Warm Southern Breeze

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Gerrymander 2021: Republicans To Choose Voters

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, June 28, 2021

“Redistricting is like an election in reverse! It’s a great event. Usually the voters get to pick the politicians. In redistricting, the politicians get to pick the voters!”

— Thomas Hofeller (1943-2018), Republican National Committee Redistricting Director, GOP strategist and district mapmaker at “Redistricting & Census 2000,” an event sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures, (see video at 33:50–34:24), at Henry Gonzales Convention Center, San Antonio, Texas

Should politicians choose their voters?

Or, should voters choose their politicians?

That’s the essence of what will be the next great political fight to come from Republicans.

And, if things go the way that many expect them to go, the GOP will crown themselves the victor.

“The fix is in,” as the saying goes.

Here’s one recent news item detailing how the formerly-Grand Old Party will manipulate the system:

Republicans Eye Nashville Crack-Up To Gain House Seat
By Reid Wilson – 06/20/21 04:32 PM EDT

“Republicans plotting to maximize their advantages in state legislatures across the country during the decennial redistricting process are considering cracking apart Tennessee’s largest city, an ambitious move that could signal how aggressively the party will try to rig maps in its favor in the coming months.

“In preliminary conversations, top Republicans in the Volunteer State have contemplated dramatically redrawing the boundaries of a district anchored in Nashville, one of just two U.S. House seats in Tennessee held by a Democratic member of Congress.

“The move would put the squeeze on Rep. Jim Cooper (D), the dean of Tennessee’s congressional delegation and a presence in Washington since he first won his district in 1982, save for an eight-year absence after he lost a race for a U.S. Senate seat in 1994.

“Cooper has never had trouble winning reelection: He ran unopposed in 2020, and he hasn’t taken less than 62 percent of the vote since the Republican wave of 2010.

“Cooper’s strength lies in Nashville’s Davidson County, home to about four in five of his constituents. The county gave President Biden almost two-thirds of the vote in 2020, while the smaller but more Republican suburbs in Dickson and Cheatham counties voted heavily for former President Trump.

“Nashville and Davidson County have been wholly contained within one congressional district since at least the 1950s, a logical function of its role as the population epicenter of Middle Tennessee.

“But if Tennessee Republicans decide to divide Davidson County between neighboring districts, Cooper may find himself facing the unpalatable decision to run in a district that is much more favorable to Republicans: All three of the neighboring districts — held by Reps. John Rose (R) to the north and east, Mark Green (R) to the west and south and Scott DesJarlais (R) to the southeast — gave Trump at least two-thirds of the vote.

“Tennessee has changed dramatically, in a lot of ways,” said Gregory Gleaves, a Republican strategist in Nashville. “I don’t think it would be that unusual for Nashville to get split. It happens in other states. There’s no law saying Davidson County is the one county that can’t be split.”

“Democrats would have little ability to resist the GOP power play. Republicans hold 26 of 33 seats in the state Senate, and 74 of 99 seats in the state House of Representatives. Gov. Bill Lee, also a Republican, has the final say in approving any new district maps.

It’s always going to be chopped up to the advantage of the ruling party. So that’s expected,” said state Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D), the chairman of the Tennessee state legislature’s Black Caucus. “It makes it harder for Democrats to get elected.”

“Cooper’s office did not respond to a request for comment. But he is no fan of partisan gerrymandering: Cooper introduced legislation earlier this year that would require states to create independent and bipartisan redistricting commissions.

Voters should continue to choose their elected officials — not the other way around,” Cooper said in a statement introducing the bill in January. “The redistricting process shouldn’t be about protecting the powerful and we need to fix it.”

“The U.S. Census Bureau has not put out block-level population data that will inform state legislative mapmakers, after the pandemic delayed data collection and analysis, so any potential plans to split Nashville are preliminary at most.

