Category Archives: Elections

Why the Right Hates Voting Rights: An Interview With Ari Berman

Source: Luke Savage, Jacobin, September 6, 2019

Conservatives in the United States know they can’t win on a level playing field — so they’ve started rigging the electoral rules in their favor, democracy be damned.

When the Republican Party recaptured the House in the 2010 midterm elections, it marked not only the end of a relatively brief period of Democratic control but also the beginning of a wider offensive against voting rights that has been underway ever since. By capturing key statehouses in 2010 and in the years that followed, Republicans have been increasingly able to tilt the electoral process in their favor — a strategy that has profoundly affected the results of recent elections and was one of the major backdrops to Donald Trump’s surprise Electoral College victory in 2016.

Jacobin’s Luke Savage sat down with Mother Jones senior reporter Ari Berman to discuss the history of gerrymandering and voter suppression — and the considerable impact both continue to have on the course of US politics.

A Constitutional Standard to End Gerrymandering

Source: Alton Frye, PA Times, Vol. 5 no. 1, Spring 2019
(subscription required)

To cure the corruption of gerrymandering, take the profit out of it. The Constitution provides the standard for doing so by specifiying that representatives are to be chosen “by the People of the several States.” That provision followed debate in the convention of 1787 that, according to James Madison’s notes, explicitly rejected the option of empowering state legislatures to choose members of the federal house of representatives. In practice, by asserting authority to draw congressional district lines on a partisan basis, state legislatures have usurped the power vested by the Constitution in the people of the states.

Analysis demonstrates that allocating seats in the House according to the statewide vote of the people would produce a national legislature comparable in partisan balance to the current House, but with much greater equity among the parties at the state level. Applying that constitutional mechanism would rob parties of the advantage sought from gerrymandering and create incentives for the fair redistricting procedures that courts and citizens have long sought. This study illustrates the outcomes that would result, increasing competitiveness in 39 states…..

Spending at Trump Properties

Source: ProPublica, 2019

2020 cycle
Top three spenders (as of July 31, 2019):
Trump Victory – $449,715
Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. – $287,740
Republican National Committee – $154,873

2018 cycle
Top three spenders:
Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. – $3,442,383
Republican National Committee – $1,391,855
America First Action, Inc. – $415,578

2016 cycle
Top three spenders:
Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. – $9,812,319
Trump Victory – $650,715
Republican National Committee – $16,412

How Democrats can win back workers in 2020

Source: Thomas Kochan, The Conversation, August 16, 2019

Labor unions and the workers they represent were once the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

The 2016 presidential election revealed just how much that has changed. Hillary Clinton lost in key battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin in part because she took labor support for granted.

A survey my team of labor scholars at MIT conducted about five months after the election showed that most workers feel they lack a voice at their jobs. Many Americans apparently felt that Donald Trump did a much better job than Clinton showing he was on their side and had a plan to help them.

As I watch the 2020 presidential debates, I wonder: Will Democrats make the same mistake? Or will they return to their roots and put the full range of workers’ needs and aspirations front and center in their campaigns?

Some of the candidates vying to be the 2020 nominee have offered plans to support organized labor, but they mainly endorse bills already in Congress to shore up collective bargaining rights. None have offered a clear vision and strategy for assuring workers have a voice in the key decisions that will shape the future of work.

This won’t be enough to give workers the stronger and broader voice at work they are calling for today.

In our 2017 survey, we learned two key things about what workers actually want…..

Voter Purge Rates Remain High, Analysis Finds

Source: Kevin Morris, Brennan Center for Justice, August 1, 2019

Using data released by the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in June, a new Brennan Center analysis has found that between 2016 and 2018, counties with a history of voter discrimination have continued purging people from the rolls at much higher rates than other counties.

This phenomenon began after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, a decision that severely weakened the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Brennan Center first identified this troubling voter purge trend in a major report released in July 2018.

Before the Shelby County decision, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to submit proposed changes in voting procedures to the Department of Justice or a federal court for approval, a process known as “preclearance.”

After analyzing the 2019 EAC data, we found:
– At least 17 million voters were purged nationwide between 2016 and 2018, similar to the number we saw between 2014 and 2016, but considerably higher than we saw between 2006 and 2008;
– The median purge rate over the 2016–2018 period in jurisdictions previously subject to preclearance was 40 percent higher than the purge rate in jurisdictions that were not covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act;
– If purge rates in the counties that were covered by Section 5 were the same as the rates in non-Section 5 counties, as many as 1.1 million fewer individuals would have been removed from voter rolls between 2016 and 2018.

The Courts Won’t End Gerrymandering. Eric Holder Has a Plan to Fix It Without Them.

Source: Ari Berman, Mother Jones, July/August 2019

While Democrats are fixated on 2020, Holder is fighting for fairer maps in 2021 and beyond. ….

