Tag Archives: gerrymandering

How Gerrymandering Has Made the Black Vote a Form of Token Representation

In the aftermath of the dramatic 2017 Virginia legislative elections, many are left trying to make sense of what happened. There were five delegate races that came within the one percent cutoff to qualify for a recount, with two having vote margins of less than 100 votes. This in a state where the Republicans have controlled the House of Delegates (Virginia’s Hosue of Representatives) since 2001.

The most troubling concern about the election, however, was that despite the Democratic win in the statewide delegate race, 53.1 percent to 43.76 percent, Democrats are still unlikely to take control of the House of Delegates, thanks to a highly gerrymandered electoral map. Increasingly, the strategy by Republicans to counter the national demographic trend toward a less white, less conservative America is creating scenarios where the political result is different from the expressed view of the voter.

“The big picture implication, and in fact the result, is that Republicans have significantly more power in government than you’d expect based on how many votes they get,” Sean Diller, owner of the election consultancy Diesel Campaigns, told Atlanta Black Star. “For example even though 46 percent of Georgians voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, the state is represented in Congress by 10 Republicans and only 4 Democrats.”

Facing both active and passive voting disenfranchisement schemes, the population most susceptible to this loss of the vote through gerrymandering is African-Americans. While the 46 representatives, two territorial delegates, and three senators of the 115th Congress represents the largest Black congressional caucus ever, most of the representatives came from highly gerrymandered “safe districts,” which only gives a symbolic representation to Black people in their states. States in the South with large Black populations have carved out these districts to meet the federal requirements, but they also preserve an over-represented majority white and right-wing control.

The Trap at the Ballot Box

President Barack Obama has been busy since leaving office. Alongside former Attorney General Eric Holder, Obama has begun to challenge the Republican stranglehold on the U.S. House of Representatives. Obama’s target is a little-known Republican strategy called REDMAP, or the Redistricting Majority Project.

In 2008, Democrats held nearly 60 percent of all the states’ legislative seats. After the Republican victories in midterm elections, they launched a coordinated effort to keep those seats secure. Since the states draw the congressional district maps and electoral maps typically are changed following the census. The outcome of the new maps helped Republicans gain and hold almost 70 percent of the statehouses’ seats, despite the ongoing decline of the base Republican constituency, the national white population.

Facing both active and passive voting disenfranchisement schemes, the population most susceptible to this loss of the vote through gerrymandering is African-Americans. While the 46 representatives, two territorial delegates, and three senators of the 115th Congress represents the largest Black congressional caucus ever, most of the representatives came from highly gerrymandered “safe districts,” which only gives a symbolic representation to Black people in their states. States in the South with large Black populations have carved out these districts to meet the federal requirements, but they also preserve an over-represented majority white and right-wing control.

The Trap at the Ballot Box

President Barack Obama has been busy since leaving office. Alongside former Attorney General Eric Holder, Obama has begun to challenge the Republican stranglehold on the U.S. House of Representatives. Obama’s target is a little-known Republican strategy called REDMAP, or the Redistricting Majority Project.

In 2008, Democrats held nearly 60 percent of all the states’ legislative seats. After the Republican victories in midterm elections, they launched a coordinated effort to keep those seats secure. Since the states draw the congressional district maps and electoral maps typically are changed following the census. The outcome of the new maps helped Republicans gain and hold almost 70 percent of the statehouses’ seats, despite the ongoing decline of the base Republican constituency, the national white population.

This had a noticeable effect on the cities. New Black immigrants to the North faced steep institutional and governmental racism and were largely quarantined in “redlined” neighborhoods in the less-desirable parts of the cities. White city dwellers who did not want to live next to these new Black residents fled to the newly-formed and largely-segregated suburbs in a migration of their own that is now known as “white flight.” The resulting Black-majority “redlined” districts, such as New York’s 12th and 18th districts – became the historical seats of Black representation in this nation.

The decline of the nation’s industrial base, however, made staying in the North unpalatable for many African-Americans. This triggered a Third Great Migration or an out-migration (1970-present), where many Black people are returning to the South to find employment and better living conditions. At the same time, the new generation of white suburbanites are moving back to the cities they once abandoned.