“But redistricting experts say they see the move to divide Tennessee’s biggest city among multiple districts, diluting the power of Nashville’s voters and giving Republicans a chance to pick up a seat, as emblematic of a strategy the GOP will use in other states.

This is a common tactic used by state legislators especially in order to crack voters into different districts,” said Ari Goldbloom-Helzner, a computational research analyst at the Electoral Innovation Lab at Princeton. “It makes it difficult for those groups to constitute a majority in electing a representative of their choice that represents their community.”

“Several other cities have been chopped between districts for partisan gain, too: In the last decade, Texas Republicans split Travis County, home of liberal Austin, among five separate congressional districts, four of which are held by Republicans. Pennsylvania Republicans drew district lines so bizarre in the increasingly Democratic Collar Counties around Philadelphia that the state Supreme Court set a new map of boundary lines in place for the 2018 elections. In Michigan, liberal Lansing is divided between districts held by Reps. Tim Walberg (R) and Elissa Slotkin (D), after Slotkin defeated Republican incumbent Mike Bishop in 2018.

“As the Census Bureau prepares to deliver new block-level data to states, Republicans and Democrats are beginning to outline strategies they will implement to take full advantage of the control they wield.

“Republicans, by dint of their advantage in so many state legislatures, will have a leg up. The GOP holds complete control over the redistricting process in 20 states that will collectively send 188 members to the House of Representatives. Democrats control the entire process in only seven states that account for 72 members of Congress.

“Sixteen states will draw new boundary lines through independent or bipartisan commissions or through power-sharing agreements because both Democrats and Republicans hold at least one lever of government. The seven remaining states send only one at-large member to Congress.

“The Republican advantage is less than it was a decade ago, just after the 2010 election handed the GOP control of a large number of governorships and state legislative chambers. But recent Supreme Court rulings have removed some of the guardrails that constrained legislatures last time around, potentially giving Republicans and Democrats alike greater freedom to exercise their control over the redistricting process.”
https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/559207-republicans-eye-nashville-crack-up-to-gain-house-seat

See also: The Path To The Supreme Court’s Big Gerrymandering Decision Led Justices Through Tennessee
by Joel Ebert, The Tennessean, July 4, 2019, 10PM CST
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2019/07/05/supreme-court-partisan-gerrymandering-debate-barker-vs-carr/1623807001/

See also: Grand Divisions Episode 58: A Look At A Landmark Supreme Court Case With Tennessee Ties And Gerrymandering
by Joel Ebert, The Tennessean, July 9, 2019, 5AM CST
https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2019/07/09/tennessee-gerrymandering-baker-v-carr-supreme-court/1676767001/

If it’s wrong for one party to do it, it’s wrong for the other party to do it — regardless of which one is in power. Both parties would decry such an unjust and inequitably lopsided measure if the other one did it.

It’s not mere politics. The problem is very real, and is a dangerously destabilizing force upon our free and independent Constitutional processes, most notably upon voting, by making it ineffectual, null and void, and jeopardizing our national security and our democratic republic. In essence, it is a theft and usurpation of power out of the hands of The People, and into the pockets of politicians.

All that is thanks in large part to Thomas Hofeller, a Republican strategist who some say “perfected” the art of gerrymandering – a manipulative process designed to usurp power from the people, and instead, give it to politicians.

However, HR1 and companion bill S1, would put a stop to such abusive practices by establishing independent, nonpartisan redistricting boards in all 50 states, which is but one reason why that bill is so very important. It also puts an end to the abuses of “dark money,” and brings to a screeching halt the disastrous “money is free speech” SCOTUS ruling in Citizens United.

After Hofeller’s death, his daughter Stephanie discovered what amounted to a veritable treasure trove of information, all which was from his work drawing maps that would significantly benefit Republicans. What was embarrassing, was that all of his work was designed to limit the political influence of Blacks, Hispanics, and other non-White people. Stephanie’s discovery of his arguably racist work was so shocking, that the Republican party in North Carolina – where Hofeller’s maps work was successfully utilized by the GOP – sought to legally prevent her from publicly releasing his work.

