Tuesday, September 30, 2014

End Prison Gerrymandering in Texas also!

Massachusetts Legislature Calls on U.S. Census Bureau: Support Fair Redistricting, End Prison Gerrymandering

Dēmos and Prison Policy Initiative Applaud Senators Rosenberg, Chang-Diaz, and Dorcena-Forry and Representatives Moran, Carvalho, and Rushing for Leadership to Protect One Person, One Vote Principle
On September 12 2014, the Massachusetts legislature sent the United States Census Bureau a resolution adopted by both chambers, calling on the Census Bureau to reform its outdated practice of enumerating incarcerated persons as "residents" of the prisons in which they are temporarily incarcerated. This practice leads state and local governments to violate the constitutional principle of one person, one vote by granting additional undue political clout to voters who live near prisons and diluting the votes cast by everyone else. As the resolution explains:
"Census data results in distortions of the one-person, one-vote principle in drawing electoral districts in Massachusetts, diluting the representation of the majority of districts that do not contain prisons."
Massachusetts’ resolution urges the Census Bureau to provide states with redistricting data that counts incarcerated persons at their residential address.
In response to these developments, Dēmos and the Prison Policy Initiative, non-partisan public policy organizations concerned about fair electoral representation, released the following statement:
"A prison is not a home," said Brenda Wright, Vice President for Legal Strategies at Dēmos. "Prison-based gerrymandering distorts democracy and fair representation in Massachusetts, and should not be tolerated in our state. Dēmos applauds the leadership of Senators Rosenberg, Chang-Diaz, and Dorcena-Forry and Representatives Moran, Carvalho, and Rushing in achieving passage of the resolution urging the Census Bureau to count incarcerated persons in their home communities, where they are considered to reside for virtually all legal purposes."
Dēmos and the Prison Policy Initiative have long partnered in the goal of ending prison-based gerrymandering. "The national trend in state and local governments of rejecting prison gerrymandering sends a clear message to the Census Bureau that it’s time to update the residence rules," said Peter Wagner, Executive Director of the Prison Policy Initiative. "I’m proud of the Massachusetts Legislature’s steps to urge the Census Bureau to end prison gerrymandering nationwide 2020."
During the public hearings on redistricting in Massachusetts following the 2010 Census, Dēmos and PPI were among many groups and individuals urging the Massachusetts legislature to add its voice to those of other stakeholders calling for change in how the Census Bureau enumerates incarcerated persons.
The Special Joint Committee on Legislative Redistricting in Massachusetts took note of these concerns in its final report (downloads PDF), devoting about a quarter of the redistricting report to the vote dilution caused by the Census Bureau's decision to tabulate incarcerated people as residents of the prison, and suggesting this resolution as their first key recommendation.
Dēmos and PPI strongly applaud the Massachusetts legislature for its leadership in adopting this recommendation and calling for permanent, nation-wide reform of how incarcerated persons are tabulated in the Census. The Massachusetts Legislature’s resolution sends a strong message that Massachusetts residents, and all U.S. voters, deserve to have a fair say in elections. It’s time for the Census Bureau to do its part.
The full text of the resolution is:
WHEREAS, obtaining an accurate count of the population is so vital to representative democracy that the framers of the United States Constitution addressed the issue of the census and apportionment in the opening paragraphs of the Constitution; and
WHEREAS, the Massachusetts Constitution requires that federal census data be the basis for state redistricting; and
WHEREAS, the Census Bureau currently has a policy of counting incarcerated people at the address of the correctional institution, even though for other legal purposes their home address remains their legal residence; and
WHEREAS, this Census data results in distortions of the one-person, one-vote principle in drawing electoral districts in Massachusetts, diluting the representation of the majority of districts that do not contain prisons;
WHEREAS, the simplest solution to the conflict between federal constitutional requirements of "one person, one vote" and Massachusetts constitutional requirements of using the federal census is for the Census Bureau to publish redistricting data based on the location of an incarcerated person’s residence, not prison location; and
WHEREAS, the Census Bureau has already recognized the demand from states and counties for data that better reflects their actual populations, and has agreed to release data on prison populations to states in time for redistricting, enabling some states to individually adjust the population data used for redistricting; and
WHEREAS, Public Law 94-171 requires the Census Bureau to work with states to provide geographically relevant data and the Census Bureau has been responsive to state’s data needs for the past 3 decades; now therefore be it
RESOLVED, that the Massachusetts General Court hereby urges the Census Bureau, in the next Census and thereafter, to provide states with redistricting data that counts incarcerated persons at their residential address, rather than the address of the correctional institution where they are temporarily located; and be it further
RESOLVED, that a copy of these resolutions be transmitted forthwith by the Clerk of the Senate to the Director of Census Bureau.
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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dallas County Early Voting Visibility Project

