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Posts tagged "Gerrymandering"

h/t: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress Justice

Virginia Democrats are raising hell after Republicans unexpectedly rammed a controversial redistricting bill through the state Senate on Monday, capitalizing on the absence of a Democratic lawmaker and civil rights leader who was in Washington for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

The Virginia Senate is currently split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, each occupying 20 seats in the legislative body. Democratic State Sen. Harry Marsh’s absence paved the way for passage of the previously unannounced legislation by a count of 20 votes to 19.

“The new redistricting map revises the districts created under the 2011 map,” writes Talking Points Memo’s Evan McMorris-Santoro, “and would take effect before the next state Senate elections in Virginia and would redraw district lines to maximize the number of safe GOP seats.”

Link

Under the Republican plan, GOP lawmakers in several states that supported the Democratic candidate for president in recent elections would stop awarding all of their electoral votes to the winner of the state as a whole, and instead award most of them one-by-one to the winners of individual congressional districts. In part because of widespread Republican gerrymandering, if Republicans had implemented this election rigging plan in six key states where they currently control the state government — Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin — Mitt Romney would have won the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote by nearly four points.

Efforts are already underway in several of these six key states to enact this election rigging plan and all but ensure that the next President of the United States is a Republican — regardless of how the American people cast their votes in 2016. Seven Pennsylvania state house members introduced a bill implementing the GOP election rigging plan this week, and the plan already enjoys the support of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R). A bill backed by Virginia State Senator Charles “Bill” Carrico Sr. (R) would implement the election rigging plan in Virginia. And Wisconsin Republican state Rep. Dan LeMahieu is behind an election rigging bill in his state. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) expressed support for the Republican election rigging plan, but he later backed off that support following significant criticism.

Michigan is a blue state. It supported the Democratic candidate for president in every single election for the last two decades. President Obama won the state by nearly 10 points last November. And yet, if the Republican election-rigging plan had been in effect last year, Romney would have likely won a majority of the state’s electoral votes.

H/T: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress Justice

Fresh from claiming the GOP’s 2012 run was “a great campaign—a nine-month campaign”; that only went awry at the end, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus now wants to rig the Electoral College so that when Republicans lose they still might “win.”

Specifically, Priebus is urging Republican governors and legislators to take up what was once a fringe scheme to change the rule for distribution of Electoral College votes. Under the Priebus plan, electoral votes from battleground states such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and other states that now regularly back Democrats for president would be allocated not to the statewide winner but to the winners of individual congressional districts.

Because of gerrymandering by Republican governors and legislators, and the concentration of Democratic votes in urban areas and college towns, divvying up Electoral College votes based on congressional district wins would yield significantly better results for the GOP. In Wisconsin, where Democrat Barack Obama won in 2012 by a wider margin than he did nationally, the president would only have gotten half the electoral votes. In Pennsylvania, where Obama won easily, he would not have gotten the twenty electoral votes that he did; instead, under the Priebus plan, it would have been eight for Republican Mitt Romney, twelve for Barack Obama.

Nationwide, Obama won a sweeping popular-vote victory—with an almost 5-million ballot margin that made him the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to take more than 51 percent of the vote in two elections. That translated to a very comfortable 322-206 win in the Electoral College.

How would the 2012 results have changed if a Priebus plan had been in place? According to an analysis byFair Vote-The Center for Voting and Democracy, the results would have been a dramatically closer and might even have yielded a Romney win.

Under the most commonly proposed district plan (the statewide winner gets two votes with the rest divided by congressional district) Obama would have secured the narrowest possible win: 270-268. Under more aggressive plans (including one that awards electoral votes by district and then gives the two statewide votes to the candidate who won the most districts), Romney would have won 280-258.

“If Republicans in 2011 had abused their monopoly control of state government in several key swing states and passed new laws for allocating electoral votes, the exact same votes cast in the exact same way in the 2012 election would have converted Barack Obama’s advantage of nearly five million popular votes and 126 electoral votes into a resounding Electoral College defeat,” explains FairVote’s Rob Richie.

The RNC chair is encouraging Republican governors and legislators—who, thanks to the “Republican wave” election of 2010, still control many battleground states that backed Obama and the Democrats in 2012—to game the system.

“I think it’s something that a lot of states that have been consistently blue [Democratic in presidential politics] that are fully controlled red [in the statehouse] ought to be considering,” Priebus says with regard to the schemes for distributing electoral votes by district rather than the traditional awarding of the votes of each state (except Nebraska and Maine, which have historically used narrowly defined district plans) to the winner.

Already, there are moves afoot in a number of battleground states to “fix” the rules to favor the Republicans in 2016, just as they have already fixed the district lines for electing members of the House. Thanks to gerrymandering and the concentration of Democratic votes, Republicans were able to lose the overall nationwide vote for US House seats by 1.4 million votes and still take control of the chamber—thus giving the United States the divided government that voters have rejected.

h/t: John Nichols at The Nation

As of this writing, every single state except Hawai’i has finalized its vote totals for the 2012 House elections, and Democrats currently lead Republicans by 1,362,351 votes in the overall popular vote total. Democratic House candidates earned 49.15 percent of the popular vote, while Republicans earned only 48.03 percent — meaning that the American people preferred a unified Democratic Congress over the divided Congress it actually got by more than a full percentage point. Nevertheless, thanks largely to partisan gerrymandering, Republicans have a solid House majority in the incoming 113th Congress.

