As the Republican Party continues to alienate large swaths of voters by fielding racist, divisive candidates pitching dangerous, regressive, and unconstitutional ideas, its members must turn to systematic manipulation and parlor tricks to keep their grip on power.
We’ve seen it with voter ID laws, and we’ve seen it with gerrymandering. We’ve seen their attempts to limit early voting, their registration misinformation campaigns, and their targeting of minorities when purging voter rolls.
Some of their biggest successes have sadly come at the hands of the Supreme Court of the United States, most notably the gutting of key provisions in the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County, the legalization of political bribery in Citizens United, and the final obliteration of campaign finance laws in McCutcheon.
And now, as Carol Anne chillingly intoned in the 1982’s Poltergeist, “They’re baaack…”
Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper recently penned a scathing indictment of the Republicans’ latest political chicanery for Cleveland.com, which I will proceed now to quote at length:
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case that could upend the legislative redistricting process all across the country, throwing maps into doubt and causing electoral chaos — all for political purposes…
The case that was heard this week — Evenwel v. Abbott — threatens the democratic principle of “one person, one vote,” which has ensured equal representation for everyone in America, no matter where they live, for decades.
The group behind the lawsuit is the same one that fought to strike down important provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. The lead plaintiff is a Texas Republican Party official. Their goal is to change the rules of the redistricting game to suit their own partisan aims.
The U.S. Constitution establishes that congressional districts must be apportioned by total population. The Founding Fathers clearly intended that everyone would be counted — even those unable to vote at the time, such as women, children, people without property, noncitizens and convicts.
However, it might surprise you to learn that state legislative districts have not always been drawn according to population. Prior to civil rights litigation that went all the way to the Supreme Court, states could draw districts without considering the people who would be represented. Predictably, urban and suburban areas lost out to rural, less populated areas.
This injustice was struck down in the 1960s, with Chief Justice Earl Warren noting, “Legislators represent people, not trees or acres.” Since then, federal and state districts have been apportioned the same way, by counting everyone in a lawmaker’s district as determined by the U.S. Census.
Here we are in 2015, and GOP activists are challenging this decades-old precedent.
They’ve proposed that, when drawing legislative district lines, states should leave out large segments of their populations simply because they are not voters, either because they’re too young to cast a ballot, a permanent legal resident or otherwise ineligible to vote.
Extremist Republicans want legislators to represent people — but just certain types of people. The people who would be left out? Young people and people of color, who tend to be younger than the population as a whole.
I’m sure we’re all just shocked, SHOCKED, to find Republican legal eagles targeting people of color and the young. Unscrupulous, callous, careless, reckless, these guys have about as much of the public interest in their hearts as the firm of Milton, Chadwick & Waters.
This past November, Ohioans stood up and loudly declared with 71.5 percent support that we are through with the corrupt, partisan drawing of our state legislative districts. We declared it time for a fair process. The Rorschach ink blot nature of our state district maps will not do. We want real representation, and fair districts.
Ohio is a purple state, too long stained red by winner-takes-all apportionment. Voters recognized it, and voted to fix it. And now, rather than accept that decision by voters, Republican legal goons are back to make a farce of the will of the people and to ratfuck democracy on a national scale.
And what will SCOTUS do? Their history with Shelby, Citizens, and McCuthcheon doesn’t fill me with confidence. The Roberts Court has an unpredictable track record, allowing those three tragic mistakes to proceed but upholding key portions of the Affordable Care Act and marriage equality.
But before you allow those decisions to fill you with too much hope, remember it’s the same court that, in Hobby Lobby, put the “religious rights” of a corporation ahead of the medical rights of real women.
I have always been registered Democratic, but like Citizens and McCutcheon, this isn’t a Democratic battle, it’s a democratic battle, for the people—all of the people—to be represented fairly and equally. Anything less is unacceptable, as our never-ending fight for small “d” democracy is a fight for the very soul of our republic.
D.C. DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio. DeWitt can be found on Facebook and Twitter @DC_DeWitt.