Supreme Court sends NC partisan gerrymander case back for more arguments

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The U.S. Supreme Court sent the North Carolina case challenging the 13 congressional districts as partisan gerrymanders back on June 25, 2018, to the lower court for further hearings. Jessica Gresko AP Photo

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t immediately take up arguments about whether North Carolina Republican lawmakers went too far in 2016 when they redrew the state’s 13 congressional election districts to intentionally give their party a 10 to 3 advantage.

In an order released Monday, the high court sent the case back for further hearing in light of its decision in a Wisconsin case last week.

That means the challengers will have to persuade the three-judge panel that struck down the congressional districts as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders that a voter in each district suffered harm.

The North Carolina case has some similarities to the Wisconsin case and a Maryland partisan gerrymander case that also was sent back to a lower court last week for further proceedings.

But North Carolina’s case has one prominent difference.

State Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican, announced the party’s intention for drawing the election districts that would be used for voters to elect their congressional delegation.

“I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with eleven Republicans and two Democrats,” Lewis said at the time.

The redrawing occurred because the federal courts found that the redistricting plan drawn by Republicans in 2011 contained unconstitutional racial gerrymanders that weakened the influence of black voters.

Challengers hope to get the case back before the Supreme Court in time to affect the districts used in the 2020 election, said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

“While it’s unfortunate that the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear this case right away, we are optimistic that the lower court will recognize, like they did in January, that North Carolina’s partisan gerrymandering is so egregious that it is unconstitutional and that our clients are the appropriate parties to be raising such claims,” Riggs said in a news release.

North Carolina has been described as one of the most gerrymandered states, and over the past seven years voters have chosen elected officials for the General Assembly and U.S. Congress from election districts that were later struck down by the courts as either racial or partisan gerrymanders.

North Carolina’s contorted history of congressional redistricting

Federal judges recently ruled that Republicans unconstitutionally gerrymandered two North Carolina congressional districts by race. But redrawing districts to benefit the political party in power is nothing new and has been going on for years.

Nicole L. Cvetnic and Patrick Gleason McClatchy

In an era in which mapmaking tools make it possible to draw election districts that pick up one house in a neighborhood while leaving another out, critics say the party in power is choosing voters for the candidates instead of the way the constitution intended.

There have been calls in North Carolina for the creation of a redistricting process to be done outside the political realm, but no legislation requiring that has been approved.

Concerned voters have looked to the U.S. Supreme Court for guidance.

Many consider Justice Anthony Kennedy to be the swing vote.

In a 2004 case from Pennsylvania, Kennedy was looking for a “limited and precise rationale … to correct an established violation of the Constitution in some redistricting cases.”

Though he did not find one in that case, he signaled his openness to striking down extreme partisan gerrymanders if the court could agree on a standard to do so.

In the Wisconsin partisan gerrymander case, in which the challengers asked the court to consider the state as a whole, the Supreme Court sent the case back saying the challenges must be brought district by district, with voters in each proving that their rights had been violated.

The Maryland case was sent back in an unsigned opinion that said the lower court hadn’t been wrong when it decided not to make the state redraw the maps in time for the 2018 election.

In response to the rulings in those cases, attorneys for North Carolina lawmakers filed a brief last week with the Supreme Court saying the case over the state’s congressional districts should be sent back to the lower court to further address questions raised in the Wisconsin case.

But attorneys for the challengers argued that no further hearings were necessary, that voters in each of the 13 congressional districts could and had shown harm.

By Anne Blythe/NewsandObserver
Posted by The NON-Conformist
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Republicans Got Greedy With Gerrymandering. Now It’s Coming Back To Haunt Them. “It just was so nakedly partisan.”

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When Thomas Hofeller travelled across the country at the beginning of the decade to talk to lawmakers about the redistricting process, he brought a warning: “Don’t get cute.”

Republicans were fresh off a remarkably successful effort to take control of state legislatures so they could control the redistricting process ― a significant victory, because redistricting is only done every 10 years. Hofeller, a veteran Republican redistricting consultant and mapmaker, cautioned lawmakers against drawing “stupid irregularities” in boundaries obviously contorted to include voters likely to support them, The Atlantic reported.

