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Author Topic:   Gerrymandering and Voter Suppression
Chiroptera
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Posts: 6765
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 1 of 39 (855280)
06-18-2019 11:06 AM


Probably time that this topic got separated into its own thread.

From The New York Times:

Justices Dismiss Appeal in Virginia Racial Gerrymandering Case

People have been wondering how the Supreme Court is going to rule on various partisan gerrymandering cases. Well, in this particular case, the Supreme Court decided to punt.

In Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, the Virginia House of Delegates appealed a lower courts ruling that a redrawing of district maps was unconstitutional due to racial bias.

The majority ruled that the state of Virginia is the entity that has the responsibility to respond to challenges to the state's laws. However, the Governor declined to appeal the lower courts ruling, and state law does not grant the House of Delegates the authority to appeal the decision on behalf of the state.

Furthermore, the House of Delegates has not suffered the sort of direct injury that would give it standing to sue on its own behalf.

The minority takes issue with this last point. They claim that the House of Delegates has an interest in its own membership rules and should have standing to sue in its own behalf.

I have not read the decision and so can't comment on the reasoning.

-

This still doesn't address the gerrymandering issue. Still to come: cases that will consider partisan gerrymanding in North Carolina and Maryland.

(It has, by contrast, so far left open the separate question of whether extreme partisan gerrymandering, in which the political party in power draws maps to give an advantage to its candidates, can ever cross a constitutional line. The court is expected to address that question later this month.)

It says something about the qualities of our current president that the best argument anyone has made in his defense is that he didn’t know what he was talking about. -- Paul Krugman

Replies to this message:
 Message 2 by Taq, posted 06-18-2019 11:21 AM Chiroptera has responded

  
Taq
Member
Posts: 7997
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 2 of 39 (855285)
06-18-2019 11:21 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Chiroptera
06-18-2019 11:06 AM


I think it is time for federal oversight on this issue. I think it is important for states to control how their own districts are drawn, but it needs to pass through some sort of non-partisan oversight at the federal level.

We also need some basic guidelines for voter access. It's ridiculous that states will put up more and more hurdles whose only goal is to make it harder for citizens to vote. This includes everything from kicking citizens off voter rolls to restricting polling places in minority neighborhoods. This isn't how a democracy should work.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Chiroptera, posted 06-18-2019 11:06 AM Chiroptera has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by Chiroptera, posted 06-18-2019 12:55 PM Taq has responded

  
Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6765
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 5.4


(1)
Message 3 of 39 (855290)
06-18-2019 12:55 PM
Reply to: Message 2 by Taq
06-18-2019 11:21 AM


I agree.

The issue is a bit complicated, though. The US Constitution gives the states the authority to regulate their own elections and districting, so without an amendment the federal government can't just assume responsibility.

On the other hand, much of the voter suppression measures clearly violate the 14th amendment's guarantee of "equal protection". Furthermore, Akhil Reed Amar makes the argument that through the 15th, 19th, and 26th amendments the people have made it clear that voting is a fundamental right. In this case, the federal government does have the obligation to regulatory oversight to ensure the people's rights aren't violated.


It says something about the qualities of our current president that the best argument anyone has made in his defense is that he didn’t know what he was talking about. -- Paul Krugman

This message is a reply to:
 Message 2 by Taq, posted 06-18-2019 11:21 AM Taq has responded

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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6765
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 5.4


(1)
Message 4 of 39 (855439)
06-19-2019 7:47 PM


House of Delegates v Bethune-Hill: The opinion
I've just read the opinion, written by Justice Ginsburg and joined by Justices Thomas, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch (and, yes, what an interesting combination).

It's pretty short, just describing why Virginia's House of Delegates does not have standing to bring this appeal to the Supreme Court.

First, the state constitution vests gives the state's Attorney General the responsibility to defend the state's interest in court. Since the Attorney General declined and did not designate another party to take on this responsibility, the House of Delegates cannot presume on its own to represent the state.

Second, the House of Delegates did not suffer an injury that allows it to seek redress on its own behalf. Ginsburg cites an earlier case, also involving gerrymanding, to make the Court's point.

The case cited is Arizona State Legislature v Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

When the people of Arizona became tired of the gerrymandered districts the state legislature produced, they used the ballot initiative process to create an independent, nonpartisan body to do the redistricting. The state legislature then sued, claiming that the ballot initiative violated the US Constitution, namely the clause that gives the state legislature the authority to set the districts.

The Court ruled against the Arizona legislature, but it did grant it standing to argue the case. There appear sto be two main differences in the situations.

One, by permanently losing the power to make the districts, the Arizona legislature can make the claim that it is suffering harm. But the Virginia legislature cannot make a similar claim of permanently losing it's redistricting authority so the precedent doesn't apply.

