NC Amendment would put voter ID in NC constitution

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Our dear General Assembly leaders(see below) here in North Carolina haven’t given up on voter ID, they recently filed a proposed constitutional amendment to ensconce a voter ID rule in the state constitution…Libergirl.

 

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, left, and House Speaker Tim Moore during a May15, 2018, news conference.

Image: WRAL.com

The bill would ask voters to decide this November whether to add this paragraph to the constitution: “Photo identification for voting in person. Every person offering to vote in person shall present photo identification before voting in the manner prescribed by law.”

Republicans have championed photo IDs as the best defense against voter fraud, but Meredith College political science professor David McLennan said instances of in-person voter fraud are “very minimal.”

“It is not a widespread issue, despite what politicians say,” McLennan said.

More from WRAL.com

Posted by Libergirl

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Breaking My Silence on RussiaGate

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We are facing a precarious historic moment. Democracy is threatened by interference in our elections, and by interference in our civil liberties. Likewise we are endangered by warmongering, rampant militarism, nuclear confrontation and accelerating climate change. To solve any of these interlinked problems, we need a functioning democracy and a voting system we can have confidence in.
As first steps to restore trust in that system, we are calling for a nonpartisan Emergency Commission for Election Protection & Voting Justice, as well as international negotiations for an election non-interference treaty. These should be stepping stones toward broader international dialogue to address other urgent looming threats that endanger not only our democracy, but our very survival.
Handing Over Materials to Senate Committee
Today, cooperating with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, our campaign has completed the handover of materials in response to the Committee’s request. The information provided includes documents regarding my 2015 visit to Russia to speak at RT‘s 10th anniversary conference on media and international relations, an extension of my trip to the UN climate conference in Paris, where I also spoke with international leaders and activists. The materials include records of the campaign’s payment for my trip to Russia as well as longstanding Green Party policy objectives of promoting dialogue and diplomacy as essential alternatives to war, nuclear confrontation and climate catastrophe.
Interference in Our – or Any Country’s – Elections Is a Blow Against Democracy.
We take very seriously the issue of interference in our elections, as demonstrated by our continuing efforts to conduct the first and, according to public information, the only 2016 post-election examination of vulnerable US voting machines, a critical cross check on election security that should be routine.
Interference in our – or any country’s – elections is a strike against democracy – whether the intruder is a foreign government, criminal network or domestic actor.
While Pursuing Concerns About Foreign Interference, We Should Not Ignore Domestic Interference in Plain Sight
Concerns about foreign interference should not distract us from interference in plain sight originating from within our own borders. That includes the actions of the Democratic National Committee, which biased its party’s own primaries, effectively disenfranchising millions of Bernie Sanders’ voters; corporate media that gave Donald Trump billions in extra free airtime because he was “damn good” for network profits, in the words of CBS’ CEO; or voter suppression schemes like voter ID laws, Interstate Crosscheck and felon disenfranchisement that systematically deny millions of Americans their constitutional right to vote.
New Election Threats Posed by Big Data/Microtargeting/Psy-Ops Tower Over Primitive Russian Social Media Strategies
Recent revelations surrounding the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal underscore the expanding scope of election interference. The scandal represents a disturbing convergence of a massive data privacy violation with a “military-style”, “full-scale propaganda machine”, as described by whistleblower Christopher Wiley.
The cutting-edge tactics of the Cambridge Analytica scandal make alleged Russian social media meddling look primitive and insignificant by comparison. Cambridge Analytica is accused of using without permission the private information of up to 87 million people, assembling thousands of data points on individuals to craft micro-targeted messages in a campaign of mass manipulation with the scale and sophistication of military-style psy-ops. The actions of the Russian Internet Research Agency, on the other hand, appear to be the opposite of sophisticated and strategic. The lack of targeting, timing and relevance of the vast majority of their Facebook ads underscores the doubts expressed by investigative reporters who’ve suggested the Internet Research Agency may in fact be a “click-bait” factory intended to generate advertising revenue, and not an election meddling operation. The insignificant numbers of the Internet Research Agency’s social media posts – compared to the vastness of the social media universe – further diminishes the claim that it had significant impact on the election outcome. Facebook posts from the Internet Research Agency amounted to a mere 0.0004% of total Facebook content; Russian-associated tweets accounted for 0.02% of election related tweets, and Russian-linked Youtube videos had hit totals only in the hundreds, hardly the stuff of viral transmission.
While the full extent of the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal is as yet unknown, the huge quantities of data harnessed for state-of-the-art microtargeting and manipulative messaging suggest that it is the Cambridge Analytica-type threats that truly endanger our elections and demand protections to safeguard our democracy.
We Call for Emergency Commission to Advance Many Urgently-Needed Solutions
Cambridge Analytica is not alone in using this new, malignant form of election interference that combines big data, micro-targeting, and psyops. It adds yet another danger to the existing threats to secure and just elections. To restore confidence in our elections, each type of interference can and must be remedied, but time is short before the 2018 elections. Therefore, we are calling for a nonpartisan, Emergency Commission on Election Protection & Voting Justice to oversee urgently-needed immediate as well as longer-term solutions to ensure a secure and just vote.
