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Fulfilling The Promise Of Equal Representation

Nothing is more fundamental to our democracy than the promise of equal representation. But the ‘one person, one vote’ principle has been under attack by gerrymandering—the process by which politicians draw district lines designed to increase their own power. Elected officials have been choosing their voters, rather than voters choosing their elected officials.

After the 2010 census, conservative leaders across the country drew congressional and state legislative districts that created deeply undemocratic structural advantages. According to an analysis from the Associated Press, gerrymandering delivered Republicans as many as 22 more House seats than would be expected by vote shares in 2016.

In 2016, despite razor-thin statewide margins in battleground states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, Republicans ended up with overwhelming majorities in representation, winning 13 of 18 U.S. House seats in Pennsylvania and 10 of 13 in North Carolina. Both states have since had their unfair maps struck down by courts. The effect is similar in statehouses: Michigan voters split 50-50, yet Republicans claimed 63 state House seats to Democrats’ 47 seats.

When our government is not reflective of the will of the people, the consequences are stark. So much progress has been inhibited by this disproportionate representation. And historically disadvantaged communities often end up losing out, further exacerbating inequality.

But right now, we have a once-in-a-decade opportunity to turn back the tide and restore fairness to our democracy. That’s why OFA is partnering with the 82nd Attorney General Eric Holder’s redistricting group, targeting legislative chambers, governorships, and ballot initiatives that will be critical in determining how maps are drawn after the 2020 census.

To realize the promise of equal representation and move the country forward on key issues, we must beat back gerrymandering—and the work has already begun.

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Colorado is a diverse swing state that is likely to gain another congressional seat after the 2020 census due to its fast-growing population. That means redistricting will be consequential—but there is good reason to be hopeful that it will also be fair.

  • Ballot Initiative. This November, voters in Colorado have the opportunity to make their state a “national model” for fighting gerrymandering, after legislators came together in a rare show of bipartisanship to send a pair of redistricting measures to the ballot. Constitutional Amendments Y and Z would create Independent Redistricting Commissions to draw the congressional and state legislative maps, respectively. The measures, which include mechanisms to protect communities of interest and ensure competitiveness, must earn 55% of the vote for passage.

Florida plays a monumental role in American politics, and the perennial bellwether state could gain two congressional seats after the 2020 census as domestic and international migration have driven rapid population growth. And Florida Republicans have continually waged efforts to gerrymander the state, undeterred by the Fair District amendments voters overwhelmingly approved in 2010. This combination of factors makes redistricting especially high-stakes in the Sunshine State.

  • Governor. Florida has an open gubernatorial election this cycle, as Gov. Rick Scott is term-limited and running for the U.S. Senate. Under the state’s redistricting laws, the winner will have veto power over proposed congressional maps.

  • Senate. Republicans currently hold a strong majority in the Florida House, but the Senate (23R, 16D, 1 vacant) is squarely in play. Half of Florida Senate seats are up this year, and only 5 of those 20 seats are held by Democrats, with the other 15 representing pickup opportunities. Changing the balance of power in the Senate would give Democrats a critical voice in the redistricting process.

Georgia is quickly gaining importance on the national political stage as a surge in minority voter registration and Democratic inroads in the Atlanta metro area have made the state increasingly competitive. But, thanks in part to conservative gerrymandering over the past decade, Republicans have significant advantages in the state legislature, and hold 10 of Georgia’s 14 U.S. House seats.

  • Governor. Given the strong majorities Republicans hold in both houses of the Georgia General Assembly, and their history of gerrymandering in the state, the open governor’s mansion is especially important. Stacey Abrams is committed to fighting for fair districts, and if she wins, she’ll have veto power over congressional and state legislative maps proposed by Georgia’s Republican legislature.

  • Senate. Boosted by the hyper-partisan maps they drew, Republicans currently hold a near-supermajority in the Georgia State Senate. But all 56 seats are up for election in 2018—and Democrats failed to even run a candidate in the majority of those districts last cycle. This year, there’s an opportunity to make gains and set the stage for a fairer redistricting process after the 2021 census.

All three levers of power hang in the balance in Maine this November, where state lawmakers draws both the legislative and congressional maps, with the governor holding veto power. With Gov. LePage [R] term-limited, and nearly deadlocked partisan splits in both chambers of the Maine State Legislature, a lot is on the line ahead of redistricting.

  • Governor. Gov. LePage [R] is term-limited, so control of the governor’s mansion is wide open. Whoever wins the election will have veto power in the redistricting process and serve as an important backstop if state legislators draw unfair maps.

  • House. Democrats currently hold a narrow 74-70 majority in the Maine State House, with every seat up for election in 2018. The legislature will take the lead in drawing the maps after the 2020 census.