….So Holder is pursuing a new strategy, trying to elect down-ballot candidates who can deliver fairer maps and voting laws. The NDRC invested $350,000 in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, hoping that a liberal majority on the seven-­member court might strike down any egregious gerrymanders in the next round of redistricting in 2021. “I don’t think that 10 years or so ago, you would have a former attorney general campaigning for a state Supreme Court justice,” Holder told me. “This is a recognition on the part of the Democratic Party, on the part of progressives, that we need to focus on state and local elections to a much greater degree than we have in the past.”

But if Democrats are belatedly recognizing this need, few besides Holder are acting on it. He is playing a long game in a party driven by instant gratification and consumed by the mess in the White House. While the party’s presidential contenders are attracting big crowds, donors, and volunteers determined to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020, Holder is focused on 2021…..

Local Elections and Representation in the United States

Source: Christopher Warshaw, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 22, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In recent years, there has been a surge in the study of representation and elections in local politics. Scholars have made progress on many of the empirical barriers that stymied earlier researchers. As a result, the study of representation and elections in local politics has moved squarely into the center of American politics. The findings of recent research show that local politics in the modern, polarized era is much more similar to other areas of American politics than previously believed. Scholars have shown that partisanship and ideology play important roles in local politics. Due to the growing ideological divergence between Democrats and Republicans, Democratic elected officials increasingly take more liberal positions, and enact more liberal policies, than Republican ones. As a result, despite the multitude of constraints on local governments, local policies in the modern era tend to largely reflect the partisan and ideological composition of their electorates.

2018 Election Administration and Voting Survey

Source: U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), June 2019

From the press release:
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) today released findings from the 2018 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS) the most comprehensive source of state- and local jurisdiction-level data about election administration in the United States. ….

Some notable findings from the 2018 EAVS include:

Turnout
• More than 120 million Americans, or 52 percent of the estimated Citizen Voting Age Population, voted in the 2018 Midterm Elections.
• The nationwide turnout rate was 15.5 percentage points higher than in the 2014 Midterm Election, with some states reporting turnout levels that approached those of a typical Presidential Election.

Voter Registration
• More than 211 million persons were reported as registered and eligible to vote in the 2018 Midterm Elections, an increase of 11 percent over the 2014 Midterm Elections.
• Nearly 80 million voter registration applications were received between the 2016 and 2018 Federal Elections.
• Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) remained the most utilized method for voter registration and accounted for 45 percent of registrations, an increase of 33 percent over 2014.
• Online voter registration is allowed in 40 states and territories, and accounted for 16 percent of registrations in 2018, a six-point increase over 2014. This represented a slight decrease from 2016.
• Nearly half of states have some kind of policy allowing for same day voter registration and more than 800,000 same day registrations were processed during the 2018 Midterm Elections.

By-Mail and In-Person Early Voting
• Voting in-person on Election Day remained the most-used mode of voting. More than half of voters cast their ballots in person on Election Day.
• However, by-mail voting was used by a quarter of the electorate in 2018.
• Nearly one-fifth voted at in-person early voting sites, a rate that more than doubled since the 2014 elections. In six states, more than half of ballots were cast at in-person early voting sites. ….

How American Women Are Amplifying Their Political Power

Source: Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, June 25, 2019

Alicia Garza’s phone never stops ringing. The Black Lives Matter co-founder now leads Supermajority, a women’s political-training organization, along with a roster of female organizers including Cecile Richards, the former Planned Parenthood Federation of America president. The two have dedicated their efforts to building women’s political power in the U.S., a mandate that means near-constant communication with interested folks across the country. ….

Related:
Breaking Barriers: Women Defining Leadership
Source: Aspen Ideas Festival, Session, 2019

In every field — business, politics, science, tech, and sport — women are breaking barriers in unprecedented numbers. Women CEOs frequently outpace their male counterparts in delivering profits, women are at the forefront of scientific research (CRISPR, anyone?), and women coaches exceed expectations for leading teams … of men. As more women have taken up posts in DC than in any time in our history, are women experiencing a “moment,” or have the pressures for gender equality and compensation finally achieved results? Remarkable leaders from diverse backgrounds share their views on what it means to break barriers.

Why Women Now
Source: Aspen Ideas Festival, Session, 2019

In the post #MeToo era, the potential to shift women’s political, economic, and philanthropic power is profound. How will this activism be harnessed to fundamentally change our nation’s course? What is the agenda for women going into the 2020 elections? Can a broader consensus in support of women’s issues be mobilized? Fundamental concepts of diversity and inclusion are being crafted in whole new ways by corporate leaders who are responding to cultural pressures and market opportunities. Where will this momentum for an inclusive and diverse agenda lead and who will lead it?