This is creating a set of unique phenomena. First, with African-Americans leaving northern cities, what was once a solid voting bloc is now dispersing. Second, the return of African-Americans to the South is adding stress to a political situation that radically changed since the end of the Second Great Migration. Since then, the South has flipped from solidly Democrat to solidly Republican as whites switched party affiliations during the civil rights movement because many felt Democrats were becoming the party most open to securing Black rights. The out-migration back to the South by Blacks is part of a changing demographic outlook in the south.

Finally, the declining birth rates of whites compared to other ethnicities is creating a situation where white majority rule is being negated at the local level. The U.S. Census Bureau projects non-Hispanic whites will become less than 50 percent of the U.S. population by 2044. This realization has led many to feel that, on a level playing field, Republicans will increasingly be beaten back to being a regional party.

This has led to a host of different methodologies to “cheat the vote.” From mandatory voting ID to reducing the number of voting stations, the Republicans have unleashed the largest suite of voting discrimination measures against Black voters since Jim Crow. The most effective of these is racial gerrymandering. Using REDMAP and the Voting Rights Act’s requirement of safeguarding minority-majority districts, has created super-saturated Black “safe districts” that effectively dilute the Black vote in neighboring districts, often at the convenience of the politicians representing those districts. Using oddly-shaped districts REDMAP has allowed the Black voice to become tokenized at the discretion of the Republicans. This is reflected in the fact that almost all of the South’s Democratic representatives are Black.

The Continuing Fight

While the Democrats have identified the challenge at hand, the Republicans have already taken steps to ensure their electoral advantage for another decade. The Trump Administration, for starters, has announced that Thomas Brunell, a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, will head the Decennial Census effort as deputy director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

A noted Republican scholar, Brunell wrote the 2008 book “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America.” In the book, Brunell challenged the notion of competitive districts and argued for aggressive gerrymandering that would produce a majority of “politically homogeneous” districts.

The Trump administration is also entertaining challenges to Obama-era rule changes to how the Census collects race and ethnicity information – which effectively redefined Latinx and helped to shrink the official white population. This, combined with the Republican State Leadership Committee’s announcement that they are seeking $125 million for REDMAP 2020. This makes what Obama and Holder are trying to do that much more of a long shot. While the unpopularity of Trump will help, gerrymandering will continue to keep his constituency over-represented in the governing process.

By Frederick Reese/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

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Proportional Representation Could Open Door to More Black Political Power

With the debate over gerrymandering making its way through the Supreme Court, and voter suppression very much a reality, the issue of fair representation for Black people remains in need of solutions. This as the Voting Rights Act has been defanged of its enforcement mechanisms, and the rights of Black voters remain compromised. These circumstances provide fertile ground for the concept of proportional representation.

What is proportional representation? Consider the current system of legislative representation in America, in which one person represents one district in a single-member winner-take-all electoral district based on geography. Known as a First Past The Post (FPTP) system, it is notorious for excluding racial minorities.  As Vox reported, although proportional representation may take various forms, there are a few popular proposals. For example, a party list system allocates seats based on the number of votes each party receives. This system has a track record of increasing inclusion of ethnic and racial minorities in South Africa, Indonesia and Namibia.

By contrast, in an alternative vote system each state is a single district with various members, rather than various districts each represented by one member. Voters rank the candidates for office, with a formula determining which of the candidates capture the fixed number of seats. Under mixed-member proportional (MMP) systems such as those in Germany and New Zealand, voters cast two votes: one for the party of their choice, and the second for the representative of their choice. When New Zealand adopted its system in 1996, the Maori members of Parliament doubled from 6 percent to 12 percent, and increased to 22 percent in 2014. Pacific Islander MPs increased from 3 percent of Parliament in 1996 to 6 percent in 2014, and Asian MPs grew from 1 percent to 4 percent.

Another system used in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Malta, local elections in Scotland and in the Australian Senate is the Single Transferable Vote (STV), which allows people to vote for a team of legislators rather by ranking them in order of preference. The voter places a number “1” next to their favorite candidate, a “2” next to their second-favorite candidate, and so on. STV eliminates the concerns over vote splitting or tactical voting, and increases the chances of electing independent candidates for office, as voters choose among candidates rather than parties.

