Wednesday, August 22, 2012

About the Weighted Vote

The subject of the weighted vote came up as new business at Tuesday night's Common Council meeting. Two thirds of the way through 2012, the 2010 census still has not been reflected in the weighted votes of the Common Council. After introducing the topic, Alderman Carmine Pierro (Fifth Ward), who was chairing the meeting in the absence of Council president Don Moore, read from a memo Moore had sent to the aldermen. In the memo, Moore told the aldermen that he had received "basic data calculations" from Professor Lee Papayanopolous, a master calculator of weighted votes, but had asked Papayanopolous to refrain from translating these data into weighted vote counts "while the Council considers a few very consequential questions."

1888 Atlas Map
The 2010 census data reveals that all the wards lost population between 2000 and 2010 except the Fifth Ward, which experienced population gain of 113. The Third Ward saw the greatest decrease in population: 815. Less than half of that loss is accounted for by the change in law that counts prisoners, for legislative districting purposes, as part of the communities where they lived before they were incarcerated rather than the communities where they are incarcerated. Population loss in the First Ward was 113, the Second Ward 202, and the Fourth Ward 104.

Moore's memo continues:
In practical, numerical terms here is what leads me to call for a more deliberate examination. To state the basics, we have ten Aldermen, two from each Ward. According to the 2010 Census, the presumptive distribution of the weighted vote across the Five Wards is the following: 1st Ward 12%; 2nd Ward 20%; 3rd Ward 17.8%; 4th Ward 11.3%; and 5th Ward 38.8%.
Pierro's comment after reading the memo was, "It's a weighted vote, and that's what it is." Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), however, noted that it should be of concern when "the disparity reaches a point where it ceases to be constitutional."

Moore has asked the city attorney to consult with the state attorney general about these issues. A change in ward boundaries would be a charter change requiring a referendum; however, if the current imbalance in the weighted vote is determined to be unconstitutional, amending the ward divisions to remedy the problem could be done by the Common Council. 

Alderman Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward) petulantly observed, "If the Third Ward hadn't taken the hit, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Don wouldn't be investigating the constitutionality if it hadn't been the Third Ward."

The Legal Committee, which meets tonight at 6:15, is expected to take up this issue. 


  1. The weighted vote is like having half a legislature. It's as if the US Congress lacked a Senate.

    Historically, the Senate was founded after the smaller eastern states who'd made all the sacrifices in the war anticipated being trounced by the coming western majorities.

    Without the US Senate, the Congress would be strictly "weighted." Thank goodness for minority opinions that it is not.

  2. Yes this is the same reason/logic for the Electoral College, and the result thank goodness is that we have a republic, not a pure democracy. Pure majority rule has been seen since the Greeks to be inherently tyrannical and unjust against minorities.

    -- Jock Spivy

  3. The fact is that many people have been discussing this issue for many years. In fact it was discussed after the 2000 census, but was not addressed. Maybe it was too difficult to come up with an easy fix. Don Moore is correct to seek clarification from the Attorney General's office.