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Gerrymandering - Weakening the Black Vote

Every 10 years, the states redraw their legislative and congressional lines upon the completion of the US Census. This is done to account for changes in population that naturally occur [birth, aging and death] and to adjust for population movement, relocation and immigration. The process also must be done to comply with state and federal laws such as the Voting Rights Act.

Gerrymandering is a way that political parties try to seize control by redrawing the congressional maps so one party has the better chance electing their candidate in the voting district. The legislative boundaries are shifted so that as many as possible are in a specific district likely to be won by their parties candidates. This is accomplished by two common practices called packing and cracking.

A packed district is drawn to include as many of the opposing party’s voters as possible. In doing so, their party wins the surrounding communities, as the opposition has been sequestered in the packed district. Cracking does the opposite by breaking up the concentrations of opposing voters, so they will be outnumbered in each district.

State Redistricting Methods

Source: Congressional Research Service compilation, based on information from Ballotopedia and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Graphic created by Amber Hope Wilhelm, CRS Visual Information Specialist.

The New York Times and several other sources site that rigged maps tend to be most prevalent and the most tilted, in states under republican control.

The 2020 Census revealed significant population growth among Black and brown people in the U.S. since 2010. With these changing demographics, power struggles over district maps have increased as politicians fight to retain power. Historically, state legislatures have determined congressional district boundaries, and this remains true in most states (see map above).

In the 117th Congress [Jan 2021to Jan 2023] several bills were introduced that contained provisions that would require states to use independent redistricting commissions:

HR 1/S; S 2093, HR 80, HR 100, HR 3863, HR 4307 and S 2670, designed to curtail or eliminate gerrymandering.

Only one of these bills, HR 1 passed in the House in March 2021 and was never voted on in the Senate.

In November 2021, the US Supreme Court struck down a lower court ruling ordering North Carolina to redraw the state’s congressional maps. Central to the state’s defense was use of the radical independent state legislature theory [ISL], a right-wing theory advanced by the Republicans suggesting the Election’s Clause of the Constitution gives state legislatures exclusive authority to set election which includes drawing congressional maps, free from interference from other parts of the state government.”

The North Carolina gerrymandering case eclipsing multiple rounds between the lower courts and the Supreme Court, was garnering momentum hoping to become the republican party’s go argument before the soon to be conservative court.

In January 2023, after the make-up of the US Supreme Court changed, it agreed to rehear its previous ruling. Rejecting the ISL theory in a 6-3 opinion SCOTUS stating the Elections Clause does not give state legislatures free reign to set their own election rules and are not immune from traditional state judicial review.

Fights continue over political boundaries Nearly 4 years after the last census count measuring changes in population and demographics, many states are still finagling congressional boundaries to seize or maintain control of state houses.

Source: AP reports

Alabama Republican controlled legislature gerrymandered the state districts to include just one majority Black congressional district out of a total of seven, despite the fact of a 27% increase in the Black population. US district court panel of 3 judges in January 2022 ruled that the Alabama legislature unlawfully diluted the Black voting power, by packing large amounts of African American voters into one district. The judges ordered Alabama to create two districts where voting age Black citizens comprised the majority.

The Supreme Court has said partisan gerrymandering done for political reasons is not its concern, but this year it reaffirmed that racial gerrymandering that keeps minorities shut out of the power structure is not allowed. SOTUS orders another redraw of Alabama’s congressional maps to include a second Black district.

Alabama continued to defy the lower courts rulings by not re-drawing their district maps, resulting in multiple appearances in front of the Supreme Court. On June, 8, 2023, the ACLU reportsIn a historic win for voting rights, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in Allen v. Milligan in favor of Black voters who challenged Alabama’s 2021-enacted congressional map for violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for diluting Black political power, affirming the district court’s order that Alabama redraw its congressional map.

Unbelievably in September, Alabama attempts to go around the June ruling when the GOP lawmakers again approved a congressional map with only one majority black district. The same 3 US Federal Judges as before ordered a special master to daft new lines and refused to put a hold on its ruling pending appeal. Once again Alabama raced to the Supreme Court, who promptly rejected their emergency bid. The court issued a one-line order, stating that the feelings of the court have not changed since June 2023, when Alabama was again ordered to redraw their maps to include a second majority-Black district or something quite close to it”.

Louisiana state legislature must enact a new congressional map by Jan 15, 2024 after a lower court ruled that the current districts weaken the power of Black voters. November 10, 2023, the Appeals court tossed out a 2022 ruling which stated the urgency of establishing a map for the 2022 elections is no longer necessary.” The appellate ruling states if the LA legislature does not create a new map, a lower district court could conduct a trial. The 2022 proposed districts had only one of the six state districts with a majority of black voters in a state where 33% of the residents are Black.

Wisconsin Republicans, after losing many key statewide races, are taking actions to remove the state’s nonpartisan elections chief along with attacks on the new liberal majority state Supreme Court. Wisconsin is positioned to be a pivotal swing state in the upcoming 2024 presidential elections. Newly elected to a 10-year term, liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz campaigned on fighting gerrymandering and the protection abortion rights. Soon after she was seated, Democratic backed groups, filed two lawsuits asking the Supreme Court to throw out the Republican drawn maps and having new ones in place for the 2024 elections. The Wisconsin GOP threatened impeaching Justice Protasiewicz, if she did not recuse herself from election related cases. When this backfired, the republicans proposed the formation of an advisory committee to assist the Legislative Reference Bureau set boundaries. It was quickly quashed by democratic governor Tony Evers, citing the GOP’s proclivity to bully, threaten, or fire anyone who disagrees with them. Clearly the battle is not over.

At Vote 4 Change we are committed to apprise voting Americans when their right to vote is threatened. Gerrymandering has been around for many years, however the frequency and magnitude of Republican tactics is on the rise.

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03 de dez. de 2023
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very informative an eye opener

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