Site moved to new home

I’ve moved my site to a new home, It’s all grown up now.

Thanks to for their wonderful free service. Just needed a bit more room to flex some mapping muscles.

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Visualizing recall signatures for Scott Fitzgerald

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

  1. Collect addresses in spreadsheet (LibreOffice).
  2. 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).
  3. Geocode using GPSVisualizer’s batch geocoder (built on Yahoo’s geocoder).
  4. Import delimited text (*.csv) file into QGIS. Export layer as shapefile.
  5. Create three versions as suggested by underdark and set Time Manager settings.
  6. Export sequence to series of images.
  7. Use AviSynth and VirtualDub to create video.
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Scott Fitzgerald’s campaign contributions – received more from out-of-state than his own district

(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):

Click to view interactive map
(Click here for the full interactive map — isn’t friendly to embedded interactive maps.)

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.

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Power, parking, and the first amendment

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.

Just felt I had to document the fact.

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Recount as measure of voting irregularities

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:

Total changed votes in recount

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.

Percentage of votes changed in recount

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.

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Potential voter disenfranchisement

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.

Potential voter disenfranchisement

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?

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Supreme Court election results and recall senate districts

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).
Republican recalls

Democrat recalls
Sources: WI GAB and AP

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Kloppenburg/Prosser Supreme Court election results

Update: the supreme court recount is complete. Data available at the GAB website. The differences aren’t large enough to warrant updating this map.

I’ve pulled together a quick map of Wisconsin’s election returns:
Election results - Kloppenburg
Source: AP
Certified election results will be available at the WI GAB website.

If anyone needs a pub quality map, shoot me an email.

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‘Truth to Power’ Pilgrimage

On Thursday, March 24th, several faculty from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater began walking from Whitewater to the Capitol in Madison to deliver a letter approved by the faculty senate raising multiple concerns about Governor Walker’s so-called Budget Repair Bill and proposed biennial budget.

Background Info

Photos and video

  • Photos are available here and here. All photos by Lori Compas. Please e-mail her at if you’d like high-res versions.
  • Videos of delivery of letter and talks at the capitol
    • video 1, Nikki Mandel’s and Eric Compas’s talk (thanks to Simone DeVore)
    • video 2, James Hartwick’s talk (thanks to Simone DeVore)
    • Video 3 (thanks to Brett Hulsey).

Media coverage

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Walkers’ budget impacts on UW-Whitewater

PDF Version
The combination of Governor Walker’s so-called Budget Repair Bill and proposed Biennial Budget will have significant impacts on the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, its students, and the community it serves. As the budget process moves forward, it is important for the citizens of Wisconsin to better understand the impacts of the budget on the future of higher education in the state.

Taxing our future

Increasing tuition costs amount to an increased tax on our most vulnerable citizens – our students. The proposed biennial budget includes an 11% cut for all UW System universities except the Madison campus. These cuts will be offset by a potential 5.5% increase in tuition in both 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years. Facts about student tuition at UW-Whitewater:

  • Tuition has more than doubled from 2000-01 to 2010-11, a rate that is four times the rate of inflation.
  • Average student debt load for the 68% of students receiving aid increased from $10,451 in 2000-01 to $22,403 in 2009-10.
  • Many of our students reach the maximum federal loan total of $57,500 by the time they graduate.
  • The growing gap between rising tuition and available aid limits the number of students who can attend university. Recent and proposed cuts to both federal and state aid programs will increase this gap.

*based on projected 5.5% increase in tuition costs

“Privatizing” our public universities

The cost of operating our campus is increasingly being placed on our students’ shoulders.
If this trend continues, the university will be largely funded by tuition, fees, residential life revenues, and other expenses borne by students. This de facto “privatization” has occurred with little public debate on the future of higher education in the state.

  • State funding for our campus in 2000-01 was 31% of the total budget and has mostly declined to the current level of 17%.
  • In 2010-11, 30% of our budget came from student academic fees as compared to only 17% from base state appropriations.
  • Governor Walker’s proposed budget for the UW System would further reduce the state portion and increase the burden on students.

Paying more for less

Increasing tuition will not offset the decreasing funding for our campus, thus leading to fewer opportunities for our students.

  • While specific programs have yet to be identified, past cuts have reduced the number of on-campus jobs for students, the number of instructional academic staff, and the number of faculty positions. In turn, class sizes have increased.
  • Decreasing faculty salaries has meant a rapid loss of seasoned faculty to retirement and difficulty in hiring high-quality faculty.

More information & news


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