They were unsuccessful.
See: https://www.TheHofellerFiles.com/
See also: https://election.princeton.edu/2020/01/13/the-hofeller-documents/

Thomas Hofeller’s work creating gerrymandered exclusionary political maps was nationwide and included redistricting in Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as Nassau County New York, and Galveston, and Nueces counties in Texas.

Hofeller was also significantly responsible for the idea of a prospective Census question “Is this person a United States citizen?” which was eventually nixed by the judicial system.

Stephanie said that her father’s stated objective was to use the manipulative process of gerrymandering to “create a system wherein the Republican nominee would win. State legislature, it doesn’t matter who votes for what. Congress, it doesn’t matter who votes for what. And president, it doesn’t matter.”

Ms. Hofeller said that “I don’t identify as a Democrat,” and noted particularly that, “I don’t believe that we’re going to really find solutions to the deeper problems of inequality in a system that demands a hierarchy, which is, by definition, unequal.”

For additional information on the Hofeller matter, see:
https://www.npr.org/2019/05/30/728232221/gop-redistricting-strategist-played-role-in-push-for-census-citizenship-question
https://www.npr.org/2019/06/06/730260511/redistricting-gurus-hard-drives-could-mean-legal-political-woes-for-gop
https://www.npr.org/2020/01/05/785672201/deceased-gop-strategists-daughter-makes-files-public-that-republicans-wanted-sea
https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/a-father-a-daughter-and-the-attempt-to-change-the-census

The Ballotpedia website has a list of 10 software packages designed to draw legislative and congressional districts, which are designed to be used primarily by the general public, and/or governmental users. Here’s their summary:

“Of the ten apps listed on this page, five are free. All apps allow users to create maps, and five allow users to generate reports. Six apps include data sets, and six apps are browser-based, meaning they can be used in a web browser window.”

https://ballotpedia.org/Redistricting_apps_and_software_available_for_the_2020_cycle

Herein are two illustrations that graphically depict, and explain very simply how districts can be – and are – gerrymandered in order to give a partisan advantage to those who draw the districts… which, to this point, have been politicians in power, who desire to remain in power.

The greatly ballyhooed HR1 and S1 would eliminate partisan redistricting, a process by and through which politicians have chosen their voters, rather than voters choosing their politicians.


Republicans Can Win The Next Elections Through Gerrymandering Alone

by David Daley
Monday, 28 June 2021, 06:15 EDT

Even if voting patterns remain the same, Republicans could still win more seats in Congress through redistricting.

In Washington, the real insiders know that the true outrages are what’s perfectly legal and that it’s simply a gaffe when someone accidentally blurts out something honest.

And so it barely made a ripple last week when a Texas congressman (and Donald Trump’s former White House physician) said aloud what’s supposed to be kept to a backroom whisper: Republicans intend to retake the US House of Representatives in 2022 through gerrymandering.

“We have redistricting coming up and the Republicans control most of that process in most of the states around the country,” Representative Ronny Jackson told a conference of religious conservatives. “That alone should get us the majority back.”

He’s right. Republicans won’t have to win more votes next year to claim the US House.

In fact, everyone could vote the exact same way for Congress next year as they did in 2020 – when Democratic candidates nationwide won more than 4.7m votes than Republicans and narrowly held the chamber – but under the new maps that will be in place, the Republican party would take control.

How is this possible? The Republican party only needs to win five seats to wrench the speaker’s gavel from Nancy Pelosi. They could draw themselves a dozen – or more – through gerrymandering alone. Republicans could create at least two additional red seats in Texas and North Carolina, and another certain two in Georgia and Florida. Then could nab another in Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and New Hampshire.