Advocates of proportional representation note that it is a solution to gerrymandering, which is the drawing of legislative district boundaries for the benefit of one political party and to entrench its power. Both major political parties engage in the practice, but the Republicans have used it to their advantage over Democrats in recent years, including in 2016 races for the U.S. House and state house and assembly seats. Thanks to gerrymandering, Republicans control a majority of state houses and Congress. Although one forecast has the Democrats receiving 54 percent of the votes in the 2018 House election, they would win a mere 49 percent of the seats.

Nonwhite and women lawmakers are each less than 20 percent of Congress, while the Republican caucus in both the House and Senate is nearly exclusively white, and mostly white men, for that matter. The impact of gerrymandering — which allows politicians to select their voters rather than the other way around — dilutes nonwhite votes.

The effect of gerrymandering is evident in the South, where the sizable population of Black people is not reflected in the congressional delegations and state houses, in which the power of white conservative men is amplified, and Black voters have little to no political power. For example, non-Hispanic whites are 53 percent of the population of Georgia, while Blacks are 32 percent, Latinos are 9 percent, and Asians are 4 percent. Yet, of the 14 House districts in Georgia, white Republicans occupy 10 of these seats (71 percent), and Black Democrats hold the remaining four. Both of Georgia’s U.S. senators are white Republicans, and the state legislature is 72 percent white, 25 percent Black and 1 percent Latino.

In North Carolina, where whites are 63 percent of the state population, Blacks are 22 percent and Latinos 9 percent, only two of the state’s 13 members of Congress are Black, while 11 are white men, and 10 are white Republican men. Both U.S. senators are white Republicans. Whites are 79 percent of the state legislature, Blacks are 20 percent and Latinos 1 percent.

The population of Mississippi is 57 percent white and 38 percent Black, but its entire delegation of two senators and four members of Congress are white Republicans, except for one Black Democrat in the House. The state legislature is 71 percent white and 28 percent Black.

Alabama is two-thirds white and 27 percent Black, according to the Census, but six of its seven House members are white Republicans — the seventh is a Black woman and a Democrat — and its senators are white Republican men. Alabama’s state legislators are three-quarters white and 24 percent Black.

Under a system of proportional representation, Black voters would have more fair and equal representation in city councils, and state legislatures, Congress, and with an amendment to the Constitution, the Senate. James Madison advocated for proportional representation in the Senate, which small states opposed.

With a party list system, Black people in Alabama and North Carolina could each gain an additional seat in Congress, and increase their presence in their respective state assemblies. Proportional representation would transform politics in Georgia, a state which may very well be on its way to becoming a purple and eventually a blue state — and a majority-nonwhite state — due to demographic changes. Under a party list system, for example, Black Democratic voters, in coalition with Latinos, Asians and progressive whites, could increase their representation in Congress by at least two members, possibly even taking over half of the Georgia’s congressional delegation. Georgia could also gain its first Black U.S. senator if elections for the upper house were governed by proportional representation. Similarly, Blacks and other nonwhite Georgians could capture nearly half of the state legislature.

Mississippi is the blackest state in the U.S. in terms of its percentage of African-Americans, and also the most conservative state, where race and party affiliation are highly correlated. If the state adopted a party list system, the Black electorate could gain one additional member of Congress — possibly its first Black senator since Reconstruction — and would increase its number of combined seats in both houses of the state legislature from approximately 49 to 66, out of 174 total seats.

Harvard law professor Lani Guinier has long been a champion of the concept, which is found in most the world’s democracies and ensures the minority has at least some representation. Guinier has also maintained that proportional representation would encourage participation, genuine debate and inclusion — as opposed to tokenism —which race-conscious districts, she argues, do not achieve. Guinier was lambasted for her ideas, which Republicans and moderate Democrats dismissed in 1993 as a quota system when Bill Clinton torpedoed her nomination to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

While Guinier was characterized as a radical for her voting rights positions, the inadequacies of the current political system — which only magnifies white supremacist power — suggest the nation must consider a bold alternative. Although proportional representation is not a panacea for the myriad problems in U.S. government, its electoral system or its politics, it would prove responsive to the needs of the underrepresented, those such as Black voters who have been denied access to power and whose interests have not been served.