A deeper dive into the vote totals reveals just how firmly gerrymandering entrenched Republican control of the House. If all House members are ranked in order from the Republican members who won by the widest margin down to the Democratic members who won by the widest margins, the 218th member on this list is Congressman-elect Robert Pittenger (R-NC). Thus, Pittenger was the “turning point” member of the incoming House. If every Republican who performed as well or worse than Pittenger had lost their race, Democrats would hold a one vote majority in the incoming House.

Pittenger won his race by more than six percentage points — 51.78 percent to 45.65 percent.

The upshot of this is that if Democrats across the country had performed six percentage points better than they actually did last November, they still would have barely missed capturing a majority in the House of Representatives. In order to take control of the House, Democrats would have needed to win the 2012 election by 7.25 percentage points. That’s significantly more than the Republican margin of victory in the 2010 GOP wave election (6.6 percent), and only slightly less than the margin of victory in the 2006 Democratic wave election (7.9 percent). If Democrats had won in 2012 by the same commanding 7.9 percent margin they achieved in 2006, they would still only have a bare 220-215 seat majority in the incoming House, assuming that these additional votes were distributed evenly throughout the country. That’s how powerful the GOP’s gerrymandered maps are; Democrats can win a Congressional election by nearly 8 points and still barely capture the House.

Partisan gerrymanders, like the one that now all but locks the GOP majority in place, have been the subject of repeated court challenges. America can thank the five conservative justices on the Supreme Court for allowing these gerrymanders to continue.

h/t: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress Justice

Virginia State Senator Charles “Bill” Carrico Sr. (R) has become the latest swing state-Republican to propose a scheme to rig presidential elections for future Republican candidates. Blue Virginia reportshis proposed SB 723 would award the state’s electors based on which candidate gets the majority of votes in each gerrymandered Congressional district — rather than based on who gets the most votes statewide.

The Carrico bill would award one of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most votes in each of the Commonwealth’s 11 Congressional Districts. The remaining two electors would go to the candidate who won the majority of Congressional Districts. With aRepublican-controlled redistricting passed earlier this year, Virginia Democrats were heavily packed into three districts. Under these maps, Obama won Virginia by almost a 4 point margin, yet he carried just four Virginia Congressional Districts. Were Carrico’s scheme in place, Mitt Romney would have received seven of Virginia’s 11 electoral votes despite receiving just 47.28% of the vote statewide.

Had the Carrico plan been instituted for the 2012 elections in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin, it is quite likely Mitt Romney would be the president-elect despite President Obama’s 51-47 majority.

H/T: Josh Israel at Think Progress Justice

sarahlee310:

A key pillar of American civil rights law is now in danger of being nullified by the Supreme Court. 

Shelby County, Alabama, is seeking to have Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the law that first guaranteed the right of blacks in the South to vote, declared unconstitutional. Section 5 forces areas of the country with a history of discrimination—mostly, but not entirely in the South—to ask the Department of Justice for its approval before making any changes to election rules. The DOJ is then supposed to ensure any changes protect Americans’ voting rights. The law has a provision allowing jurisdictions to “bail out,” but conservatives have repeatedly challeged the law as unconstitutional federal overreach that is no longer necessary because America has transcended its history of racial discrimination. The Supreme Court announced Friday that it would take up the case.  

The last time conservatives challenged Section 5, in 2009, the Supreme Court handed down a very narrow 8-1 ruling (Clarence Thomas was the only dissenter) that did not declare the law unconstitutional. 

The fact that the court is taking up a Section 5 case again so soon suggests strongly that the intent is to strike down part or all of the Voting Rights Act.

Although Section 5 survived in 2009, conservative justices appeared to believe that the law was discriminatory—against Southern white people. “Is it your position that today Southerners are more likely to discriminate than Northerners?” Chief Justice John Roberts demanded of the attorney defending the Voting Rights Act at the time. Despite the 8-1 vote, the 2009 decision was widely seen as leaving Section 5 hanging by a thread. The justices hinted very strongly that Congress, which had just reauthorized the Voting Rights Act in its entirety in 2006, should change the law soon or risk it being declared unconstitutional next time around

Now it looks like the conservatives on the court will get their chance. A cursory review of recent Republican shenanigans with voting rules should put the notion that the VRA is obsolete entirely to bed. With voting growing more racially polarized, the temptations to alter voting rules to disenfranchise particular constituencies is obvious. Indeed, the Department of Justice successfully challenged Texas’ redistricting map because it diluted the voting power of Latinos. If the court strikes Section 5 down, one of the most effective and important powers the federal government has for ensuring that the right to vote is not abridged on the basis of race will be destroyed.

I knew this was probably coming, but damned if it still doesn’t knock me over.  All the more reason to keep your campaign groups together and working on issues - ready to hit the 2014 elections with a lot of well backed progressive candidates.  And keep 2020 on your calendar - when the next census occurs and IF we have put the correct folks in state Houses, there will be an opportunity to undo some of the Republican gerrymandering.

(via reagan-was-a-horrible-president)