The House of Delegates also claims that the districts determine who the members are, and the House hasan interest in its membership. The Court points out that the House doesn't select its own members, the voters do, and so this isn't a harm that gives the body standing.

Two, the Constitution gives the state legislature the authority to regulate its own election regulations (subject to federal oversight). In Arizona State Legislature, the legislature consisting of both Senate and House of Representatives brought suit. In this case, it is only Virginia's House of Delegates that is bringing suit, an a single chamber of a bicameral legislature cannot presume to speak on behalf of the entire body.

I apologize if this isn't as interesting to other people, but I was interested in seeing how this case was going to compare with Arizona. I also found the splits within the "liberal" and within the "conservative" justices to be noteworthy.


It says something about the qualities of our current president that the best argument anyone has made in his defense is that he didn’t know what he was talking about. -- Paul Krugman

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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6765
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 5 of 39 (855678)
06-21-2019 2:52 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Chiroptera
06-19-2019 7:47 PM


House of Delegates v Bethune-Hill: The dissent
I've just read the dissent, written by Justice Alito and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer and Kavanaugh.

I must say I can see both sides of this argument. Alito makes a good case why past precedent suggests the Virginia House of Delegates should have standing, but I can also understand Ginsburg's argument that the cases cited are not to the point enough to really be used as precedent.

I guess I find Ginsburg's arguments slightly more persuasive, but I don't think I could have argued if the standing decision had gone the other way.

Edited by Chiroptera, : Changed subtitle


It says something about the qualities of our current president that the best argument anyone has made in his defense is that he didn’t know what he was talking about. -- Paul Krugman

This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by Chiroptera, posted 06-19-2019 7:47 PM Chiroptera has not yet responded

  
Taq
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Posts: 7997
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.8


(2)
Message 6 of 39 (855681)
06-21-2019 3:13 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Chiroptera
06-18-2019 12:55 PM


Chiroptera writes:

The issue is a bit complicated, though. The US Constitution gives the states the authority to regulate their own elections and districting, so without an amendment the federal government can't just assume responsibility.

That's a good point. If the DOJ set up a non-partisan panel/council, then states could elect to voluntarily submit redistricting maps to get a second opinion. In my own state there is a (supposedly) non-partisan redistricting council made up of even numbers from each party who haven't been in office for a minimum of 10 years. It's a good way to prevent egregious gerrymandering since active politicians aren't drawing the lines on the map, but it could be improved if there were a second set of eyes looking at it who don't have any stake in the elections.

Ultimately, I think it is about finding a way to separate politicians from the process of drawing up the districts. Voters should pick politicans. Politicians shouldn't pick their voters.


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 Message 3 by Chiroptera, posted 06-18-2019 12:55 PM Chiroptera has not yet responded

  
Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6765
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 5.4


(1)
Message 7 of 39 (856084)
06-26-2019 11:12 AM


Hofeller and the census question
From The New York Times:

Reopened Legal Challenge to Census Citizenship Question Throws Case Into Chaos

Short summary of the issue for our international cousins:

Every ten years, the US Constitution requires a census tobe taken. This is used, primarily, to apportion seats in the House of Representatives to the states in proportion to the states' populations. However, it is also used to obtain detailed demographic information to be used in allocated resources for services, and to assess the effectiveness of enacted policies. For that reason, the census forms contain a number of questions.

The next census is to be taken next year, in 2020. The US Dept. of Commerce is currently in the process creating the forms.

The current controversy:

The Trump Administrations wants a question asking whether the responders are US citizens. The problem is that this will undeniable reduce the response rate, not only among illegal residents, but also in immigrant communities that are in the country legally. Let's be clear about this: the purpose of the census is to count every single person, citizen or not, legally in the country or not. Adding the citizenship question to the census will result in an inaccurate survey, defeating its purpose.

It is also clear that the citizenship question will reduce the count in areas that vote Democrat. A credible charge has been that the Republicans are not sincerely interested in counting citizens vs noncitizens as they are in gimmicking the election districts to maintain artificially inflated majorities.

The smoking gun is the flashdrive discovered by the daughter of Thomas Hofeller, a Republican strategist who was the technical expert in the Republicans' partisan gerrymander schemes. Among the data was information showing how the citizenship question could affect district boundaries as well as talking points, many of which were included almost word for word in the Dept. of Commerce documents outlining its reasons for including the question. It's pretty clear that not only are the Republicans deliberately, consciously engaging in gerrymandering for partisan purposes, but the citizenship question is a deliberate part of these plans.