By David Love/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

NEW HOUSE BILL WOULD KILL GERRYMANDERING AND COULD MOVE AMERICA AWAY FROM TWO-PARTY DOMINANCE

IF YOU WANT good job security, get elected to Congress. In 2016, the U.S. House had a 97 percent re-election rate, despite the latest Gallup poll placing the House’s approval rating at 21 percent.

A big part of the reason why is the way we elect our representatives. The U.S. uses a winner-take-all, single-member district system. Those districts are often drawn in a way to privilege one party over another — which is called gerrymandering. So if you’re a Democrat living in a district drawn to include a huge number of Republican voters, your vote is purposely drowned out (and vice versa).

And the winner-take-all, first-past-the-post system means that if you want to vote for a third party, your vote will often be “wasted,” as two parties compete to get the most votes and other votes are considered inconsequential to the outcome. If a candidate wins 40 percent of the vote, while her two opponents get 30 percent each, the first one wins, even though 60 percent of the district voted against her. That dynamic effectively forces political actors to sort themselves into two parties, or risk being boxed out of power entirely.

Gerrymandering, combined with the way voters have sorted themselves into cities and rural areas, means that even while Democrats consistently win a majority of votes cast for House candidates, Republicans wind up controlling the House of Representatives regardless.

A group of representatives in the House want to change this system, and are introducing legislation to change this system and make America’s federal elections more representative and competitive.

Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer authored and introduced the Fair Representation Act, which would enact a series of reforms designed to make our elections more competitive and open them up to more parties. Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland have co-sponsored the legislation.

The bill would do three things: require all congressional districts to be drawn by independent redistricting commissions, establish multi-member districts, and have all districts use what’s known as ranked-choice voting (RCV).

The independent redistricting would take power away from partisan legislatures to draw congressional district lines, meaning that one party or another could no longer engage in gerrymandering.

Multi-member districts would mean that voters in each district would have the opportunity to elect multiple legislators to represent them instead of just one — which would mean that more people in the district would have the opportunity to elect someone closer to their own ideology rather than being stuck with one lawmaker who may or may not represent their viewpoint.

Finally, perhaps the most significant reform in the bill is RCV. Under this system, voters would be able to rank their preferences among various candidates and parties, rather than simply casting one vote for each office. If no candidate receives a majority of first-preference votes, then second-preferences are accounted for, and so on, until one candidate has a majority. Under RCV, you can vote your conscience without helping a candidate you loathe win instead.

RCV would make it so that there is no longer anything as a “wasted” vote — if your candidate ends up not being one of the top two candidates in the election, you can deliver your other votes to one of those instead. It would also force major party candidates to respect third-party voters and their ideas — after all, they would want their second-preference votes, and their third, and so on and so forth.

Lastly, it would eliminate the need for expensive runoff elections, as under this system the runoffs would be instantaneous.

Watch this video from the Minnesota Public Radio explaining how RCV works. Minneapolis has used this system for local elections since 2009:

(Maine’s voters approved RCV in a referendum in the 2016 election; however the state’s supreme court is blocking the move.)

In an interview with The Intercept, Rep. Khanna stressed the benefits the bill would have in changing Congress to make it more representative of Americans.

“The reform of Congress is one of the biggest priorities to empower citizens,” he said. “This would help with minority representation and more women because many times communities in a small population are shut out and multi-candidate districts would allow them to have proportional voice.”

He also said it would help finally open up America’s so-called “two-party system” to more political choice and competition thanks to RCV.

The major obstacle is getting a Congress full of incumbents from the two parties to support legislation that would cut against their own self-interest. Khanna suggested that only grassroots pressure moves legislators to act.

“The challenge is how do we get that kind of thinking that we need to challenge incumbency and we need to challenge the two-party system in a Congress where everyone has bought into that system?” he asked. “That’s where I think Don Beyer showed I think extraordinary courage in introducing this bill. The only way that change is going to come is if we have the grassroots citizens start to demand that change.”

