Democracy in America begins with the vote. Destroy the integrity of this most basic institution of a free people and the entire American Experiment is done for.
Yet our right to the vote — a vote that matters — is under assault by lawmakers of both major political parties, who are more keen on holding on to power than respecting the democratic process. The proof, most recently, is to be found in two separate federal court cases that saw movement this week. As one who loves this country, you’ll want to keep a close eye on both historic cases.
In the first case, a three-judge federal panel ruled a brazenly gerrymandered map in North Carolina is unconstitutional because lawmakers were twisting the system so that it would reflect what their party wanted instead of what the voters preferred. The U.S. Supreme Court has been struggling to find a solution to gerrymandering for years without success, but this latest ruling may signal a change. For the first time, a federal court has torn up a congressional district map because of gerrymandering.
In the second case, the U.S. Supreme Court listened to arguments this week as to whether Ohio can be permitted to toss people off the voting rolls if they haven’t showed up at a polling place for a few election cycles and haven’t seemed to respond to follow-up inquiries from state bureaucrats. Voting rolls should be kept as clean as possible, of course, but the suspicion in this case is that the Republican Party is using that thinking as an excuse to suppress the votes of people who might support the opposition.
Ohio has been more aggressive than other states in kicking people off the voting rolls. To nobody’s surprise, court briefs filed by states led by Republicans generally have supported Ohio’s policy while states led by Democrats have generally opposed it. Ohio is a swing state in presidential elections, so both parties have a huge stake in the outcome of the case. The Supreme Court must rule in a manner that ensures Ohio doesn’t give the boot to legitimate voters.
Gerrymandering has been around since the earliest days of the republic, but modern technology has made it a much stronger anti-democratic force. In Wisconsin, computer models helped Republicans gerrymander themselves a super-majority in the state assembly in 2012 — 60 out of 90 seats — even though the Democrats actually won the popular vote. The U.S. Supreme Court already is considering gerrymandering cases involving Wisconsin and Maryland.
Elections are about giving voters the power to throw the rascals out. Too often now, the rascals throw the voters out.
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