We must end voter suppression schemes and ensure the constitutional right to vote. Prior to the 2018 election, we need a rapid transition to paper ballots, especially in the 12 states that still use the most vulnerable electronic machines lacking any paper record whatsoever; cybersecurity best practices, universal rigorous post-election audits, and routine post-election recounts as warranted. Congress has provided substantial funding for cybersecurity in the March, 2018 Congressional budget. The funding should prioritize paper ballots, and be expedited to ensure reforms are in place by the 2018 midterms.
To begin addressing the abuses of big data, micro-targeting and military-style psyops, privacy protections must be created for personal data and internet/social media communications. In the rush to guard against propaganda and “fake news”, however, we must ensure that the rights of free speech and political opposition – increasingly stifled in current social media and conventional press – are restored and protected.
We must also take on the fundamental corruption of our elections that has been so normalized that it’s rarely even discussed: the stranglehold of big money over the entire process. We can break this stranglehold by establishing public financing for political campaigns and free air time for ballot-qualified candidates, which would greatly diminish the cost of political campaigns. We can expand voter choice and end fear-based elections through Ranked Choice Voting, which liberates voters to vote for what they want, instead of against what they dislike. And we can ensure voters are informed about the greater range of choices that they are clamoring for – by creating a new presidential debate commission not controlled by the two establishment parties. For further details see http://www.votingjustice.us .
We Must Also End US Interference in Other Countries’ Elections
To effectively deal with foreign election interference, we must address the fact that the US is not only a victim of election interference, but a leading perpetrator of it as well, whether through nonviolent or violent means. Given our track record, it is simply unrealistic and unethical to expect other countries to respect the sovereignty of foreign elections unless we commit to doing so as well. Effectively ending election interference requires international diplomacy and treaties. The Emergency Commission would provide consistent long-term public education, advocacy and watch-dogging that will be required to overcome resistance to the reforms required to achieve truly fair elections.
We Support Corruption Probe but Decry Misuse of “Russiagate” for Warmongering, Censorship, Political Repression
We support the investigation of potential concrete crimes related to corruption, quid pro quo deals, money laundering, financial conflicts of interest, and obstruction of justice. Such investigations should not be tainted by misuse of “Russiagate” in broader political discourse for the purpose of promoting censorship, warmongering and politically-motivated efforts to intimidate and silence political opposition to the bipartisan political establishment.
The letter we are releasing today from our lead attorney, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, to the Senate Intelligence Committee details how their bipartisan investigation into our campaign – the flagship of an independent opposition political party – intrudes into First Amendment rights protecting freedom of speech and political liberty for all Americans. While we provided documents responsive to the Committee’s requests, we declined to provide Constitutionally protected materials, including the internal policy deliberations of our campaign, the flagship for an opposition political party. This request intrudes into the First Amendment rights of political and associational freedom that are critical to political liberty for all Americans.
Such Constitutional threats add to the dangerous current climate in which progressive political opposition, social movements, and the anti-war community are being targeted with censorship, surveillance and political intimidation. This includes recent censoring of social media and the internet, blacklisting progressive and anti-war media and organizations, restricting the right to protest, expanding surveillance, and disparaging social movements like Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock water protectors, anti-pipeline activists, and the gun control movement as “tools” of “Russian interference”.
“Russiagate” is also being used to argue for aggressive foreign policies, disparage peace advocates and justify massive military expenditures. This is all the more alarming in the setting of the resurgent cold war, accelerating nuclear arms race, and 17 years of unbridled US militarism that has proven disastrous abroad and devastating to human needs at home.
Emergency Commission and Treaty Can Restore Confidence in our Elections & Act As Stepping Stone to International Dialogue for Peace, Nuclear Weapons Ban & Climate Action.
In short, we are endangered by interference in our elections, interference in our civil liberties, by unbridled militarism and needless warmongering. On all these counts, we must defend our imperiled future and the democracy it depends on.
A military-industrial-surveillance complex is now deeply entrenched within the bipartisan political establishment and much of the corporate media. This dangerous juggernaut must not be allowed to twist legitimate concerns about election interference into support for political repression, censorship and warmongering. Instead, we can begin restoring confidence in our democracy right now with a nonpartisan Emergency Commission for Election Protection & Voting Justice and international negotiations for an election non-interference treaty. These should be stepping stones toward broader international dialogue for nuclear disarmament as called for in the recent UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons, for major reductions in military budgets, and for steeply accelerated climate action. These actions would go a long way to actually begin reducing dire threats that endanger not only our democracy, but civilization as we know it. Time is short. We must not be diverted from this task.