The article from the NYT is the latest development in the case. There is a suit going through the court system right now challenging the inclusion of the citizenship question, claiming that the question will reduce the accuracy of the count and that its true purpose is to give the Republicans a partisan advantage.

The Supreme Court was just about to consider the case when the Hofeller drive was discovered. The district judge that heard the original case asked for permission to reopen the case in light of the new information provided by the Hofeller drive. An appeals court has given that permission, which now delays the final decision.

This presents a problem. The Right wing nihilists are determined to include the question, so they will hold off printing the forms until the know whether they can. Thus, they are creating a Constitutional problem: the census must be completed by December 2020. For this reason, the distribution of the forms should begin in January. For this reason, the printing process is schedule to begin in July.

Of course, the Supreme Court can still save the Republican white supremists' bacon. They can vacate any stay on including the question, allowing the Trump Administration to go ahead with the question even while the judicial process continues. They can also go ahead and take the case back from the lower courts and issue the final decision themselves.


It says something about the qualities of our current president that the best argument anyone has made in his defense is that he didn’t know what he was talking about. -- Paul Krugman

  
Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6765
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 8 of 39 (856133)
06-27-2019 1:25 PM


Angry white people have a right to an artificial majority!
From the New York Times:

Supreme Court Bars Challenges to Partisan Gerrymandering

The Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that partisan gerrymandering is constitutional.

Their reasoning?

The drafters of the Constitution, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority, understood that politics would play a role in drawing election districts when they gave the task to state legislatures. Judges, the chief justice said, are not entitled to second-guess lawmakers’ judgments.

“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” the chief justice wrote.

Of course, the majority are precisely second-guessing the Framers' intentions. The Framers wrote explicitly about the dangers of partisan politics and made it clear that they thought that they were developing the types of checks that would avoid the worst problems of political partisanship.

-

Just a reminder; we aren't talking about the drawing of election districts that just happen to give one side an advantage. These districts were deliberately drawn to give the Republicans an overwhelming advantage, despite the fact that statewide elections show an almost even split between the two parties.

Despite Roberts' ruling, I think this issue is going to come up again before the Court sooner than he thinks.

Added by edit:

I should add, this particular case involves the Congression districts drawn in North Carolina.

Edited by Chiroptera, : No reason given.


It says something about the qualities of our current president that the best argument anyone has made in his defense is that he didn’t know what he was talking about. -- Paul Krugman

  
Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6765
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 9 of 39 (856134)
06-27-2019 1:41 PM


But, weirdly, angry white people don't have a right to partisan census questions.
From The New York Times:

Supreme Court Leaves Census Question on Citizenship in Doubt

Chief Justice Roberts joined the liberal wing in not upholding the Trump Administration's citizenship question.

Writing for the majority, Roberts pointed out that Secretary of Commerce Ross was being less than truthful when he explained the reasons for including the question on next year's census.

Executive branch officials must “offer genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public,” the chief justice wrote. “Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case.”

The case is being sent back to the lower courts, where the Administration can try to do a better job in explaining why they feel the citizenship question is important.

Edited by Chiroptera, : Incomplete edit before posting.


It says something about the qualities of our current president that the best argument anyone has made in his defense is that he didn’t know what he was talking about. -- Paul Krugman

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by Taq, posted 06-27-2019 2:45 PM Chiroptera has responded

  
Taq
Member
Posts: 7997
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 10 of 39 (856136)
06-27-2019 2:45 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Chiroptera
06-27-2019 1:41 PM


Re: But, weirdly, angry white people don't have a right to partisan census questions.
Chiroptera writes:

The case is being sent back to the lower courts, where the Administration can try to do a better job in explaining why they feel the citizenship question is important.

That wouldn't go well for the Administration, as the latest ruling has just shown. They have already demonstrated they intended to include the question of citizenship and then tried to invent justification for the question later. New evidence supports the claim that the real reason for their actions is partisan politics.

The Administration would be wise to give in on this case. If they keep pursuing it they are going to have to answer some tough questions. They still might have to go before Congress and explain themselves.

Edited by Taq, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 9 by Chiroptera, posted 06-27-2019 1:41 PM Chiroptera has responded

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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6765
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 11 of 39 (856140)
06-27-2019 5:21 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Taq
06-27-2019 2:45 PM


Re: But, weirdly, angry white people don't have a right to partisan census questions.
New evidence supports the claim that the real reason for their actions is partisan politics.

Well, the North Carolina gerrymander case suggests the conservatives on the Court aren't too concerned about partisan politics.

I got the impression from the article in the Times that Roberts was insulted by being blatantly lied to in the census case. If Ross had said, "Hey, we're including the citizenship question because we can, and those other guys can just screw themselves," Roberts would've been fine with it.

Edited by Chiroptera, : typo.