  • Senate. Republicans hold a one-seat majority in the Maine State Senate, 18-17, with every seat up for election in November. The legislature will take the lead in drawing the maps after the 2020 census.

Michigan is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. President Obama won the state by 9 points in 2012, yet Republicans won 9 of 14 U.S. House seats. Voters split 50-50 in the 2016 election, yet of the 110 seats in the Michigan House, Republicans won 63 and Democrats won only 47 seats. It’s time to finally overturn this rigged system.

  • Ballot Initiative. An all-volunteer group in Michigan collected approximately 400,000 signatures in support of an initiative to create an independent redistricting commission that would take map-drawing out of the hands of partisan politicians. Their incredible work was more than enough to qualify the ballot in November. Still, conservatives in Michigan are doing everything they can to block the measure, launching legal challenges to keep it off the ballot and maintain their disproportionate grip on power.

Nevada continues to be an important swing state, and one with an electorate that reflects America’s increasingly diverse population. The state legislature will be in charge of drawing new district lines after the 2020 census, and there’s little doubt that it will be contentious. Last year, Republicans attempted to baselessly recall three senators in hopes of flipping the Senate. A judge eventually ruled their efforts invalid, but the failed power grab underscored how far Nevada Republicans are willing to go to gain a partisan advantage.

  • Governor. Gov. Brian Sandoval is term-limited, leaving an open race for the Governor’s mansion in November. The winner will have veto power over both the congressional and state legislative maps, which are drawn by the Nevada legislature.

  • Senate. Democrats currently hold a narrow majority in the Nevada State Senate, but Republicans’ nakedly partisan efforts to force recall elections this session show that they are desperate to gain power. Holding the Democratic majority may be critical to getting fair maps in 2021.

New Hampshire’s state legislative districts are among the most gerrymandered in the country, thanks to unfair partisan lines drawn by GOP lawmakers after the 2010 Census. And New Hampshire Republicans would like to keep it that way: Last year, on a party-line vote, they killed legislation to create an independent redistricting commission. They currently control both chambers of the legislature and the Governor’s mansion, but all three will be tightly contested this November.

  • Governor. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is running for re-election in 2018. The winner will have veto power over both the congressional and state legislative maps.

  • House. There are 400 seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, all of which are up for election this year. Thanks to gerrymandering after the 2010 Census, Republicans were able to win 213 of those, even as Democrats garnered more votes statewide – but 2018 may be a different story.

  • Senate. All 24 seats in the New Hampshire State Senate are up for election in November, and Democrats need to pick up 3 of them to win a majority.

North Carolina has been ground zero for the battle over GOP gerrymandering. The Republican legislature’s egregious racial and partisan gerrymanders have repeatedly been struck down by courts. Despite razor-thin results statewide in 2016 where Gov. Roy Cooper [D] unseated Pat McCrory, Republicans won 10 of 13 U.S. House seats. In the state legislature, they retained supermajorities: Republicans hold 35 of 50 state Senate seats, and 74 of 120 state House seats. On top of all this, fast-growing North Carolina is likely to gain another congressional seat after the 2020 census, and the governor has no veto power in the redistricting process. Simply put, Democrats must make gains on tough terrain in order to implement fairer districts.

  • House. While Democrats face an uphill battle due to gerrymandering, the state House represents their best opportunity to chip away at Republicans’ stranglehold on the North Carolina legislature, and in turn, their best chance to disrupt another decade of undemocratic partisan maps.

  • Senate. Although the North Carolina Senate is deeply gerrymandered, Democrats can make important gains, including potentially breaking the GOP’s supermajority. With the entire state Senate up again in 2020, this is only our first shot to flip the chamber.

After Republicans gained full control of government in Wisconsin for the first time in 40 years, they drew maps that they would eventually become the subject of a major Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of extreme partisan gerrymandering, known as Gill v. Whitford. Those maps helped the GOP win 60 out of 99 State Assembly seats in 2012 despite losing the statewide popular vote, and those structural advantages have helped the party push through one notorious piece of conservative, anti-worker legislation after the next. It’s time to restore fair representation to Wisconsin.

  • Senate. The legislature controls redistricting in Wisconsin, and given the GOP’s nearly unbreakable State Assembly gerrymander, Democrats are best suited to make their push in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 19-14 majority. 17 of those seats are up this year, 11 of which are GOP-held.

  • Governor. Republican Gov. Scott Walker is running for reelection. He’s already proven his affinity for partisan political tricks – even refusing to hold special elections to fill vacant legislative seats until ordered to by multiple courts – and the governor holds veto power over proposed congressional and state legislative maps in Wisconsin. We can’t let him maintain that power.


 

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