The Dallas League of Women Voters will be managing a Early Voting Visibility Project during the November 2014 elections.   This is a test.

Half of the Dallas County early voting locations were selected at random.  Over 500 large Dallas County signs with arrows will be used at intersections within 2 miles of each of these 13 locations to direct people to the early voting location.  A 'bread crumb trail' of 2,000 smaller signs with arrows pointing up will lead people from these intersections to the voting location.

The goal is to increase early voting at least 10% at these 13 locations compared to the other early voting locations.

For each location we have 40 of the large signs and 160 of the smaller signs to lead people "captured" at the intersections to the early voting location.  If you want to help put out signs the evening before early voting starts, and to then collect them the evening after early voting ends, and in effect manage one of these 13 locations, please call Bill Betzen at 214-957-9739, or email him at bbetzen@aol.com .

We want to use the new bilingual early voting signs (that I need to get a photo of to post here) so that people can vote with no lines and we can avoid lines like this on election day:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Trinity River Toll Road Funeral 6-8-14

Here is some of the history leading to this celebration:
Looking northwest where Toll Road was planned for with Sylvan Bridge in the background.  Photo taken in 2007 when this was a very popular park. 
It will now be one again!
 

 
 
 

Monday, August 26, 2013

1963 Washington Civil Rights March & 2006 Dallas Civil Rights Mega March

This week we are celebrating the historic events of 50 years ago in Washington, D.C. on 8-28-63, when about 250,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  They heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his brilliant "I have a dream" speech.

Much of the publicity has said the 1963 march was the largest Civil Rights march in U.S. history.  That certainly was true until 2006.  However, on 4-9-2006, that record was broken in Dallas, Texas with the monumental Mega March to address immigration reform and the civil rights associated with the needs for such reform.

The Mega March gathered on Ross Avenue in Dallas, in front of and to the east of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, planning for a 1:00 PM start.   However the crowds were far beyond all planning.  Congestion was intense.  At about 12:45 PM Dallas Police directed the march to start to relieve that congestion.  I was walking up Ross from the other direction to arrive in time for the 1:00 PM start when I was met by the front of the March.  All six lanes of Ross remained filled with people walking for the next 4 hours, or longer.
Dallas 4-9-2006 Mega March start from Guadalupe Cathedral
The 1.3 miles of street from the Cathedral to Dallas City Hall remained filled with marchers till past 5 PM when the last of them walked past the Cathedral.  Meanwhile at Dallas City Hall this was the crowd in the over-congested area:
Dallas City Hall Plaza looking northeast 4-9-2006 at about 2 PM
The following photo was taken long after the two above, at about 4:00 PM looking northeast up Ross Avenue.  This continued for about another hour.
Looking northeast up Ross Avenue about 4: 00 PM on 4-9-2006
Estimates of the crowd were usually agreed at 500,000 but some went as high as 600,000.  The lowest estimates were 350,000. 
 
Does anyone know of another U.S. Civil Rights march that was larger?
 


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Federal Debt, Blue and Red Patterns

How can anyone concerned about the future of our nation ignore the taxation and debt patterns for over 40 years in the US?
 
 
U.S. Federal Debt as Percentage of GDP since 1969
Some argue that Congress was the major factor in these deficit changes. 