They won’t need to embrace policies favored by a majority of Americans. All they need to do is rework maps to their favor in states where they hold complete control of the decennial redistricting that follows the census – some of which they have held since they gerrymandered them 10 years ago. Now they can double down on the undeserved majorities that they have seized and dominate another decade.

If Republicans aggressively maximize every advantage and crash through any of the usual guardrails – and they have given every indication that they will – there’s little Democrats can do. And after a 2019 US supreme court decision declared partisan gerrymandering a non-justiciable political issue, the federal courts will be powerless as well.

It’s one of the many time bombs that threatens representative democracy and American traditions of majority rule. It’s a sign of how much power they have – and how aggressively they intend to wield it – that Republicans aren’t even bothering to deny that they intend to implode it.

“We control redistricting,” boasted Stephen Stepanek, New Hampshire’s Republican state party chair. “I can stand here today and guarantee you that we will send a conservative Republican to Washington as a congressperson in 2022.”

In Kansas, Susan Wagle, the Republican party state senate president, campaigned on a promise to draw a gerrymandered map that “takes out” the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation. “We can do that,” Wagle boasted. “I guarantee you that we can draw four Republican congressional maps.”

Texas Republicans will look to reinforce a map that has held back demographic trends favoring Democrats over the last decade by, among other things, dividing liberal Austin into five pieces and attaching them to rural conservative counties in order to dilute Democratic votes. Texas will also have two additional seats next decade due largely to Latino population growth; in 2011, when similar growth created four new seats for Texas, Republicans managed to draw three for themselves.

North Carolina Republicans crafted a reliable 10-3 Republican delegation throughout the last decade. When the state supreme court declared the congressional map unconstitutional in 2019, it forced the creation of a fairer map in time for 2020. Democrats immediately gained two seats. But the state GOP will control the entire process once again this cycle, so those two seats will likely change side – and Republicans could find a way to draw themselves the seat the state gained after reapportionment.

Two Atlanta-area Democrats are in danger of being gerrymandered out of office by Republicans. The single Democratic member from Kentucky, and one of just two from Tennessee, are in jeopardy if Republicans choose to crack Louisville and Nashville, respectively, and scatter the urban areas across multiple districts. Florida Republicans ignored state constitution provisions against partisan gerrymandering in 2011 and created what a state court called a conspiracy to mount a secret, shadow redistricting process. It took the court until the 2016 election to unwind those ill-gotten GOP gains, however, which provides little incentive not to do the same thing once more. This time, a more conservative state supreme court might even allow those gains to stand.

Might Democrats try the same thing? Democrats might look to squeeze a couple seats from New York and one additional seat from Illinois and possibly Maryland. But that’s scarcely enough to counter the overall GOP edge. In Colorado, Oregon and Virginia, states controlled entirely by Democrats, the party has either created an independent redistricting commission or made a deal to give Republicans a seat at the table. Commissions also draw the lines in other Democratic strongholds like California, Washington and New Jersey. There are no seats to gain in overwhelmingly blue states like Massachusetts, New Mexico and Connecticut.

In many ways, the Republican edge is left over from 2010, when the party remade American politics with a plan called Redmap – short for the Redistricting Majority Project – that aimed to capture swing-state legislatures in places like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida, among others. They’ve never handed them back. Now Redmap enters its second decade of dominance – just as the lawmakers it put into office continue rewriting swing-state election laws to benefit Republicans, under the unfounded pretext of “voter fraud” that did not occur during 2020.

Republicans already benefit from a structural advantage in the electoral college and the US Senate. Presidents that lost the popular vote have appointed five conservative justices to the US supreme court. Now get ready for a drunken bacchanalia of partisan gerrymandering that could make “hot vax summer” look like a chaste Victorian celebration.

Meanwhile, this is how a democracy withers and disappears – slowly, legally, and in plain sight.

David Daley is the author of Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count and Unrigged: How Americans Are battling Back to Save Democracy. He is a senior fellow at FairVote.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/28/republicans-gerrymandering-congress-elections

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