By Zaid Jalani/TheIntercept

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Voter Fraud and the Overall Business of LYING

I’m a history guy but we have to be careful who we listen to. Some are coming from the stand-point of influencing people a certain way with their teachings, especially their version of revisionist history: people making shit up that plays into ignorance and sells. Facts are what they are, voter fraud and voter I.D.’s are all the RAGE. My opinion is when you can’t win an election, you steal it. It’s been done before, simply ask Bush II.

In history we learn that things don’t simply happen but are well thought out. Let’s start with the grand pubba, the actor Reagan (raygun, 666). “By the fall of 1991, Reagan and Bush had filled more than half of the 837 federal judgeships, and appointed enough right-wing justices to transform the Supreme Court,” according to the book Democrips and Rebloodlicans by Jesse Ventura. Bush II’s brain Karl Rove aka the “egg man” wants another Repub in office, so what’s the new plan: voter suppression as in suppress the Black and Hispanic turnout.

Notice in the swing states this idea is working. Pennsylvania passed a new law concerning  I.d.s, which is problematic at best because since 2004, with 20 million votes cast, only four(4) cases of voter fraud were uncovered. Both sides sway the populace for votes, look at gerrymandering which redraws district lines to benefit the incumbent. What is so bothering to me is that you can’t use your driver license to vote. In Texas you can use your NRA I.D. to vote but not your student I.D. Wake up people this affects white, Native Americans, Asians and the rest of the voting public; hence, “the best democracy can money can buy.” How can anyone sit idly by when party lines are used in stealing elections and lying to your very face? How can you belong to a specific party and never say anything? I’m also bothered with all the Constitution and Bible talk. They know nothing of each, it simply sounds good. How can you LIE but claim to be a follower of the good news? Rove used rural black churches in order to get their vote for George W. Bush. This is sickening, wake up people, there is too much information out there to still be stuck in stupid.

Written by the NON-Conformist

What’s Really At Stake In Wisconsin’s 2011 Recall Elections?

Image Source: sroblog.com

When Wisconsin residents and potential voters review the information that surrounds these exciting recall elections, one has to ascertain what the REAL issues are and what’s at stake. To coin a question that my father always posed to me when I was trying to get to the essence of a particular matter (notice I didn’t say “seek the truth…”), my father would ask me, “Who’s paying for this?” His goal was to get me to question the motives of proponents and opponents of an issue, realizing there was often a financial component or cost to bear in whatever the outcome was. In these elections, there are several competing objectives, huge financial stakes and the veritable balance of power most political parties wish to maintain and increase.

The frequency of these WI recall elections is unprecedented in the United States! According to one political scholar (“a recall expert”), since 1908 there have only been 20 recorded recall elections in the US; Wisconsin is scheduled to have NINE such elections in less than a month! Many people feel that WI Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to:

  • Severely limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees
  • Support redistricting or gerrymandering
  • Enact stricter voter identification rules( that may have a detrimental impact on the voting privilege of ethnic minorities, the poor and the elderly)
  • Pass conceal & carry gun laws (against the objections of Wisconsin’s banking associations)
  • Pass tax cuts that cut benefit corporations and WI’s wealthy(while curbing spending on education and other support programs)

have enabled him to further many hallmarks of the national Republican agenda but don’t reflect the platform that Gov. Walker ran on.

But why Wisconsin? And why now? Joshua Spivak, who writes the Recall Elections Blog  said that Wisconsin was a natural place for a recall to happen because it is a state where political control regularly switches from one party to another, raising the stakes for a recall effort and making it more attractive.

“Wisconsin’s a real battleground state,” Spivak said. “It makes sense that it would happen in a state that has the possibility of going either way.” Over the last major national elections, WI as proven to be a battleground state. The potential implications of these recall elections are huge, as evidenced by almost $30 million being spent on campaigns with a substantial portion coming from outside Wisconsin.  The intriguing aspect of all this is that shifting the balance of power in the WI statehouse will have no impact on the passed legislation… all those controversial laws are on Wisconsin’s books and in the Republican’s victory bag. But the symbolic outcome of these recall results will be huge and will carry momentum into the 2012 national elections. One scholar states these outcomes will carry political currency for Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee, Ohio and Florida, where Republicans scored political upsets the last major election cycle.

Keenan A. Walker

Milwaukee, Wisconsin