Friday, August 13, 2021


In The Guardian, David Daley (author of the national bestseller Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count) and activist Gaby Goldstein remind us that Orban-style illiberal democracy isn't a potential problem in America -- it's already here.
The United States is becoming a land filled with “democracy deserts”, where gerrymandering and voting restrictions are making voters powerless to make change. And this round of redistricting could make things even worse.

Since 2012, the Electoral Integrity Project at Harvard University has studied the quality of elections worldwide. It has also issued biannual reports that grade US states, on a scale of 1 through 100. In its most recent study of the 2020 elections, the integrity of Wisconsin’s electoral boundaries earned a 23 – worst in the nation, on par with Jordan, Bahrain and the Congo.

... But Wisconsin isn’t the only democracy desert. Alabama (31), North Carolina (32), Michigan (37), Ohio (33), Texas (35), Florida (37) and Georgia (39) scored only marginally higher. Nations that join them in the 30s include Hungary, Turkey and Syria.

Representative democracy has been broken for the past decade in places like Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida....

In Wisconsin, for example, voters handed Democrats every statewide race in 2018 and 203,000 more votes for the state assembly – but the tilted Republican map handed Republicans 63 of the 99 seats nevertheless. Democratic candidates have won more or nearly the same number of votes for Michigan’s state house for the last decade – but never once captured a majority of seats.
Democrats won a majority of the popular vote for seats in the Michigan House again in 2020 -- but Republicans won six more seats than Democrats.

In states where it's essentially impossible for Democrats to win even one house of the state legislature, Republicans can shift responsibilities from a governor or secretary of state to the legislature, secure in the knowledge that Democrats will never wield that power. That's what happened recently in Georgia under certain provisions of the new vote suppression law. This could ultimately lead to legislatures rejecting the popular vote in future elections -- or, more likely, lead to Republicans closing large numbers of polling places in Democratic counties while purging Democratic voters from the rolls (an opportunity they'll have in Georgia when they take over the election board in Fulton County, as now seems inevitable). And, of course, permanent Republican control of state legislatures means permanent control of congressional redistricting.

All of which is why the focus on Donald Trump and January 6 as a template for a future curtailment of democracy is probably misguided. Republicans might unleash an army of angry white racists in 2024 to intimidate Congress into overturning election results -- but they're more likely to just continue the long game they've been playing for years, as they slowly conquer more and more territory that Democrats will never be able to make them cede at the ballot box.

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