By Jill Stein/CounterPunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The NRA Can Only Be Stopped at the Ballot Box

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Have the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School changed the game? In the wake of the Parkland massacre that killed 17 children and educators, there’s no question the students have changed the national conversation. Survivors of this mass shooting have called “B.S.” on empty Republican pieties – rejecting “thoughts and prayers” and demanding that lawmakers take action to protect children’s lives from guns, instead of protecting their political futures from the wrath of the National Rifle Association.

Image: AP PHOTO/SUSAN WALSH

But Republican lawmakers have so far acted as if nothing has changed. As Parkland survivors looked on in tears, the Florida House this week voted against even debating legislation to curb assault rifles – and then had the audacity to vote to declare porn a threat to public health. President Trump, meanwhile, has decided to champion NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre’s reckless proposal to arm teachers at school.

More from Rolling Stone

Posted by Libergirl

 

No Money, No Vote: How Imposed Fines, Fees and Cost Keep Black People From Voting

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felony disenfranchisementSupporters for a bill that would automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons upon their release from prison hold up signs supporting the bill during a news conference Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006, in front of the State House in Montgomery, Ala. Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who is sponsoring the bill, said the current system has created long delays in restoring voting rights to inmates who have already “paid their debt to society.” (AP Photo/Rob Carr)

When a person leaves jail/prison, it is often said that he or she has “paid their debt to society.” But for many ex-offenders, the debt grows even after prison ends. In addition to jail or prison time, many defendants are sentenced to pay fines, costs, fees, or restitution. These financial penalties are legal financial obligations (LFOs). Like any other part of a sentence, the failure to satisfy one’s LFOs has consequences.  When these fees are not paid, the freed offenders lose many rights — including the right to vote. Due to the racial imbalances in the criminal justice system, most of these offenders who lose their rights are African-American.

When someone is convicted of a crime a judge can impose monetary sanctions in addition to jail time. Some courts require the convicted party to pay restitution to the victim or to the state’s victim relief fund. Some courts require repayment of court costs. If a defendant is sentenced to probation, the court may shift some of the supervision costs to the probationer. The amounts of these LFOs are sometimes far from trivial. An American Bar Association article notes that some crimes carry fines of up to $500,000.

According to Dr. Alexes Harris, professor of sociology at the University of Washington and author of “A Pound of Flesh: Monetary Sanctions as Punishment for the Poor,” it is difficult to assess LFOs on a national level because many jurisdictions are involved. Nevertheless, some figures are available. In Washington state, for example, for each conviction a defendant can expect to incur an average of $1,300 in costs and fees.

Notably, LFOs are not limited to serious crimes. One of Dr. Harris’ reports explains that technically, a traffic ticket is an LFO. LFOs are imposed for crimes ranging from the most severe felonies to the most minor of misdemeanors. Dr. Harris further explained that LFOs know no age limit, as LFOs have been imposed for juvenile infractions.

To fully understand how LFOs impact a person’s ability to vote, one must understand the history of felon disenfranchisement.

Until the Civil War, most states restricted the vote to white males. In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment prohibited states from using race or color as voting qualifications.  For a brief period during the Reconstruction era, African-Americans in the South voted and elected the first African-American representatives to Congress. The progress, however, was short-lived. Confederate loyalists, still stung by their loss in the war, were not willing to share power with African-Americans. This racial resentment led states to pass laws that made voting more difficult for African-Americans, including felon disenfranchisement laws.

Although felon disenfranchisement was not invented during Reconstruction, prior to the Civil War laws that disenfranchised felons were limited in scope. After enslaved Africans were freed and gained the right to vote, Southern states enacted broader laws that stripped the right to vote for anyone convicted of a felony. Unsurprisingly, the rate of felony convictions for African-Americans skyrocketed at the exact time these broader laws were passed. Some of the new disenfranchisement laws imposed financial penalties.

Currently, in most states, the failure to satisfy LFOs arising from a felony conviction can result in a loss of voting rights.  Moreover, in at least eight states, a person can be prohibited from voting for failure to satisfy misdemeanor obligations.