But in 2011, Republicans were focused on maximizing every possible advantage they could squeeze out of the redistricting project, and saw an opportunity to entrench their control of at least 20 seats in the U.S. House. They took it.

Republicans have since enjoyed considerable advantage from those maps. According to an estimate by the Brennan Center for Justice, Republican gerrymandering accounts for 16 or 17 GOP seats in the current Congress that the party may not otherwise control.

But now, that gerrymandering greed of Republicans is coming back to haunt them.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in January struck down the congressional map state Republicans drew, saying it was so partisan that it violated the state constitution. That same month, a panel of three federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional map. In October, the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument in a Wisconsin case may set a standard for defining unconstitutional gerrymandering on partisan grounds. (The court also will consider a case challenging a Democratic gerrymander in Maryland at the end of March.)

As these legal contests settle out, it’s worth looking back on how the GOP got here.

The reckoning Republicans are seeing now is one that could have been avoided, lawyers and redistricting experts say, had the GOP not been so ruthless.

Both Democrats and Republicans have gerrymandered in the past to their advantage, but Republicans took it to a new level in 2011. In an amicus brief to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, political science professors Keith Gaddie and Bernard Grofman wrote that there was as much as three times more partisan bias in congressional maps this decade than in ones drawn in 2000. Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a law professor at the University of Chicago helping challenge a Wisconsin map, said a “dramatic number” of the worst gerrymanders of the last half-century have occurred since 2010.

Until the courts began stepping in, Republican gerrymandering paid off. From 2012 to 2016, the GOP won 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional seats, even though the party’s candidates only got around half of the vote. In Ohio, the party consistently won 12 of 16 congressional seats, but 50 percent of the statewide vote. In Wisconsin, they won at least 60 of 99 state assembly seats, with about half of the popular vote.

As a lawyer, Stephanopoulos said the clear egregiousness of the Republican redistricting made it easier to show something was amiss. It would have been harder to make a case, he said, if Republicans had only been winning slim majorities.

“In Wisconsin, if Republicans had been winning a narrow majority of the statehouse with roughly a tied election, Democrats would have been upset by that, but it probably wouldn’t have risen to a major constitutional challenge,” Stephanopoulos said.

Republican mapmakers in 2011 may have been emboldened by a 2004 U.S. Supreme Court case in which justices declined to strike down Pennsylvania’s congressional plan on partisan grounds.

Republicans could have been cautious. They could have drawn maps that benefitted their party, but at the same time were fairer, compact and contiguous, said Jeffrey Wice, a Washington lawyer who has worked with Democrats on redistricting issues. The Constitution gives state lawmakers the broad responsibility of drawing electoral districts, and the GOP maps would have stood up better against judicial scrutiny had lawmakers offered public justification in their legislatures for the boundaries, Wice added.

“You can draw a plan to benefit a party, but do so in a fair way through a more transparent, objective process that follows criteria,” Wice said. “If politicians weren’t as greedy and secretive, then we wouldn’t be seeing as many challenges to plans for the egregious overreaching in the last round.”

In many cases, Republicans didn’t offer a defensible justification. In North Carolina, a Republican said his party’s lawmakers drew a map that gave Republicans a 10-3 advantage because he didn’t see a way to draw one that was 11-2. In Wisconsin, GOP lawmakers sought to avoid scrutiny by hiring a law firm to draw the maps, hoping the work would be hidden by attorney-client privilege.

Without a public explanation for the redrawn boundaries, it’s easier for those challenging the maps to claim Republicans intended to dilute Democratic votes.

Michael Li, redistricting counsel at the Brennan Center, pointed to the GOP-drawn congressional map in Pennsylvania as a good example of a brazen Republican attempt to maximize control. The districts were clearly contorted into odd-looking shapes, and there was no attempt to explain why ― other than partisan advantage.

