For The People Act Cannot Die — Here’s Why

After the Census Bureau released detailed population and demographic data from the 2020 census yesterday, states and local governments are set to begin the once-a-decade process of drawing new voting district boundaries known as redistricting. And gerrymandering — when those boundaries are drawn with the intention of influencing who gets elected — is bound to follow.

The current redistricting cycle will be the first since the Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling that gerrymandering for party advantage cannot be challenged in federal court, which has set the stage for perhaps the most ominous round of map drawing in the country’s history.

In the unlikely event that the For the People Act passes the Senate, gerrymandering will be relegated to the annals of history, but since that is about as likely as me growing a pair of wings and flying far, far away, I will take this opportunity to redux my explanation of gerrymandering from a post I did back in 2019:

Gerrymandering, for any who may be unclear on precisely what the term means, is a means of re-drawing district maps to manipulate the boundaries in order to favour one party over the other.  The Washington Post published an excellent article explaining the process  back in March 2015  that I urge you to take a look at.  The graphic below, taken from that article, provides a pretty good visual explanation.

Every 10 years, states redraw their legislative and congressional district lines following the census. Because communities change, redistricting is critical to our democracy: maps must be redrawn to ensure that districts are equally populated, comply with laws such as the Voting Rights Act, and are otherwise representative of a state’s population. Done right, redistricting is a chance to create maps that, in the words of John Adams, are an “exact portrait, a miniature” of the people as a whole.

Trouble is, it is almost never ‘done right’.

While legislative and congressional district shapes may look wildly different from state to state, most attempts to gerrymander can best be understood through the lens of two basic techniques: cracking and packing.

Cracking splits groups of people with similar characteristics, such as voters of the same party affiliation, or perhaps the same … skin colour … across multiple districts. With their voting strength divided and diluted, these groups struggle to elect their preferred candidates in any of the districts.

Packing is the opposite of cracking: map drawers cram certain groups of voters into as few districts as possible. In these few districts, the “packed” groups are likely to elect their preferred candidates, but the groups’ voting strength is weakened everywhere else.

While historically both parties have used gerrymandering to their advantage, today it is largely the Republicans who do so in order to disenfranchise certain groups, among them Blacks, the elderly, college students, and the working poor.  Now, coupled with the blatant voter suppression laws that are being proposed and legislated in 42 of the 50 states, and … well, you can see the problem.  Black people’s voices will be diluted, as will the elderly and others, while white Christians will have their voices amplified.  One piece of legislation can halt both voter suppression laws and gerrymandering in their tracks:  the For the People Act.

In a nutshell, this bill, which has already passed in the House of Representatives and is lying dormant in the Senate today, will …

  • Make it easier for every eligible voter to register to vote
  • Make it easier for every registered voter to vote
  • Make election day a public holiday
  • Ban partisan gerrymandering by prohibiting adoption of any map that has the intent or effect of “unduly favoring or disfavoring” one political party over another
  • Require that congressional redistricting be transparent and participatory, with open meetings and public hearings, opportunities for the public to review and comment on proposed maps
  • Require that states carry out congressional redistricting using independent commissions that:
    • prohibit current and recent lawmakers, staff, and lobbyists and others with conflicts of interest from serving on the commission;
    • include an equal number of Republican, Democratic, and unaffiliated or third-party members selected through a rigorous screening process, with voting rules designed to ensure that maps can pass only with support from all three groups; and
    • include members who are representative of the state’s demographic makeup and different geographic regions, with enough members from racial, ethnic, and language minorities to give those groups a meaningful opportunity to participate in the redistricting process

There is much, much more in this bill that would bring equity and fairness back into our election process, and I do plan to cover more of it in the near future, but … the bill is on the chopping block and desperately needs to be resuscitated.  It is subject to the senate filibuster, an archaic, racist tool that is used by the minority party to keep legislation they don’t like from ever passing any legislation.  In this case, however, We the People need to step up to the plate, we need to fight tooth and nail to get this legislation passed!  This may, in fact, be the single most important bill on the docket of this Congress — even more crucial than the infrastructure bill.

