in fifth and sixth place with 25% of the vote and nearly identical totals, just three votes apart.

A loss that big can't be chalked up to "lack of support from key Democrats" or questionable yard sign placement by their opponents, both charges that flew on social media in the final days.  Much was made of Goodrich's GOP affiliation (Gill is a DINO) but in the context of the 2013 "Koch Brothers" Coralville election in which she won her first term, she was the moderate choice against a radical conservative slate.

A 25% total indicates that either the message didn't get through or that it was heard and rejected, and reflects a fundamental mis-read of the Coralville city election voters. Timmer-Hackert and Dinschel challenged things and made some good points - that fell on deaf ears. Hey, I like the idea of walkable communities, too, but car culture is deeply, deeply embedded in Coralville, and people who care about walkable communities around here deal with that by... not living in Coralville and thus not voting in Coralville.

Imad Youssif was, well, on the ballot, and based on my work interactions with him I have a feeling he's going to become a perennial Some Dude candidate for stuff for a while.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Iowa Flipped In 2010

Iowa actually flipped in 2010. We only stayed purple through 2016 due to incredible organizing skill and a few lucky breaks. In retrospect, the beginning of the end was Tom Harkin's retirement announcement in January 2013.

The key architects of Iowa staying purple till 2016 were President Obama, ex-Iowa Democrats chaor Sue Dvorsky, and especially former Senate leader Mike Gronstal.

Mike Gronstal is a hero for holding that IA Senate majority six years longer than we should have. The man deserves a medal.

All the nasty crap that happened last legislative session would have happened years sooner if the Democrats hadn't held on to the Iowa Senate by one vote. 

Six more years of labor rights. Six more years of voting rights. Kept the marriage amendments off the floor till after the Supreme Court ruling. Six more years of reproductive rights. Those things and many more are thanks to Mike Gronstal's skill and courage. He  personally held back all the craziness for six legislative sessions, and he paid for it with his own political career.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The New Democracy Tweet Storm

In convenient blog post format

So Democrats are meeting at "New Democracy" forum today today to discuss How To Win Back Rural America

The answer to How To Win Back Rural America depends on why you think Democrats lost so badly in 2016

One of the Iowa Democrats fundamental problems is: we can't agree on why we lost

I believe Dems lost Old White Male Rural Working Class America on broad spectrum of culture issues not economics

We did not lose on Her Emails or Her Wall Street Speeches or Her policies

(And since Her is out of the ball game She's irrelevant to the future anyway, this is about future not 2016)

We also did not lose on Corporate Greed and the minimum wage and the twin boogeyman of NAFTA/TPP

We lost on immigration and race and religion and guns and the whole cluster of gender/sexual issues

That can be summed up more briefly but only by putting taboo words in the mouth of the hypothetical voter

However I will repeat my 4 word explanation of the whole election: I Hate That Bitch

So here's the problem: If we lost on cultural issues, then focusing *even more* on economics does not help

This also means we cannot appeal to Old White Male Working Class Rural America without abandoning principle

and we cannot appeal to Old White Male Rural America without abandoning the true base of the Democratic Party

The true base of the Democratic Party is urban and diverse and not very white

We cannot turn our backs on the most loyal Democrats in order to appeal to voters who we have lost already

The long term path back to majority runs through Texas and Georgia and Arizona and North Carolina and Florida

The long term path back to majority does not run through the Rust Belt and sadly does not run through Iowa

I'm not saying this because I'm giving up, on winning in Iowa, though it will be hard... 

but because in the short to mid term, winning is more likely on the national level than in Iowa

The other problem is a problem of style - and this is directly about Sanders

Unlike Her, Sanders is still relevant as long as he acts like a candidate (which he will not be in the end) 

Sanders speaks a 60s Left language, not a New Deal language, and that's an active turnoff to many older voters

Socialist Revolution sounds like Draft Dodgers and Bra Burners and They're Coming To Take My Guns

Socialist & Revolution are words that appeal to the Grad Student Proletariat not Old White Male Rural America

We can't artificially force a Class Struggle language onto a nation that doesn't think or speak that way.

Just because it makes YOU feel smart and because you ideologically believe it SHOULD work doesn't mean it WILL.

People mistakenly think Sanders Votes especially in places like WV  = Votes For Socialist Revolution 

But a Yuge chunk of Sanders Votes were simply I Hate That Bitch Votes 

In a 2 way race @MartinOMalley would likely have scored 30% simply for being Not Hillary


Living in a blue academic island I may be in the worst possible place to understand Trumpism.

