As Gerrymandering And Voter Suppression Spread, How Do The People Regain Control Over Their Elections?


Publish Date:
October 6, 2017
Atlanta Black Star
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This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of Gill v. Whitford, a political gerrymandering case in Wisconsin, in which Republicans rewrote the state’s district lines, Democrats are contending, for partisan and unconstitutional purposes. The court’s decision has the potential to change politics across the United States. Gerrymandering is a means of stacking the political deck, of drawing and carving an electoral map in such a way as to preserve incumbents, and give one political party an unfair advantage. Neither party is immune to the practice, but Republicans have maximized its use throughout the country, allowing the GOP to win state and federal races and control legislatures and state houses, even with fewer votes and less support.

In the case of Wisconsin, Republicans used sophisticated computer models to redraw legislative districts by ”packing” as many Democrats into a small number of districts as possible, and “cracking” the remaining Democratic voters by splitting them into various other districts such that they would never constitute a majority. In the 2012 elections, after rigging the map, Wisconsin Republicans won only 48.6 percent of the vote statewide, yet captured 60 of 99 seats in the state assembly. Nationally, Republicans won 53 percent of the vote, but 72 percent of Congressional seats where they redrew the map.

“There are so many threats to minority representation that we tend to focus on the cause of the day rather than the larger prevailing issues,” Nathaniel Persily, James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at Stanford Law School told Atlanta Black Star. Professor Persily does not believe the Whitford case will do much for voting rights. “To what extent should we be talking about voter ID and all those areas where you see barriers to representation being erected? My view is that the partisan gerrymandering cases are not where you are seeing most of the relevant action in terms of minority representation,” Persily said. “You have racial gerrymandering cases, but there is a high correlation between party and race. North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Texas — all of these cases bring up racial gerrymandering, but they also have a serious partisan component to them. So maybe part of the story is how party and race have become so highly correlated,” he added.

“Then there is campaign finance. The issues of big money and elections have been submerged as a result of 2016,” Persily noted. “The story of the Trump campaign success is social media and coverage by legacy media. A lot of people are now thinking about how social media has changed how people are making decisions.” Reports that Russians bought 3,000 Facebook ads to influence millions of voters — including key states such as Michigan and Wisconsin — and hacked the voting systems of 21 states further complicates an already murky American electoral landscape.

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