The loss of the vote may not be automatic.  Although practices vary by jurisdiction, Dr. Harris explained that in Washington, the practice works as follows: if a person misses three LFO payments in a 12-month period the local clerk of court or the victim of the crime can notify the prosecutor. The prosecutor can then petition the court to revoke the individual’s right to vote.

A report by the People’s Action Institute, “Disenfranchised by Debt,” explains the scope of the disenfranchisement issue. According to the report, 30 states have laws that restrict a person’s right to vote until all LFOs have been satisfied. Of the 30, nine have laws that explicitly state that a person’s voting rights will be revoked if LFOs are unpaid. Another 21 states disenfranchise voters in less direct, or de facto, manner. In these states, the laws do not directly state that unpaid LFOs will result in the termination of voting rights. Rather, the laws simply require that prison or probation be completed prior to the restoration of voting rights. However, in these states, probation is not complete until all LFOs have been repaid. Thus, these states have engaged in de facto disenfranchisement.

Paying LFOs can be difficult for many reasons. First, LFOs create a vicious cycle of debt.  Even when the amount assessed is minimal, those impacted may still find it difficult to pay the fees. A criminal record makes it difficult to find work. Without steady employment, the former offender’s ability to pay the fees all but disappears. Even worse, as noted, most jurisdictions charge interest on unpaid balances. Faced with limited employment prospects and an ever-increasing debt, many find paying LFOs to be a seemingly insurmountable task.

Second, LFOs create personal stress. Dr. Harris explained that those laboring under LFO debt experience high levels of anxiety. They stress about returning to jail or losing their driver’s licenses as LFOs go unpaid. The debtor worries about choosing between buying essentials for their families (groceries, prescriptions, utilities, and the like) and paying their court-ordered debts. As the stress mounts, so does the interest on the debt. Stress affects one’s ability to find and keep a job, continuing the cycle of debt.

Finally, Dr. Harris explained that many persons responsible for paying LFOs do not know how their voting rights will be affected by their failure to pay. She noted that in Washington a person with LFO obligations can vote as long as his LFO account is in good standing.  However, during her research she observed that many individuals did not know that they could vote while they continued to pay the LFO.

States know that repayment can be difficult. Therefore, in accordance with Supreme Court precedent, most states have laws that allow a person to argue that she is unable to pay the LFO. Despite this ruling, the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School reports that many states still have laws that, on their face, allow defendants to be jailed without any inquiry into their ability to pay. A report from the Brennan Center for Justice confirmed that these laws are often abused. The report stated, “Despite these constitutional protections … interviews with defenders and court personnel revealed that some jurisdictions ignore the requirement that courts inquire into ability to pay before utilizing debtors’ prison, while many others skirt the edges of the law by failing to evaluate a defendant’s ability to pay until after he or she has been arrested, or even jailed, for criminal justice debt, or by allowing defendants to “volunteer” to be incarcerated.”

Dr. Harris’ research shows that the LFO system has roots in racist practices. She writes: “Charged with fees and fines several times their annual earnings, many southern prisoners [after Reconstruction] were leased by justice officials to corporations who paid their fees in exchange for inmates’ labor in coal and steel mines and on railroads, quarries, and farm plantations. Collected fees and fines were used to pay judges’ and sheriffs’ salaries. Monetary sanctions were thus integral to systems of criminal justice, debt bondage, and racial domination in the American South for decades.”

The racial impact of current LFOs is difficult to assess because, again, data must be collected across many jurisdictions. However, using various methods, we can estimate that African Americans are more likely to be adversely impacted by LFOs. First, the racial disparities in the criminal justice system put a higher proportion of African-Americans at risk for financial sanctions.  As the ACLU notes, “The imposition of LFOs … [disproportionately] affects racial and ethnic minorities, because they are [disproportionately] represented among the prisoner population. In 2007, 38% of the nation’s 1.5 million prison inmates were black and 21% were Hispanic, despite the fact that these groups only represent 12% and 15% of the general population, respectively.”  Disproportionate representation means that LFOs have a disproportionate impact on the Black community.

Second, the geography of LFOs makes African-Americans particularly susceptible to them. According to the 2010 Census, the 10 states with the highest African-American populations were California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Of these ten, six have laws that directly or indirectly disenfranchise residents for failure to pay LFOs. Similarly, most of the states with laws that directly provide for revocation of voting rights for failure to pay an LFO are in the South. Census data show that 55 percent of African-Americans live in Southern states.

LFO-graphic-600x436

Finally, though each jurisdiction is different when LFOs are studied on the state and local level, race is usually a factor. For instance, a recent study found that in Alabama, Black voters were more likely whites to have unpaid LFOs and more likely to be stripped of their voting rights based on the failure to pay. While 30 percent of white Alabamans with LFOs were denied voting rights, for African-Americans the number was 56 percent.