“The 2011 map in Pennsylvania resulted in such contorted districts, it was hard to explain away as product of neutral decisions, such as about keeping towns or counties together. It just was so nakedly partisan,” Li said in an email. ”That’s not to say a map that was less contorted couldn’t have been challenged if it also produced durable bias in favor of a party. But at least there would be a colorable defense that a court would have to take seriously.”

Such strong evidence also could make it more palatable for courts to wade into political redistricting ― a topic the judiciary had long avoided.

“The courts are going to police outlier cases, rather than trying to wade into each and every one,” said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “The same principle’s true in any kind of discrimination: The more blatant, the easier it is to establish, and the more likely the courts are to call it out.”

Even if the Supreme Court does decide Republicans went too far with gerrymandering, its anticipated ruling in the spring would likely come too late to affect this year’s congressional elections, and wouldn’t have an impact on maps until at least 2020. Even if Republicans lose the ability to gerrymander in the future, their ruthlessness will have helped them for nearly an entire decade.

Ed Gillespie, the former Republican National Committee chair who oversaw the party’s effort to target state legislatures, envisioned that kind of success. In 2011 talking points, obtained by journalist David Daley, Gillespie thanked donors who had given to the party’s effort to make gains in state legislatures. He said Republicans hadn’t waste a “drop” of their money on state races, and had made “maximum impact.”

By Sam Levine/HuffPost

Posted by The NON-Conformist

NC congressional districts struck down as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders

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A panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s election districts for U.S. Congress on Tuesday as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders and gave lawmakers until Jan. 29 to bring them new maps to correct the problem.

The ruling comes in cases filed by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause in North Carolina stemming from maps adopted in 2016 during a special legislative session. It throws a new wrinkle and more uncertainty into the 2018 election cycle in North Carolina a month before candidates were scheduled to file for office.

“We’re enormously gratified on behalf of our clients and all voters in North Carolina that no one will have to endure another congressional election under an unconstitutional map,” said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represented some of the challengers. “The court was clear in demanding a real remedy before the 2018 elections, and we expect the General Assembly to respect that order.”

The judges – James A. Wynn, a Barack Obama appointee to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and federal district judges W. Earl Britt, a Jimmy Carter appointee, and William L. Osteen Jr., a George W. Bush appointee – were unanimous that North Carolina lawmakers under Republican leadership violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause when they drew maps explicitly to favor their party.

“On its most fundamental level, partisan gerrymandering violates ‘the core principle of republican government . . . that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around,’” the majority opinion states.

The ruling is the first time federal judges have struck down congressional districts as partisan gerrymanders. A Wisconsin case that was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court involved state legislative districts found to be partisan gerrymanders.

In North Carolina, Wynn and Britt also found that the 2016 redistricting plan designed to give Republicans wins in 10 of the 13 districts also violated the free speech of the challengers by trying to weaken the voices of Democrats with whom they did not agree. Osteen dissented from his colleagues on that point, but agreed overall that the maps were unconstitutional.

In the words of Rep. Lewis

The lawmakers, Wynn wrote in the opinion for the majority, “do not dispute that the General Assembly intended for the 2016 Plan to favor supporters of Republican candidates and disfavor supporters of non-Republican candidates. Nor could they. The Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly expressly directed the legislators and consultant responsible for drawing the 2016 Plan to rely on ‘political data’ — past election results specifying whether, and to what extent, particular voting districts had favored Republican or Democratic candidates, and therefore were likely to do so in the future — to draw a districting plan that would ensure Republican candidates would prevail in the vast majority of the state’s congressional districts.”

During the legislative session in which the maps were drawn, Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican who has shepherded the state’s recent redistricting efforts, announced that the maps were drawn to give Republicans a large majority. Lewis made his comments after the federal court found congressional districts drawn in 2011 to include unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. In announcing the new maps, Republican lawmakers stated that the race of voters would not be considered in the design of the new districts.

“I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with eleven Republicans and two Democrats,” Lewis said at the time.

At the time, the courts had allowed for some partisan consideration in redistricting, which happens every 10 years after the census shows population shifts. But voting rights organizations have pushed for changes to that, saying modern mapmaking technology has allowed candidates for elected office to choose their voters under new redistricting plans instead of letting voters choose who represents them.