Why, exactly, don’t the Republicans want to allow the For the People Act to see the light of day?  Because in a fair and honest election, few Republicans would stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected.  Ever since they showed their racist side in response to a Black man being elected president, and then backed a raving madman with zero qualifications for the presidency in 2016, the Republican Party has been on a downhill path, eschewing sound policymaking and instead engaging in lies, cheating, conspiracy theories, and such nefarious practices to win elections.  In 2016, their hero lost by 2.8 million votes, but due to gerrymandered districts, was placed in the Oval Office by the Electoral College.  The minority ruled.  Last year, that same hero lost by more than 7 million votes, and the Republicans are determined not to allow that to happen again, even if it means stopping the votes of the majority.  And if all else fails, there is little doubt in my mind that they will have a ‘Plan B’, likely something along the lines of what happened on January 6th.

If we care at all about this nation, if we care about how our government spends our hard-earned tax dollars and how they treat people, then we must DEMAND that the Senate pass this damn bill!!!  Otherwise, welcome to the Plutocracy of the dis-United States.

21 thoughts on “For The People Act Cannot Die — Here’s Why

  1. It really surprises me that a so called democracy makes it so easy to gerrymander representation. Politicians really have no place in determining voting districts. Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, politicians still have a minor role to play, but thankfully it is indeed minor.

    Here electorate (voting district) boundaries are redrawn every five years, and that is the role of the representation commission. It consists of: a representative nominated by the governing political parties; a representative nominated by the opposition political parties; the Surveyor-General; the Government Statistician; the Chief Electoral Officer; the Chairperson of the Local Government Commission. So only two of the six members of the commission are political appointees.

    Once the proposed boundaries are published, they are are open to public submissions before being finalised. The legislature has no say whatsoever. The legislature and the executive are also not involved with the appointment of the judiciary or top civil service appointments to ensure these positions remain outside of political manipulation.

    The other factor that influences elections in the US but shouldn’t is money. We find it extraordinary that there does not seem to be any limit to the amount of money that can be spent during an election campaign. Here there are very strict limits on spending by candidates, political parties and also what others can spend to support a party or any policy promoted by a party. It makes for a more even playing field.

    Finally, perhaps it’s time to consider some type of proportional representation, as it makes it allows minor parties to have a voice. I believe this softens the effect of polarisation and partisanship that seems to be inevitable product of a two party system.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your way seems much more fair and honest than our own, but what I would really like to see is elections not be decided by district, but simply by total votes. One person, one equal vote. If that had been the case in 2016, Hillary Clinton would have won, for she had nearly 3 million more votes than Trump. If it had been the case in 2000, Al Gore would almost certainly have been president for he had over half-a-million votes more than George W. Bush. It should be the people’s vote that matters. It’s discouraging to know that politicians can control the value of our vote.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It does seem that the method the US uses to choose a president is somewhat outdated. I wonder if other presidential systems use something similar or a more simple popular vote method – the equivalent of a single nationwide voting district.

        While we do have electorates (voting districts), they have very little influence on the makeup of the Parliament as the proportionality of the house depends on the party votes. 70 seats are allocated to electorates and a further 50 seats are allocated to party lists to ensure the proportionality of the house matches as closely as possible the nationwide party vote. We have two votes: one for our electorate representative and one for a political party.

        As the system usually results in no party commanding a majority (the 2020 elections being the first since 1996), we typically see loose coalitions and/or minority governments. In light of the partisanship of American politics, I wonder if that would be workable in the US?

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  2. It makes me so sad, Jill, that America has come to this. To have to create the “For The People Act” tells more about your nation than Americans are willing to see, or admit. The fact that it might not even get passed into law puts the icing on the cake. What may have once been the shining light of freedom (debatabole, but I will allow it for discussion”s sake) is now a dark and dreary shadow of itself. For the sake of 99% of Americans I do hope you can find a way to pass it, because to not do so in unthinkable. But to have it become a necessity is a condemnation of everything your nation purported itself to be. There is no greatness anymore.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    FOR THE PEOPLE ACT … “If we care at all about this nation, if we care about how our government spends our hard-earned tax dollars and how they treat people, then we must DEMAND that the Senate pass this damn bill!! Otherwise, welcome to the Plutocracy of the dis-United States.”