I don't know the right answer and if I did I'd run for something and win.  But I do know that...

...focusing even more on economics when we lost over cultural issues... 

...and deliberately using rhetorically hostile language to explain those economics, is the wrong answer.

Not saying this to be "divisive" or because I don't believe in some or even most of the "progressive" specifics

(though Free College is a hard sell to working people who already think the College Kids are the rich kids...)

(...and who can barely dream of admission for themselves or their own kids)

I'm saying this because I want to win and we need to win

And I see a lot of people in the party, or more accurately on the fringes outside the party...

...who want to lead us down a path that I believe will end in more damage and even worse defeats.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Kander: ID Laws "Not just a policy difference, a political strategy"

Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander pulled no punches Tuesday in describing ID laws and other vote suppression tools as "the centerpiece of Donald Trump's re-election strategy."

Kander spoke at the University of Iowa College of Law, and was also scheduled to speak at Drake Law Tuesday.

Kander led the Democratic ticket in Missouri last year, almost pulling off a U.S. Senate upset against incumbent Roy Blunt. After leaving office at year's end, Kander founded advocacy group Let America Vote.

While a losing Senate bid may seem like an unlikely launch pad for national ambitions,  Kander is still seen as a Democratic rising star. He'll be back in Iowa City on Oct. 21 at a fundraiser for state Senate Democrats, and Let America Vote recently opened a Des Moines office.

 "If politicians make it hard to vote, we'll make it hard for them to get re-elected," goes the Let America Vote tag line. "There urgently needs to be a political argument against vote suppression," said Kander. "This is not just a policy difference, it is a political strategy. Rather than change their policies, Republicans want to exclude people from democracy."

"Donald Trump's claim of 3 to 5 million illegal voters is the biggest lie a sitting president has ever told," said Kander, to which a student in the crowd replied, "Wait an hour."

Kander also took a shot at Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. While legislatures and governors usually take the lead on voter restrictions in states where they have full control of government, he said, "Iowa is the only state in the nation where the Secretary of State personally proposed the voter ID law."

In contrast, he said, "I'm the only statewide candidate for Secretary of State who has run an ad against photo ID and won." ID laws remain popular on the surface, because of the common I Have To Show ID For Everything Else simplification, but Kander says support for ID laws may be shallow.

"It's hard to win an argument you don't make," said Kander, noting that arguments against ID laws have been lacking till recently. He said the most effective arguments against ID laws are cost to taxpayers and partisanship. "The average American has a real problem with partisanship."

"When Texas chose which IDs for voters to use, they picked drivers licenses and gun permits -  the two databases that are the most white," said Gerry Hebert, a Georgetown law professor who recently argued before the Supreme Court in a Wisconsin gerrymandering case. "We deliberately used elderly black veterans with long voter histories when we challenged that law and won."

Hebert doesn't always win - "If you're interested in losing a Supreme Court case 5 to 4, I'm your man," he  joked - but he's more optimistic in Gill v. Whitford.  "We think we have a workable standard of gerrymandering and we are hopeful we may have five votes."


In many states "redistricting really is a one party system, the Incumbent Party," said Kander, and historically that's how evenly divided Wisconsin drew its maps, until Scott Walker's Republicans took full control of state government in 2011 - just in time for redistricting.

The Wisconsin map under challenge was described in internal Republican documents as "Aggressively Maxed Out," the most partisan of several drafts. The question at hand is how to measure gerrymandering for partisan purposes, which Hebert says is "Theoretically possible - but the bar is extremely high."

What's new in the Wisconsin case is a measure called an "efficiency gap test," which compares the overall vote to the outcome in individual legislative races.

"In 2012, (Wisconsin Republicans) won 60 of the 99 seats in the Wisconsin Assembly despite winning only 48.6% of the two-party state-wide vote," writes the Brennan Center. "In 2014, they won 63 seats with only 52% of the state-wide vote."

Hebert noted that Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote in the case, directed particularly tough and pointed questions at the Wisconsin officials defending the map, while his own arguments were described in the Milwaukee newspapers as "Atticus Finch-like." The envy in the room from the aspiring lawyers was nearly audible. 

"Right now the Court is as good as it will be in at least the next four years, said Hebert. "This may be Justice Kennedy's last term. The window is closing."

Hebert said if the efficiency gap test is upheld and allowed to be used to challenge gerrymanders, "maybe 15 to 20 states might be in play."