The recently released campaign contributions available at the FEC’s website (http://www.fec.gov/disclosurep/pnational.do) provide another measure (along with all of the recent polling we’re hearing) of each candidate’s support in Wisconsin and differences in the types of supporters. Note that I’m only exploring individual “hard” dollar contributions to each candidate. These totals don’t include regular or Super PAC contributions or the nebulous and more difficult to track “social issue” groups.
First, the contribution totals for both candidates (up to Oct 17, 2012):
# of contributors
Total contributions $$
In dollar totals, Obama has a slight edge over Romney and, taken alone, would indicate numbers similar to the polls — a narrow edge in Obama’s favor. The number of contributors, however, reveal a substantial difference — Obama has almost five times as many individuals contributing to his campaign.
As maps, these numbers tell a similar story. The first maps show the difference between total dollars contributed and number of contributors by zip code in Wisconsin. Zip codes with blue circles indicate more contributions or contributors for Obama while those with red circles indicate more for Romney.
Difference in total dollar amount of contributions by zip code:
Large contributors are most likely to influence a politician’s direction and policies. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has posted a table of Walker contributions exceeding $1,000. Of the $4,753,895 shown on this map, $2,837,359 or 60% is from outside Wisconsin. Here’s the map:
I’ve watched several unemployment reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) roll by without diving too much into the details. What I have seen is both the Democrats and the Republicans cherry picking data at times to highlight either job losses or gains in the state. What’s a trend? …well, it usually depends on how you define your baseline. Democrats start counting in June while the Walker administration likes to start from January of last year — presumably the time period he’s influenced those numbers.
The recent data from the BLS is different. It covers the period from March 2011 to March 2012. Given when Act 10, the Budget Repair Bill, was unveiled and publicly debated, this March to March period reflects when Walker’s policies have been in place. Arguably, this is the best measure of the effectiveness of his key policies in creating jobs and turning the Wisconsin economy around. Wisconsin was the only state in the union to have statistically significant job losses over this period.
The recalls underway in Wisconsin present an interesting opportunity to compare two forms of democratic participation: signature gathering and campaign contributions. Both have raised questions about what constitutes valid exercises of democracy and representations of the people’s will. With open records laws in Wisconsin, it’s relatively easy to see who is contributing time or money to either process. Petition circulators can come from anywhere in the USA and so can campaign contributions.
Here’s an initial look at the recall effort against Senator Scott Fitzgerald compared to his 2010 campaign contributions. On the left are the mapped addresses of each recall petition circulator (with the size of the circles indicating the relative number of signatures collected); on the right is Fitzgerald’s campaign contributions (with the size of the circles indicating the relative size of campaign contributions):
While we could perform statistical analyses on distance-weighted averages, standard deviation ellipses, or the like, the distributions are fairly clear. Unlike most of Fitzgerald’s campaign contributions, most of the petition circulators come from his own district — his own constituents collected the vast majority of the signatures to recall him.
Data sources: petition circulators from Karen Tuerk via the GAB; campaign contributions from Wisconsin Democracy Campaign database
Full disclosure — my wife, Lori Compas, organized the recall effort in Fitzgerald’s district.
Lori, my wife, asked if there was any way to visualize the signatures she’s been collecting for the Senator Scott Fitzgerald’s recall. She was interested in both inspiring volunteers and in analyzing the distribution of signers. After finding a post about QGIS‘s Time Manager, this was relatively easy to pull off:
Short version of procedure
Collect addresses in spreadsheet (LibreOffice).
Modify date of signature to conform with Time Manager’s format and add random offset (so all signatures on the same day don’t appear at exactly the same time).
Geocode using GPSVisualizer’s batch geocoder (built on Yahoo’s geocoder).
Import delimited text (*.csv) file into QGIS. Export layer as shapefile.
Create three versions as suggested by underdark and set Time Manager settings.
(Full disclosure — my wife is currently leading the recall campaign against Senator Fitzgerald; see Recall Fitz)
Several weeks ago I heard Mike McCabe from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC) talk about the growing power of money in our state politics and, in his words, its equivalence to modern-day bribery. My attention had mostly been on the role of Citizens United in our national politics and not the details of state politics. I also discovered, in subsequent searching, that there’s a treasure trove of data the WDC’s campaign finance database. Here’s an initial look at my state senator’s, Scott Fitzgerald, individual contributions for the last election cycle (starting from Nov 5, 2009):
What is really interesting is how little of his money came from his own district. Approximately 86% of his contributions were from outside the 13th — only 14% came from within his own district. He received more money (15% of the total) from outside the state. Look over those out-of-state donors, I ran across the name “W. Preston Baldwin” who shows up as the chair on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board.
