From Our Future
Remember all those pictures of smiling Iraqi citizens proudly holding up their blue, ink-stained fingers when they voted for the first time after the fall of Saddam Hussein? The Republicans -- and far too many Democrats -- who had supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq hoped those vivid images would appeal to the democracy-loving instincts of the American people.
Americans do love democracy, at least in principle, although they've long abandoned their support for that misguided war. So how is it that the party that distributed those photos of blue fingers has also been able to engage in a decades-long assault on democracy at home, without paying a political price? And why isn't the party at the losing end of those machinations doing more about it?Against Democracy
The latest evidence of the Republican Party's anti-democratic activities comes from a federal court ruling, issued Tuesday, which found that North Carolina Republicans deliberately drew congressional district boundaries in order to benefit their own party.
Judges usually do infer undemocratic motives by the way districts are drawn. But North Carolina Republicans made it easy for the judges in this case statements like this one, from state representative David Lewis, who was responsible for redistricting. "I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats," said Lewis. "So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country."
Well, okay then.
The Supreme Court already ruled against North Carolina Republicans in 2017, finding that they had discriminated against black voters in drawing up congressional districts. That limited the electoral participation of a predominantly Democratic voting bloc. Earlier that year, a federal district court found that Republicans had similarly discriminated against black and Latino voters.
This kind of dirty politics doesn't happen by accident. David Daley has written a detailed accoun t of "REDMAP," the GOP plan to regain political power by redrawing district lines in their own favor. Daley's book is entitled "Ratf*cked," and we interviewed him about it here.
An analysis by New York University's Brennan Center for Justice found that, nationwide, partisan gerrymandering has given Republicans 16-17 additional congressional seats.Cage Match
As another court decision reminds us, this sort of thing is nothing new for Republicans. This week another judge lifted a consent decree against the Republican National Committee that had been in place since 1982. That's when the RNC was barred from their practice of sending intimidating mailers to African-American voters and hiring armed, off-duty law enforcement officers to stand watch at polling places in minority neighborhoods.
A related tactic, known as "voter caging," consists of sending mass mailings to neighborhoods that typically vote against your party; minority neighborhoods are the typical target. When mailers are returned, voters are then struck from the rolls.
By targeting certain neighborhoods rather than others, voter caging is used for partisan purposes. Worse, as the Brennan Center explains, this tactic is often targeted against registered members of a political party.
As the Brennan Center notes, caging is a "notoriously unreliable" technique for legitimately purging ineligible voters. It's extremely effective, however, in helping one party gain an unfair advantage over another. That was also true of an Ohio Republican scheme, led by Secretary of State Jon Husted, which gamed election law to purge legally-registered voters for infrequent voting.
A Reuters investigation found, unsurprisingly, that Ohio Republicans benefited from Husted's actions. Two million voters were purged from Ohio's rolls between 2011 and 2016, according to Ari Berman of The Nation, with 1.2 million of them purged for infrequent voting.
But, as bad as things are for Democrats today, they could get much worse very quickly. If the Supreme Court rules in Ohio's favor, caging and its variants could become common practice in the two-thirds of state governments controlled by Republicans.