The comment by Lewis has provided the underpinnings for a lawsuit that sets North Carolina apart from other partisan gerrymander challenges. The Wisconsin case before the Supreme Court relies more heavily on a proposed statistical formula called “the efficiency gap,” which counts the number of votes wasted when voters are shifted into districts where their votes won’t matter, either because their party’s candidate can’t win or is already sure to win.

The North Carolina challengers argue, like the challengers in Wisconsin, that the maps drawn discriminate against Democratic candidates and voters because of their political beliefs. They say the lawmakers who either “packed” them into a single district or “cracked” their district into multiple districts to weaken their influence are robbing them of free speech and equal protection rights because their opinions differ from the lawmakers in power.

Republicans contend that such arguments and formulas are not for the courts to decide – that redistricting is a legislative duty in North Carolina.

The lawmakers, Wynn wrote, “do not argue – and have never argued – that the 2016 Plan’s intentional disfavoring of supporters of non-Republican candidates advances any democratic, constitutional, or public interest. Nor could they. Neither the Supreme Court nor any lower court has recognized any such interest furthered by partisan gerrymandering – ‘the drawing of legislative district lines to subordinate adherents of one political party and entrench a rival party in power.’”

Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court coming

News of the ruling brought quick applause from Democrats and swift criticism from Republicans.

Legislative leaders plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a spokeswoman for Mitchell County Republican state Sen. Ralph Hise, who along with Lewis has led redistricting efforts in the legislature.

Eric Holder, who served as attorney general under Obama and now is chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in a statement that the ruling “was just the latest example of the courts telling state legislators in North Carolina that citizens should be able to pick their representatives, instead of politicians picking their voters. It’s long past time for the legislature to produce fair maps that represent the diverse communities of North Carolina.”

“Republicans comprise 30 percent of registered voters in North Carolina, yet they crafted a congressional map that would ensure Republican success in 10 of 13 districts, or 76 percent,” U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat from Wilson, said in a statement. “The Republicans made this case relatively simple when they admitted in court that the congressional map was drawn for partisan political advantage.”

U.S. Rep. David Price, a Democrat from Chapel Hill, also praised the ruling. “No state has suffered more than North Carolina from extreme partisan gerrymandering by Republicans – both after the 2010 census and in 2016, after their first map was ruled an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. But the current map is still designed to produce a 10-3 Republican advantage among congressional districts, in a state that is equally divided politically,” Price said in a statement in which he described the ruling as one with “national implications.”

‘Partisan war on North Carolina Republicans’

Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, sent out a tweet criticizing Wynn. “It is incredibly disappointing activist Judge Jim Wynn is waging a personal, partisan war on North Carolina Republicans,” Woodhouse said on Twitter.

Dallas Woodhouse@DallasWoodhouse

It is incredibly disappointing activist Judge Jim Wynn is waging a personal, partisan war on North Carolina Republicans. #ncpol#ncga

Wynn has been on a panel of federal judges that has ruled against the state in other redistricting cases that found districts to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders and who wrote a critical opinion striking down a 2013 election law overhaul and voter ID law, saying it with near “surgical precision” targeted African-American voters, who often support Democrats.

Woodhouse added to his tweet later: “It is Now very clear that Judge Wynn has decided that @ncgop should not be allowed to draw election districts under any circumstances under any set of rules. This is a hostile takeover of the #NCGA and legislative bodies across the U.S.”

North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin called the ruling a “major victory for North Carolina and people across the state whose voices were silenced by Republicans’ unconstitutional attempts to rig the system to their partisan advantage.”

“Republicans have shown time and time again they are more interested in drawing themselves into power than representing the best interest of their constituents,” Goodwin said in a statement. “It’s time the General Assembly put partisanship aside and draw fair, non-partisan maps that give North Carolina voters a voice.”

By Anne Blythe/News&Observer

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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

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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

 

Proportional Representation Could Open Door to More Black Political Power

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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

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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

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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

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