Notice how the changes happened immediately once Reagan and Bush II began their presidential terms.  That damage was much hard to repair and improvements only happened more slowly once Clinton entered office, and hardly at all once Obama entered office due to the economic disaster we faced.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Comparing states voting for Romney with states voting for Obama

Comparing states voting for Romney with states voting for Obama
(Right-click on image and click on "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)

The above chart was made using the 9/24/12 electoral map by Karl Rove that can be found at http://rove.com/uploads/0000/0711/Romney-Obama9.24.pdf .  This map is probably the most reliable in that the states indicated are probably strongly dedicated to the candidates they are allocated for. The other data came mostly from Census Data found on the US Census site. 
  1. Murder and Forcible Rape data came from http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/law_enforcement_courts_prisons/crimes_and_crime_rates.html  using selection # 308 on that page and the Excel file at that selection.
  2. Educational expenditures by state were secured from the Excel file at Item # 262 at http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/education/elementary_and_secondary_education_staff_and_finances.html
  3. Educational achievement by state was secured from the Excel file at item # 233 at http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/education/educational_attainment.html
  4. Median income for each state was secured from http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/statemedian/ by going to "Annual Social and Economic Supplement" on that page and the "Income of Households by State Using 2-Year-Average Medians"
  5. The information on which states still allow physical discipline in public schools came from http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0934191.html
  6. Finally, the information on Food Stamp usage by state comes from http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/social_insurance_human_services/food_programs.html
Additional ideas are welcome as to variables that should be explored in this effort. 

Bill Betzen
bbetzen@aol.com

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Voting Rights Act Revived in Texas: 3 maps

The 2011 Texas Legislature redistricted three maps to shift the previous decades massive population growth into new legislative districts.  This was done for the Texas House and Senate, and for the US Congress with four new seats added to the U.S. House from Texas. The maps created were so discriminatory against minorities that they were immediately challenged and repeatedly declared discriminatory by the courts.  Most recently, on 8-28-12, a three judge Federal Court in Washington affirmed that judgement. The maps are now on the way to the Supreme Court.  Study the three reports below, one on each map. Form your own opinion.  What should the decision be?  
Anatomy Chart on Texas House Map PlanH283
(Right-click on image above & hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)
The chart above is for Texas House map PlanH283 for the 150 Texas House districts. The study of this map was done with a bar chart due to the large number of 150 legislative districts. It more easily illustrates the gerrymandering pattern of discrimination, a pattern that has the same components in each map. Each map has an area that is designated as a "Maximum Win" area and a "Maximum Loss" area. In the bar chart above, the area highlighted with yellow is the Maximum Loss area.  The green area is the Maximum Win area. Notice the consistent fact that Anglo districts dominate the Maximum Win areas in every map.  Minority districts dominate the Maximum Loss areas in every map.  How can that be an accident?
Anatomy of Texas State Senate Map PlanS148r
(Right-click on above image and hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)

In both the Texas State Senate map above and the Congressional map below it was easy to document the "gaps" that existed. In the Maximum Loss area there were no Anglo districts. In the Maximum Win area there were no Minority districts.
Anatomy of Texas Congressional Map for U.S. House Map PlanH283
(Right-click on above image and hit "open link" to enlarge and/or print.)
These maps are perfect examples of gerrymandering. They should find their way into the next generation of government class text books in Texas.
 
These maps are also online at http://dallasredistricting2011.blogspot.com/2012/09/texas-plan-h283.html, http://dallasredistricting2011.blogspot.com/2012/09/texas-senate-redistricting-plan-s148r.html, and http://dallasredistricting2011.blogspot.com/2012/08/texas-congressional-redistricting-plan.html

Questions are welcomed and encouraged.

Hopefully the above information will help in spreading the word as to the debt of thanks we owe the Legislators of 2011 who designed these maps. They have created maps that will help assure everyone involved, including the judges, that the Voting Rights Act should have a long life.

Such maps must NEVER again become law and go into use. They reflect the painful history of racism that, with the current creation of these maps, obviously continues to afflict Texas. These maps should only be used in text books as examples of the gerrymandering damage that can be done to democracy if voters are not vigilant.

I've joined the League of Women Voters to work together with them in maintaining our democracy and the right to vote. (There are now over 18 men who are members in Dallas.  Everyone is welcome to join!)  It is an honor to work with them to continue their noble history of achievements on behalf of our nation, and democracy.  Join your local League of Women Voters and support democracy!

7-14-13 addendum: It appears maps very similar to those above will become the law in Texas now that the Supreme Court has kicked out critical protections in the Voting Rights Act. This is a painful and uncertain time in the history of our nation.  Will the necessary work be done?

Bill Betzen