Robbed by @BloggersRUs


by Tom Sullivan

“With Trump as president and the next redistricting process looming large, a slew of new and old organizations is scrambling to figure out how and if they can make wonky, procedural voting issues ones that excite and motivate turnout.”

They certainly become issues when Election Days go badly. The trick is to make them issues before that happens.

Not limited to Republicans, Democrats' hands are dirty too. A friend tells a story about visiting the office of leading North Carolina lawmaker before Democrats lost control of the legislature in the 2010 election. She'd some to advocate for nonpartisan redistricting. He listened patiently, then leaned back in his chair and smiled, saying, "Democrats draw great districts." Soon after, they lost the ability to for the first time in decades. The rest, as they say....

The latest entry in Talking Points Memo's "Retreat from Democracy" series examines efforts by voting rights groups to undo the rat's nest of vote suppression efforts that took hold across the country in the wake of 2010:

“It is striking how much people have recognized there is no downside, and a strong upside, to staking out pretty clear, strong positions on voting rights,” says Zachary Roth, a journalist and the author of “The Great Suppression,” published in 2016. Roth recalls much more reticence among Democrats even five years ago, saying: “Leaders had been in wait-and-see mode, to see how these issues were going to play politically.”
With a Democrat “trifecta” in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee passed automatic voter registration and same-day registration last March. New Jersey under Democrat Phil Murphy in late 2017 passed automatic voter registration that Republican Gov. Chris Christie had twice vetoed. Oregon was the first with automatic registration in 2015. Other states followed.

But the fight for voting rights has moved beyond nonpartisan groups such as Common Cause, the NAACP, and Demos to Let America Vote founded in 2017 by Missouri Democrat Jason Kander, and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), organized in 2017 by launched by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder:

NDRC is not just focusing on governor’s mansions and congressional races. In May Ohioans voted overwhelmingly in favor of a constitutional amendment for a bipartisan redistricting commission. Holder’s group spent $50,000 supporting this effort, and in addition to Ohio, four more states have redistricting on the ballot this November. (This is a big shift: Only five states had redistricting ballot initiatives in entire the preceding decade.) NDRC also intervened this year in the heavily gerrymandered state of Wisconsin, spending more than $500,000 to elect Rebecca Dallet, a state Supreme Court candidate who won a ten-year term in April.
With the Roberts Supreme Court an unlikely ally, efforts to give democracy an upgrade have moved to the states. In Michigan, a successful, citizen-led petition drive to put a constitutional amendment for an independent redistricting commission on the fall ballot "has dropped the jaws of cynics and pundits across the country."
Michigan is one of the most heavily gerrymandered states in the country, and Republicans have commanded nine of the state’s fourteen congressional seats in every election since 2010, despite Democrats earning far more votes statewide some years. Republicans deny they manipulated the voting maps, but newly disclosed emails, released this summer as part of a federal court challenge, reveal GOP operatives consciously drawing the maps in their favor. Their redistricting efforts were done “in a glorious way that makes it easier to cram ALL of the Dem garbage in Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland, and Macomb counties into only four districts,” wrote a Republican congressman’s chief of staff in 2011 to a GOP strategist and mapmaker. Another email drafted by a lawyer helping to design the maps said, “We’ve spent a lot of time providing options to ensure we have a solid 9-5 delegation in 2012 and beyond.”
And I thought North Carolina Republicans were brazen. Common Cause cites its role in Common Cause v. Rucho in striking down North Carolina's congressional maps as unconstitutional last month:
North Carolinians were robbed of their ability to elect the candidates of their choice through a blatant partisan gerrymander by the legislature. Republican legislators publicly and repeatedly stated that their goal was to gerrymander congressional districts to ensure an overwhelming Republican majority despite an evenly split electorate. They produced district lines that effectively let them choose the voters rather than permitting voters to choose their representatives. That’s the exact opposite of government of the people, by the people, and for the people as promised in our Constitution. Whether they favor Democrats or Republicans, gerrymanders cheat voters.

When elected officials don’t have to worry about getting reelected, they lose their incentive to be responsive to constituents. Legislators are supposed to represent everyone, not just the wealthy and/or those who share their views. We must replace the backroom deals in which politicians draw districts for political advantage with real transparency and impartial redistricting systems so the results of our elections will truly reflect the will of the people.

There is more in Rachel Cohen's report (sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers) on citizen efforts to roll back efforts to have politicians pick their voter. Free choice? Or just the illusion of free choice?

During arguments in Wisconsin's Gill v. Whitford case, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed, "if you can stack a legislature in this way, what incentive is there for a voter to exercise his vote? Whether it's a Democratic district or a Republican district, the result -- using this map, the result is preordained in most of the districts."

Getting readers of political blogs interested in going to the polls to stop that is one thing. Making the gerrymandering issue "accessible and exciting" for non-geeks is another, and the challenge that lies ahead for voting rights advocates. But perhaps Common Cause is onto something. Republican politicians don't mind cheating. Fairness is not their goal. Power is. But what drives their voters up a wall is the notion that they are being cheated somehow: by "welfare" cheats, undocumented immigrants, etc. Fictitious voter fraud "steals your vote," voter fraud hucksters tell their marks. Convince them (somehow) that gerrymandering robs them out of their choice and maybe you have something. (I'm not holding my breath.)

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For The Win 2018 is ready for download. Request a copy of my county-level election mechanics primer at tom.bluecentury at gmail.