Since President Obama was elected to office in 2008, Republicans have been waging a seemingly never-ending war on the integrity of our electoral system. In 2010, GOP donors poured money into state elections with the sole purpose of having as many Republicans as they could in office, to redraw congressional district lines during the census year. When hundreds of member of the Tea Party were elected that year, that’s exactly what they did.
They redrew lines in as many states as they could to tip the scales in their favor, in order to take control of Congress. Even though President Obama was reelected in 2012 by a landslide, Republicans still managed to take control of both the House and Senate in the last two midterm elections; but Democrats have had enough. Last month a group of Democrats introduced legislation that would put an end to the gerrymandering which allowed the malicious party to take control.
America has 435 House districts, and the districts in more than half of the states are drawn by whichever party has the majority in that state during a census year. Republicans, especially, have taken advantage of this weakness and gerrymandered districts in crucial battleground states like Florida, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana. It’s so bad that only 24 of our 435 legislative districts are considered competitive and Republicans are expected to keep their majority for at least the next seven years.
What we see now is too often a troubling reality in which politicians choose their voters instead of voters picking their elected officials,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a lead sponsor of legislation she says would create “a more transparent electoral process.”
The 19 Democrats who co-sponsored the bill want to take the power of redistricting out of the hands of partisan state legislatures and put it into the hands of bipartisan committees. Commissioners would have to prove they have no conflicts of interest and it would be their job to redraw lines so they comply with voting rights law and be “geographically contiguous and compact.” Twenty-one states already do this, but the Democrats’ bill would create a uniform process nationwide.
Arizona is one of the states that uses a bipartisan committee and in March, Republicans argued to the Supreme Court that the bipartisan committee was unconstitutional. In 2000, voters passed a ballot measure that created Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Committee; the committee is made up of two Democrats, two Republicans and an Independent, thus eliminating any partisan shenanigans. Until 2011 everything was great, but then the committee drew a new map that gave five of the nine districts to Democrats in the next election. Republicans cried crocodile tears and sued.
The Republican Party is notorious for meddling in the electoral process. They claim that they believe in free and fair elections, but use every opportunity to make them a little less free and very unfair. They are constantly trying to tip the scales in their favor by passing unconstitutional voter suppression laws, cutting early voting hours, slashing the number of polling places in areas with large minority populations and hyperpartisan redistricting. They exploit the weakest parts of our electoral system, because they can’t win on a level playing field. That’s why it is so important that Democrats get this legislation passed. If Republicans can’t gerrymander, they wont be able to keep their incumbents in office and they will lose their stronghold in Congress. Until we change this law, the GOP will continue their poisonous obstructionism and our government will continue to be dysfunctional.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.