News Release

Are Voters Fixing Voting? *Gerrymandering * Ranked Choice Voting

DREW SPENCER PENROSE, dpenrose at fairvote.org, via Rich Robinson, rrobinson at fairvote.org, @fairvote
Penrose is law and policy director for FairVote. He recently wrote the piece “Maine approves ranked choice voting, this time for keeps.” Maine Public is reporting: “Results from nation’s first statewide ranked-choice voting election could be announced as soon as Tuesday.”

DAVID DALEY, davedaley at gmail.com, @davedaley3
Daley is a senior fellow for FairVote, former editor-in-chief of Salon.com and a frequent lecturer and media source about gerrymandering. He is author of the book Ratf**ucked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count, as well as this recent piece in the Boston Globe.

He just wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post called “The only people who can fix gerrymandering now are voters,” which states: “This decade, Wisconsin voters have cast ballots for their state assembly on maps drawn so surgically by Republicans that, in 2012, the GOP captured more than 60 percent of the seats with 174,000 fewer votes.

“Whether Democrats found themselves ‘packed’ into districts that overwhelmingly went blue or efficiently sprinkled throughout reliably red seats, the end result was the same. Wisconsin’s politics lurched dramatically to the right: voter ID bills and antilabor laws that lacked voter support sailed easily through the legislature. Uncompetitive districts drew no competition at all. Nearly 50 percent of all state assembly seats went uncontested by a major party in 2016. Turnout plummeted as well; Between 2012 and 2016, Wisconsin suffered the second-biggest decline in voter participation nationwide.

“On Monday, however, the Supreme Court — on narrow, technical grounds — punted on two crucial partisan gerrymandering cases, one from Wisconsin and another from Maryland, that had provided an opportunity to rein in this toxic, destructive practice that has accelerated the extremism and polarization in our politics. A unanimous court, citing a lack of standing by the Wisconsin voters from any one district to bring a claim against statewide maps, sent the case back to the district court to be reargued on different grounds. The trouble is, there’s not much time before the 2020 Census and the next round of redistricting. …

“Unfortunately, the high court continues to step away from creative solutions to systemic problems. In Shelby County v. Holder, the court argued that anti-discriminatory provisions of the Voting Rights Act targeting states that had historically disenfranchised voters were no longer necessary. Now, instances of racially motivated voter suppression must be challenged one by one — and, as we saw in the case of Ohio’s voter purges last week, these individual cases are often punted back to state election boards, overwhelmingly controlled by the GOP. …

“Just last week in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s policies of purging voters from the rolls after not participating in three federal elections (and not responding to official notices mailed to their homes). With Ohio’s policy greenlighted, over a dozen states have indicated that they will adopt a similar system. …

“There is some hope. This fall, as many as seven states will vote on ballot initiatives to create independent redistricting commissions. Arizona and California already use independent bodies for line-drawing to take the process out of the legislature — their maps, based on nonpartisan standards like compactness and keeping related communities together, are more just and more competitive. Maine, meanwhile, has enacted ranked choice voting to make its elections more representative and fair.” See FairVote’s page on ranked choice voting.