Who, then, is he accountable to?
Note: only free and publicly available data and software (QGIS and LibreOffice) was used to generate this map on my personal computer.
First Amendment rights apparently don’t apply for parking. That’s what the Johnson Creek police chief told me before hanging up. My wife, Lori Compas, and I were attending a protest at Diamond Precision Products in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin, today where Governor Walker was coming with a TV crew from CNN. I called to ask about the extensive “No Parking” signs that lined the streets around the company’s site and was told that they were put in place to protect public safety. When I asked for clarification on how the public’s safety was being improved, the police chief told me the conversation was finished and abruptly hung up.
Here’s a quick map of the area closed to parking (lines in blue) and the Diamond Precision Products facility (red plus sign):
Given that parking legally required nearly a quarter-mile walk along a couple of busy county roads and both elderly and parents with small children were attending the protest, improving public safety was obviously not the prime reason for the parking restrictions.
Even if protecting Governor Walker was a prime concern (removing parking from any potential sight lines?), these restrictions were excessive. Many of the closed streets were well beyond any location where the Diamond facility was visible.
The obvious conclusion: the police restricted access to hinder protesters.
Update: the recount results are now complete and certified (available here). Waukesha had a total of 87 votes that were changed for Prosser and Kloppenburg resulting in a 0.07% error in the original count (not including the 14,000 vote election night snafu).
As the governor is poised to sign the controversial voter ID bill in Wisconsin, what seems to be lacking on both sides of the discussion is evidence of voting irregularities or fraud. An article from yesterday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cites 20 prosecutions of voter fraud from the November 2008 election (none of which involved voting in someone else’s name), but citizens have been presented with little additional evidence of voter fraud.
Of far greater concern for voter confidence is the state’s ability to count votes correctly. Here, we do have evidence from the recount currently underway from the Supreme Court election in April. Certified results from every county except for Waukesha are available here from the Government Accountability Board. Adding up the total number of changed votes for each candidate reveals 1,271 votes that were missed or incorrectly counted in the original vote. Here’s what the distribution of changed votes looks like across the state:
Obviously, the totals are larger in more highly populated counties. Below is another map showing the percentage of the total votes cast — highlighting counties within the state with the highest proportion of discrepancies. The highest percentage was 0.76% change in Waupaca County — almost every one out of a 100 votes was counted incorrectly.
If we’re looking to instill greater confidence in the electoral process, shouldn’t we start (as Senator Lena Taylor noted) by getting the count correct? Surely in our age of technology we could do substantially better.
As the Wisconsin Senate debates the proposed voter ID bill (SB 6), which requires a valid photo ID to vote, I was interested in the spatial distribution of disenfranchisement that might occur. Unfortunately, there’s little detailed data on registered voters and drivers licenses that’s publicly available for a comprehensive analysis. As a proxy, I’ve compared the number of valid drivers licenses from the Department of Transportation (available here for 2009) to the number of registered voters from the Government Accountability Board (available here for 2010).
Interpretation of this map requires caution for several reasons: 1) it doesn’t include all forms of ID that can be used (e.g. military IDs) for which detailed data isn’t available, 2) many drivers have licenses without a current address, 3) many drivers are not of voting age, and 4) the data are not from the same year.
Several counties (Dane, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, and Door Counties) have more voters than drivers, meaning that currently registered voters within these counties will have to obtain new IDs to vote. The total voters without drivers licenses within these counties, 20,162 voters, is well within the margin of recent elections. The largest numbers are from Dane and Milwaukee Counties which have traditionally voted heavily for the Democrats. Will there be a differential impact on future elections?
As suggested by comments on yesterday’s map, here are maps showing the districts of republican and democratic senators facing recalls superimposed on the Kloppenburg/Prosser results (note the change in color scheme to portray the middle of the distribution more appropriately for this map). Take caution in interpreting these maps. Given that senate districts cover portions of counties and counties vary considerably in their populations, the distribution and number of voters within each county could mean a substantially different “color” for the senate district as a whole. Ward-level election data would be much more appropriate for a recall analysis, but it’s not available for the whole state yet (will be available here).