When it comes to LFOs, the old adage “let the punishment fit the crime” is appropriate. Although most would agree that it is fair for society to punish those who break its laws, the same people would also agree that the punishment should end at some point.  Those struggling to pay LFOs are punished unceasingly until their obligations are paid off.  Efforts to reform laws to restrict or eliminate LFOs are underway. The African-American community will benefit from the repeal of these laws because LFOs impose a cost on the community that it can no longer afford.

By Nareissa Smith/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist

With Few Watching, Republicans Have Put in Place New Poll Tax to Disenfranchise Voters

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Preventing people from voting because they owe legal fees or court fines muzzle low-income Americans at a time in our nation’s history when the rich have more political power than ever.

More from Robert Reich at Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl

How states can fix the Electoral College and prevent future Trumps

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If just two states had adopted runoffs to ensure that the winners reached 50%, as the Founders intended, we might have a different president.

Donald Trump amassed 101 Electoral College votes in states where he failed to win 50% of the popular vote. In each of these states, more voters voted for other candidates than for Trump, yet he received all the Electoral College votes. This windfall amounted to one-third of his total (304). Without it, he would have fallen 67 short of the 270 required to prevail.

Despite everything said about the 2016 election, insufficient attention has been paid to this basic fact. It means that while Trump technically achieved an Electoral College victory, he did so without genuinely receiving the support of the electorates in the states responsible for his Electoral College win. That is the opposite of what the architects of the Electoral College had in mind.

This point is different from the one about Hillary Clinton winning almost 3 million more votes nationally than Trump. That much-mentioned truth is irrelevant to how the Electoral College is supposed to work. It would matter if there were any realistic chance of replacing the Electoral College with something different, but there isn’t. And meanwhile, it blinds us to the problem that in 2016, the Electoral College did not function properly even according to its own logic. As long as we are stuck with the Electoral College, we should make it operate as intended.

This requires fixing the state laws that implement the Electoral College system. The good news is that each state already has the constitutional power to repair its own laws, without the need for three-quarters of the states agreeing to a constitutional amendment or some sort of multi-state compact that would not take effect until enough states sign on. If just a couple of states had adopted the necessary fix before last year, Clinton might be president now. To understand why, let’s review what went wrong, why it’s inconsistent with the Electoral College’s original intent, and how states already are empowered to remedy the defect.

Trump was able to win these states without a majority because there were more than two candidates on the ballot. Without Jill Stein and Gary Johnson in the mix, Clinton might have received more votes than Trump in some of these six states. If she had done so in just Florida and either Pennsylvania, Michigan, or North Carolina, that would have been enough for her to win the White House.

The Electoral College and majority winners

The Electoral College’s architects understood that an election with multiple candidates might produce a winner with under 50% of the votes, an outcome they wanted to avoid.  That’s why they insisted that to win a candidate must receive a majority, and not merely a plurality, of Electoral College votes. And if no candidate does, then a candidate must get the support of a majority, and not merely a plurality, of state delegations in the House of Representatives.

The Founding Fathers thought each state would take care to assure that a candidate could not receive its Electoral College votes without support from a majority of its voters. States initially complied with this expectation. In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, for example, if no candidate won a majority of the popular vote, the legislature would appoint the state’s electors. New Hampshire then switched to a runoff, in which voters cast a second round of ballots if no candidate received a majority in the first round.

Later, states moved to letting presidential candidates get all of a state’s Electoral College votes with only a plurality of popular votes. This was a mistake and inconsistent with the original vision.

Restoring majority rule

States can return to the original plan by adopting the same kind of runoff that New Hampshire had or, instead, a modern form of runoff that avoids the need for a second round of ballots. Known as instant-runoff voting, it enables voters to rank their preferences among multiple candidates. Had this been used last year, a voter could have ranked Stein first, Clinton second, and Johnson third (for example). These rankings make it possible to eliminate candidates with less support than others and then identify which remaining candidate is preferred by a majority of voters.

If just two states had adopted a runoff, it could have made the difference in which candidate became commander in chief. The highest reform priority between now and 2020 should be to convince battleground states — like Florida and Michigan, where voters can adopt reforms by initiative and thus bypass recalcitrant legislatures — to adopt whichever type of runoff they prefer.

The imperative is to prevent another president who wins the White House without really winning the support of the electorates in the states that determine the outcome. The Founding Fathers would see that as a subversion of the Electoral College system. So should we.

By Edward B. Foley/USAToday

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

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