In five state legislatures, the GOP to consolidate its power
Congress receives national attention in redistribution wars, but state legislatures are key battlegrounds that deserve close scrutiny.
On the one hand, there are thousands of state legislative districts – all the more opportunities for a sneaky gerrymander to go unnoticed.
Additionally, state legislatures, as we have seen over the past year, wield immense power in the democratic process, including setting electoral rules and responding (or not responding) to the COVID pandemic.
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Here are five of the most dramatic examples of state-level gerrymandering we’ve seen this year.
The Texas Republicans redistribution maps, which were signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in October, have drawn their share of lawsuits, including the only Department of Justice redistribution lawsuit so far this year.
The DOJ sued the Congressional and State House Cards, alleging that the legislature had “eliminated electoral opportunities for Latinos in the State House plan through the manipulation or outright elimination of districts where communities Latinos had previously elected their favorite candidates “.
The costume highlights House District 118, which had a solid Latin American majority leading up to the redistribution process. Texas House passed an amendment to change the district over the objections of the majority of the Bexar County delegation, the lawsuit noted, and the change would have resulted in a 10% decrease in the Latin American population of age. vote in the district.
The cards protect GOP holders in the state and their legislative majorities. And although people of color account for 95% of Texas’ population growth over the past decade, there are no new Latin American majority districts on the new House and Senate maps of the United States. State, nor new districts with black majority. The house card actually decreases the number of predominantly black or Latino neighborhoods.
Amid multiple lawsuits over the North Carolina Republican legislative and congressional maps, the state Supreme Court postponed the primary election, citing “the great public interest in the matter.”
It’s not hard to see why people are interested: The cards passed by the state legislature would give Republicans 24 secure seats in the Senate, compared to 17 secure seats for Democrats, the News Observer reported. In the House, the secure seat balance is 55-41 in favor of Republicans.
The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, a non-partisan group that rates redistribution proposals, gave state House and Senate maps “F” ratings overall, as well as Fs for partisan fairness.
Donald Trump won the Ohio presidential election with 53% of the state’s vote against Joe Biden’s 45% in 2020, up a few points from his 51-43% victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Before that, Barack Obama had won the state back to back. presidential contests.
And yet the cards approved by the Ohio Cutting Commission, on a party line vote, would effectively give Ohio Republicans 64.4% of the legislature, the Columbus Dispatch reported – a margin of 62. -37 in the House and a margin of 23-10 in the Senate. This is despite Ohio voters who have adopted two initiatives in the past decade to curb partisan gerrymandering.
Presidential margins are a rough measure, but what Republicans on the Ohio Redistribution Commission used may be more bizarre: Republican candidates have won 13 of the last 16 statewide elections, or 81%, they said, and the proportion of the vote in those elections went to Republicans. 55-45.
“Thus, the proportion of voters statewide favoring Republican candidates statewide is between 55% and 81%,” the commission said in a statement. In the words of the Columbus Dispatch Editorial Board: “Huh? By this logic, New York, which still elects Democrats to state-wide positions, would be justified in drawing a map with 100% Democratic districts, notes an analysis on Democracy Docket, the website of the Democratic electoral lawyer Marc Elias.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R), a member of the Redistribution Commission, voted for the cards although he later admitted, “What I’m sure in my heart is that this committee would was able to propose a bill that was much clearer. constitutional. I’m sorry we didn’t do this.
Wisconsin is a perfect example of how the redistribution victories of years past can lean on themselves: In 2011, Republicans controlled the legislature and state governor, and they passed a redistribution map. strongly inclined in their favor. This year, with Democratic Governor Tony Evers in office, things weren’t going to be that simple.
Typically, the partisan split would result in the courts drawing the districts, Wisconsin Public Radio noted. But this time, the right-wing Wisconsin Institute for Law and Freedoms filed a lawsuit, calling on the court to seek a map of the “least change” – that is, one incorporating the fewest changes. compared to the previous Republican-dominated map. The state Supreme Court not only agreed with them, it said the new map shouldn’t necessarily change due to its disproportionately Republican character.
The state does not yet have its definitive card: watch this space. But things are not looking good. Evers has submitted its own “less changes” card proposal to court, but that improves on a heavily gerrymandered state, and as such can only go so far.
Republicans control both the legislature and the governor’s residence in Georgia, and the party will reap the rewards.
The effect will be particularly clear in some districts: Joe Biden won 59% of State Senator Michelle Au’s district in 2020, for example, but the card to be signed by Governor Brain Kemp would make the region a victory. of 52% of Trump.
There are also racial representation issues that open the state to lawsuits – which are expected en masse. House Speaker David Ralston (right) admitted earlier this month that “the misuse of the political process” was just part of the redistribution, and asked Democratic authors like Illinois and New York to argue that both sides do.
“You never hear about these – the blatant abuse of the political process – but it’s part of the process, and I don’t know how you pull it off,” Ralson said. “I think the cards, despite the rhetoric, are fair. They followed the law very scrupulously. They follow the law on voting rights. Now let’s see what happens.