Saturday, November 20, 2021


Worried that democracy might die in America? As Ari Berman of Mother Jones notes, it's already dying in Galveston, Texas:
For 22 years, Stephen Holmes has been the lone Black and minority county commissioner in Galveston County, Texas, a coastal area south of Houston. But under new redistricting maps adopted by the GOP-controlled commission on November 12, over the vocal objections of Democrats and African-Americans who attended the only public hearing on the matter, every commission seat will likely be held by white Republicans as part of a bid by the local GOP to “Keep Galveston County Red.” This will deprive communities of color of any political representation at the highest levels of local government in a county that is 45 percent non-white.

... under the new maps approved by three white, male GOP county commissioners, voters of color would make up just 26 percent of eligible voters in Holmes’ new district, reducing the minority vote by a staggering 28 points and likely dooming his re-election chances in 2024.

Such a move would have been unthinkable and illegal before the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013....

At the state level in Texas, 95 percent of demographic change over the past decade has come from communities of color but this fall Republicans passed maps for the state legislature and US House that increase the number of districts where whites make up a majority of eligible voters and decrease the number of district where communities of color make up a majority of eligible voters.
And it's not just Texas:
In North Carolina, Republicans adopted new redistricting maps that could eliminate the seats of one-third of Black state senators, one-fifth of Black state representatives, and one of two Black members of Congress from the state.

In Georgia, 100 percent of the state’s population growth came from communities of color, but white Republicans will likely remain in the majority for the next decade under new redistricting maps and voters of color will have less representation than before....
And in Wisconsin, as Reid Epstein reports in The New York Times, Republicans are threatening to bring criminal charges against members of a bipartisan state election board:
The Republican anger at the Wisconsin Elections Commission, a body of three Democrats and three Republicans that G.O.P. lawmakers ... comes nearly 20 months after commissioners issued guidance to local election clerks on how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Republicans have seized in particular on a March 2020 commission vote lifting a rule that required special voting deputies ... to visit nursing homes twice before issuing absentee ballots to residents. The special voting deputies, like most other visitors, were barred from entering nursing homes early in the pandemic, and the commission reasoned that there was not enough time before the April primary election to require them to be turned away before mailing absentee ballots.

The vote was relatively uncontroversial at the time: No lawsuits from Republicans or anyone else challenged the guidance. The procedure remained in place for the general election in November.
But it's controversial now, after Joe Biden won the presidential vote in Wisconsin by a small margin. So let's arrest the commission members!
... the Trump-aligned sheriff of Racine County, the state’s fifth most populous county, recommended felony charges against five of the six members of the election commission for guidance they had given to municipal clerks early in the pandemic. The Republican majority leader of the State Senate later seemed to give a green light to that proposal, saying that “prosecutors around the state” should determine whether to bring charges.
If this happens, Wisconsin is a banana republic.
And last week, Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican, said that G.O.P. state lawmakers should unilaterally assert control of federal elections, claiming that they had the authority to do so even if Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, stood in their way — an extraordinary legal argument debunked by a 1932 Supreme Court decision and a 1964 ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Ryan Cooper of The Week explains:
The basic idea here — handing out electoral votes through the legislature rather than after a vote — arguably wouldn't even be "illegal," since the Electoral College clauses in the Constitution stipulate that electors are chosen "in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct."
But courts have sensibly held that since legislative actions need gubernatorial approval (or are subject to a governor's veto power), and since they're also subject to judicial review, the Constitution can't be interpreted to mean that legislatures can unilaterally choose presidential electors however they please.

But we may be moving in that direction, in Wisconsin and possibly other states. And this could happen whether or not Donald Trump runs. Trump's election complaints might have inspired this new round of assaults on democracy, but they could be applied on behalf of any Republican. And if we're not vigilant, they will be.

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