It says something about the qualities of our current president that the best argument anyone has made in his defense is that he didn’t know what he was talking about. -- Paul Krugman

This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by Taq, posted 06-27-2019 2:45 PM Taq has not yet responded

  
LamarkNewAge
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Posts: 1520
Joined: 12-22-2015


Message 12 of 39 (856158)
06-28-2019 12:53 AM


The 2018 election showed how districts can change partisan orientation - dramatically
The 2018 John Culberson loss in Houston proved that districts can shift, so partisan-performance at the time of the district drawing is something of an illusion.

2018 was instructive.

The 2016 election was telling as well.

Romney won the gerrymandered Kansas City, Kansas district 54% to 43%, but Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

Look at all of the 2016 flips in California (especially Orange County) from Romney to Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton won a ton of districts that were supposed to be safe Republican. Then look at all of the flips in the actual congressional winners themselves in 2018.

North Carolina and Maryland got gerrymander cases decided by the courts.

The Maryland 6th district seat actually has the (D) beneficiary, John Delaney, running for President (in yesterdays debate). Delaney got a massively changed 6th district to run in during the 2012 election. A 20 year Republican-incumbent was smashed by Delaney in 2012 (59% to 38%), and this was in a previously safe Republican seat. But, 2 years later, in 2014, U.S. Congressman Delaney almost lost to his Republican challenger (it was a 50% to 49% race). And the 2014 Governors race saw the Republican candidate win by over 10% (51% to 47% statewide win). The Republican Governor won the 6th district by about 20% in 2018 (55% to 44% win statewide win)

The courts (and specifically the Supreme Court) might be correct when they tell us that it is too tough to judge whether the districts really are as partisan as they are made out to be. It is admittedly illegal to draw districts to benefit a party, but do the districts actually do what many assumed they would do?

Hispanics and educated voters swung away from Republican-supporting patterns in South Florida, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City (Kansas), Orange County, and the nation over.

Republicans drew a lot of districts to be seemingly favorable to their candidates (with the drawing of multiple adjacent districts assumed to be around 53-55% Republican-performing), but they actually spread themselves so thinly that the Trump-factor more than killed off the "+3" to "+5" "GOP districts" purpose; many of these voters were actually Democratic leaning when a Donald Trump Republican party is THE Republican party.


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Faith
Member
Posts: 32659
From: Nevada, USA
Joined: 10-06-2001
Member Rating: 1.1


Message 13 of 39 (856167)
06-28-2019 3:05 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by LamarkNewAge
06-28-2019 12:53 AM


Re: The 2018 election showed how districts can change partisan orientation - dramatically
Discussions I've been hearing say the determination of the boundaries of districts is strictly a state matter and a political matter, and that's why the court didn't rule on it. A Republican state government is perfectly free to determine whatever boundaries they ****, even to benefit the Republican party, and likewise in a Democratic controlled state government the boundaries can be chosen to benefit that party. There is nothing illegal about this, it is simply a state matter. And as a matter of fact it doesn't always have the intended result anyway.

It's only when the drawing of such boundaries disenfranchises a protected group such as a race that the federal government has any reason to get involved. So that's what I heard about this today.


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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6765
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003
Member Rating: 5.4


Message 14 of 39 (856184)
06-28-2019 11:12 AM


Gerrymandering and permanent minority rule
I'm currently reading the Court's opinion on the gerrymandering cases, but in the meantime this morning's The New York Times has several articles on both the gerrymanding and census decisions.

Here is a piece written by Nate Cohn:

The Gerrymandering Ruling and the Risk of a Monopoly on Power

It's in the "National" section, but it's really an opinion piece.

Summary: Extreme partisan gerrymanding probably won't lock in permanent Republican rule, but the risks aren't insignificant either.


It says something about the qualities of our current president that the best argument anyone has made in his defense is that he didn’t know what he was talking about. -- Paul Krugman

  
Sarah Bellum
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Posts: 413
Joined: 05-04-2019
Member Rating: 1.6


(1)
Message 15 of 39 (856187)
06-28-2019 11:24 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by Faith
06-28-2019 3:05 AM


Re: The 2018 election showed how districts can change partisan orientation - dramatically
There will always be some attempt at gerrymandering, whether it is partisan gerrymandering or affirmative action gerrymandering in an attempt to produce a district that will have a majority of voters from a disadvantaged group or just plain political horsetrading by incumbents desperate to keep their seats.

So why not try to tone it down by, for example, passing a law that in any district there must be at least one point where an observer could stand and have a sight line to every other point in the district that doesn't pass through an adjoining district. You could get districts shaped like an L or like a star, but you couldn't get the really extreme shapes that give voters the message they are being cheated.


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