“Your place for all the information you need about voting rights,
voter suppression, and voting trends to prepare you to fight in the 2022 election.”
November 30, 2021
It’s the Voting Rights Gazette Redistricting Issue!
The past few weeks have seen a blizzard of new gerrymandered maps either being proposed or approved all over the country. The results overwhelmingly confirm the worst fears of voting rights proponents ever since the Supreme Court invalidated the preclearance requirement in 2013 and the approval of Arizona-style voter suppression laws in 2021. Our Associate Editor Ed Spire puts it all in stark perspective.–The Editor
Same Voters but Different Results?
That’s what can happen when political gerrymandering is legal. Suppose in 2022 the same voters turned out and voted the same way they did in 2020. Here’s what would happen.
(from Politico’s Redistricting 2021 Tracker at https://politi.co/3cDhqyo)
Instead of the Democrats winning the house, the Republicans would. Why? Because of how the Republicans have changed their voting maps. They’re taking blue cities and dividing them up to combine them with large swaths of rural voters. This turns previously Democratic strongholds into Republican ones. In other words, they make what were once Democratic majority districts just disappear.
Take North Carolina, for instance. Greensboro -Winston-Salem used to be a community that voted as a block for Democrats, but now they’ve been split up between four rural districts where Democrats are totally outnumbered. The result? The new districts may theoretically represent the interests of these two urban areas in Congress, but in reality, they don’t (see the maps at https://bit.ly/3cIINqt).
The only way to ensure that we have voters choosing their politicians, instead of politicians choosing their voters, is by making political gerrymandering illegal. And that requires passing the Freedom to Vote act – and THAT requires overturning the filibuster, at least for voting rights legislation.
Anything less is just letting our democracy go down the you-know-what.
–Ed Spire, Associate Editor
State Courts the New Battleground for Voting Rights Cases
State courts have become the new battleground for voting rights cases, and that’s a good thing, say legal experts. That’s because most state constitutions contain language that guarantees their citizens the right to vote.
In fact, that was what the Supreme Court suggested litigants do in their 2019 ruling in Rucho v. Common Cause. This was the decision that stated that federal courts were the place only for racial gerrymandering cases, not for partisan gerrymandering cases (https://bit.ly/3p7QegN).
“State constitutions are a source of robust voting rights protection, meaning state courts could have a crucial role to play,” writes Joshua A. Douglas, author of Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting and law professor at the University Kentucky (https://politi.co/3lxqee3).
Why not federal courts? Aside from the fact that the Supreme Court explicitly cut off that avenue in its 2021 voting rights decision, the US Constitution does not contain a clear statement about free or free-and-equal elections. Forty-nine state constitutions contain either one or both (https://nyti.ms/3DRLIt3).
This, in fact, was the basis for wins in North Carolina and Pennsylvania during the last redistricting cycle—those state supreme courts determined that allowing politicians to choose their voters via gerrymander meant that elections were no longer “free,” as required by their state constitutions.
Would today’s state supreme courts follow suit? According to the nonpartisan Balletopedia website, 27 state supreme courts lean Republican, 15 lean Democratic, though some “have reputations as graveyards for voting-rights suits,” particularly in Texas (https://bit.ly/3raWWp5),
What about non-partisan redistricting committees? As reported in the October 26 issue of the Voting Rights Gazette, it’s turned out not to be the panacea everyone was hoping for—in more than one state, the supposedly non-partisan commissions ended up in partisan deadlock. Guess where deadlocked map-drawing ends up? The state courts.
Douglas says it’s imperative to bring these cases to the state courts. “If litigants do not robustly invoke state constitutions in their challenges, or if state courts follow the U.S. Supreme Court and also refuse to police partisan gerrymandering, then there is nothing to prevent the powerful from entrenching themselves in power for at least the next ten years.”
Lots of Election Security News, Too!
Republicans Outpaced Democrats in Virginia Early Voting
GOP wins in Virginia’s gubernatorial and legislative races made all the news last month, but there are other important takeaways as well, particularly regarding vote-by-mail and voter turnout.
According to the political group Sister District Project, the conventional wisdom that VBM and early voting favor Democrats turned out not to be true.
According to their analysis, approximately 20% of registered voters voted early, either by mail or in person—a six-fold increase over 2017. This, they say, was primarily due to expanded early voting laws the state enacted in 2020.
Of those early voters, however, fewer were Democratic voters than in 2017, partially due to greater use of early voting by rural voters and less use by urban voters. The other reason? Unlike other GOP politicians, Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin promoted early voting.
The Sister District Project’s other big takeaway? The margins of loss, and often victory, were incredibly small in most races, with some being decided by just a handful of votes. “Just a few votes could have tipped the scales either way,” their report says. https://bit.ly/3nFs3ad
GOP Against Mail-in Voting Because It Makes It Too Difficult to Dispute Election Results
Worried about voting machines being hacked? How about bamboo-paper ballots flown in from China to swing the election to a Democrat? There’s a solution for that—mail-in voting. It’s the one, proven, unhackable way to cast a ballot. So why are GOP states so eager to suppress it?
As Democracy Docket’s Marc Elias points out, “Voting rules that maximize participation result in fewer disputed outcomes, while complex and restrictive rules create a larger pool of disputed ballots that can be used to justify post-election challenges.”
Republicans, he says, are finding out that voter fraud is extremely difficult to prove, especially when there was none to begin with. “Since they cannot force voters to commit fraud, they are redefining the term.”
In other words, the more byzantine the voting rules, the easier to claim some kind of fraud. That explains why states such as Texas, Georgia, and others are targeting not just voters, but also election officials for actions that used to be deemed legal. Adds Elias, “The goal of these new provisions is to manufacture fraud where none exists.” https://bit.ly/3nJegPI
So-called Election Investigations Costing Taxpayers Plenty
States that undertake the so-called “forensic audit” investigations of last year’s elections now find themselves facing a hefty price tag because their efforts have made it impossible to verify the chain of custody for the machines they investigated.
The cost? For Maricopa County, AZ, which started the “audit” trend last spring, it’s $2.8 million. For Pennsylvania, which started a similar election investigation of all its counties in September, it could cost a whopping $40 million. Why so high? The governmental bodies responsible for the machines not only have to purchase new ones—they also must find and destroy all the investigated machines as well (https://wapo.st/3cU9b0Y).
Which raises a new question about the most recent vote-hacking incident allegedly perpetrated by an election official—the president of the Lake County, OH, Board of Commissioners, Republican John Hamercheck.
Sometime during the spring primary, someone in his office plugged a private laptop into the county network. According to an FBI investigation, those data were circulated at MyPillow Mike Lindell’s so-called cyber symposium last summer—the same place that stolen data from Mesa County, CO, turned up (see the August 31 issue of the Voting Rights Gazette). The cost to Lake County to replace their machines? Not known. https://wapo.st/3l8CyB2
Take Pew Research’s Quiz on What Kind of Voter You Are
Are you a Faith and Flag Conservative? Progressive Left? Somewhere in between? That’s the premise of Pew Research’s “Political Typology” quiz. No big story here, just a link to a fun little quiz. Your answers will be compared with a nationally representative survey of more than 10,000 U.S. adults. Enjoy! https://pewrsr.ch/3xG1Lbj