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I really have severe doubts about the survival of the U.S. if the For The People bill is not passed by Congress, and it looks less and less likely that will happen. With the bill failing and with Gerrymandering in full flow alongside the disenfranchisement bills going through the Red States it will be like the Democrats never had the majority.. The people will be able to wave goodbye to Obamacare ACA and probably any Government Benefits that the Republicans think are Socialism gone mad. Quite possibly Trump will be invited to sit on the throne of what will become an offshoot of his company which will no doubt be a ice little earner for his family. The two term maximum may well be forgotten. There are much richer people out there than Trump like Charles Koch who will be running the show to ensure maximum tax rebates for himself and his companies. Plus, all the plans for green fuel and to avoid Global Warming will be put on hold again as both coal and oil go back into production. I will be a Plutocracy matched only by Russia and who knows, may even have been engineered by them. What is sure is that people on both sides of the political divide will suffer because the Republican leadership has no interest i their problems either once they have their votes.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 3 people

    • ‘Tis a depressing picture you paint, but one I have envisioned as well. If the U.S. turns its back on climate change again, other nations would be well within their rights to attack this country as we determinedly attempt to destroy the planet’s inhabitants. Frankly, I hope they would do just that … attack and take us over, for under Trump, we would be devoid of any form of leadership, instead subjects to a dictator.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 1 person

  5. And nobody seems to notice that both parties are like identical twins: Patridiotic to a tee, ultra right wing, against the people, spiced with fascist tendencies, anti-humane, sociopathic. And it really doesn’t matter which party gets the presidency, as the most powerful man on the planet is just a remote controlled puppet of the industry. “They” will let him or her know the borders of his or her power.
    When the reds accuse the blue of socialism it’s nothing but smoke and mirrors.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Orca, Jill, as an independent and former member of both parties, neither party owns all of the good ideas and both have some bad ones. Yet, it does matter who is in the role of governance. It is not a normal distribution. Both parties tell untruths and exaggerate, but the Republican party in the US far surpassed the Democrats on lying. I can argue policy emphasis with Democrats, but right now the Republican party is adrift, untethered from the truth and lawfulness.

      As an old fart, what we are witnessing today boggles my mind as it so overt. These politicians know they are lying, but don’t seem to care. We must tell them telling the truth matters. We must tell them they need to worry less about keeping their job and do their job. Like many folks, I have some progressive leanings and some conservative leanings. I believe in helping people in need, but we need to pay for things, eg.

      We need a viable Republican party that is not adrift. Right now, we do not have one. One of the things I have been doing for the last four years is reinforcing good behavior by legislators and sharing my concerns over bad behavior. I disagree with Liz Cheney on her policies, but I applaud her political courage in the face of adversity from her own party.

      Keith

      Liked by 6 people

      • I think you are too used to things being as they have been for centuries now, Keith. What you need is to get rid of the Republican Party, and found a new one to take its place, or better yet, use this opportunity to create a multi-party system. As it stands right now, the Republican Party is the enemy of the people, and the enemy of democracy. It has no right to exist.
        And the problems with a two party system are on display for the whole world to see. America is split down the middle, red vs. blue, black vs. white, conservatism vs. a bastardization of liberal socialism, poverty vs. wealth, I could go on forever. There is no middle ground. I have been saying this over and over, but no one seems to be listening. The two-party system may have worked until 2016, but it does not work any longer.
        There is so much talk of a second civil war. What is that going to do for a nation that is already pitting siblings against each other, that has destroyed life-long friendships, and has now become me vs. you, in a general sense. America is at a crossroads, but there are more than two roads to take. I keep on hearing the line, If you don’t learn from history you are hound to repeat it. The time has come to really learn, because right now it is only being repeated.

        Liked by 3 people

      • “former member of both parties”

        Proves my statement about identical twins. You could only be a member of both parties because they are totally interchangeable. I’d even claim they are both so far outside of any reasonable political spectrum that they probably be under surveillance by all European constitution watchdogs if they were German, French or English parties. Or already illegal.

        And you’re far too personal in your politics. I vote socialist, I vote left, I vote programmes, I vote trade union friendly, I don’t vote for politicians. They are all assholes these days. Career politicians who never worked an honest job in their lifes. I remember back when I was a child, our German chancellor Willy Brandt developed his poltical conscience in the Norwegian resistance against the nazis. Politicians had ideology and you as a voter had a clear choice: Either vote social democrats, socialists and communists or vote for the assholes, the burgoise right-leaning industrialists and xtians and ex-nazis. Easy decision: Either be with the workers or be with the unsolidaric assholes and lickspittles.

        And that’s the side both your partiies are on. 😦

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        • Rawgod, to me, the best way to address this issue is to form a moderate party in the middle. That may not sit well with the many ultra-progtessive or ultra-conservatives. This would hopefully let us discuss the real issues with analytics and data. But, until we get the money out of politics, and get to term limits, we will not get to better governance. I do agree with Orca we need to replace long term politicians out. They worry about keeping their job too much. Keith

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