Turnout, Vote-By-Mail And Gerrymandering

The Supreme Court, in an indefensible 5/4 ruling, has declined to stop political parties from engaging in extreme gerrymandering. (Thankfully, allowing the Trump Administration to add a citizenship question to the census was evidently a bridge too far….)

Readers of this blog have read my previous analyses of partisan redistricting, and I won’t repeat them here. I will simply link to the opinion, including Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent, with which I entirely agree.

That said, here we are. The Court has narrowly declined to enforce “one person, one vote,” and the remedy for that shameful refusal must come from voters. That means that the 2020 election becomes even more important than it already was–impossible as that may seem.

As I have noted before, in order to overcome a gerrymander, the “minority party” in a district that has been drawn to be safe for the majority party needs massive turnout. That’s hard, but it can be done. In the 2018 midterms, Democrats in numerous districts turned out in sufficient numbers  to overcome the considerable advantages built in by the GOP.

Although it may be the most effective, gerrymandering is only one of the voter suppression tactics employed by Republicans who recognize that they are increasingly a minority party. If the Court will not provide a tool for challenging partisan redistricting, Democrats–together with independents and any remaining rational Republicans–must engage in grass roots efforts that encourage, rather than suppress, turnout.

One of the most effective of those efforts is conducting the vote by mail, as this recent article documents.

“The ballot belongs to the voter, not the government,” said Phil Keisling, the former secretary of state of Oregon. “As long as it can be done with safety and integrity, it’s the obligation of the government to get it to me. It’s not my responsibility to qualify for it and get it.”

Many states are taking that goal seriously, and to meet it, they are taking steps to abolish the traditional polling booth….

In Washington, Oregon and Colorado — and any minute now, Hawaii, where the governor is about to sign a new law — there are no longer traditional polling places. (California is also rolling this out county by county; by the 2020 election, half of voters will get a ballot at home.) The states mail ballots in bar-coded envelopes to every registered voter several weeks before the election. It’s automatic; the voter doesn’t need to request it.

Those states are blue or purple, but home voting is also growing in red states. Voters in 28 of Utah’s 29 counties automatically get ballots at home. Nebraska and North Dakota also use it, to varying degrees. And nearly half of states allow certain elections to be conducted entirely by home voting. It allows voters to mark their ballots at their leisure and either mail it back or drop it in a ballot drop box. (Most use a drop box, which is why it’s not entirely accurate to call it vote-by-mail.) Some states allow voters to track the progress of their ballots electronically.

Not surprisingly, home-voting states have high turnout, and there is some evidence that when political subdivisions shift to voting by mail, turnout increases.

Between the midterm elections in 2014 and 2018, Utah rolled out home voting and had the greatest rise in turnout of any state. The five California counties that switched to home voting in 2018 increased their turnout more than the rest of the state.

Obviously, there is not time between now and November of 2020 to institute vote-by-mail or the myriad other changes that would increase turnout by making voting more convenient–making Election Day a holiday, instituting same-day registration, etc. The challenge for those of us who are appalled by the mounting efforts to deny citizens a genuine voice in governance (efforts that have included packing the courts with rightwing ideologues) is obvious: we must devote massive time and effort to getting out the vote in 2020.

We need a citizen tsunami sufficient to overcome the blatantly rigged districts the Supreme Court has declined to rule unconstitutional.

Huge turnout would likely allow Democrats to eject not just the corrupt and unfit Trump Administration, but also wrest control of the Senate from McConnell, and clean out the GOP’s state and local enablers. Americans can then focus grassroots efforts on electing politicians who will commit to drawing fair districts.

If that tsunami is big enough, it might even allow old-fashioned Republicans appalled and dispirited by what the GOP has become to retake their party.

If that doesn’t happen…history will record Mitch McConnell’s capture of the Supreme Court  and the GOP’s unhindered voter suppression as a successful coup d’etat.

30 thoughts on “Turnout, Vote-By-Mail And Gerrymandering

  1. Although I very much respect your opinions and insights I don’t know why you keep searching and hoping for the return of “old-fashioned” Republicans. What you see today are yesterday’s Republicans and tomorrow’s Republicans; members of an intellectually and morally bankrupt party that is and always has been bereft of ideas. Probably best to quote Roger Daltry on this one: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.

  2. While the US Supreme Court refused a nationwide remedy for gerrymandering, some state constitutions prohibit the practice. I did not see a prohibition against gerrymandering in the Indiana Constitution.

  3. crichardallen,

    “Although I very much respect your opinions and insights I don’t know why you keep searching and hoping for the return of “old-fashioned” Republicans.”

    Other than domestic warfare or suicide, what other choices do we have?

  4. So the Supreme Court crossed the bridge into the current Republican gerrymandering territory declaring the issue to be one not to be decided by federal courts. With the sudden rush of the high numbers of Trump/McConnell appointments of federal judgeships after McConnell’s refusal to hold hearings on President Obama’s nominees; surely no one expected them to vote against themselves. Cherry-picking bits and pieces of the Constitution to ignore is simply carried over to gerrymandering state-by-state…”state’s rights” was the rallying cry of the Confederate States of America. All part of the current Political Civil War; the current racial outcry against Vice President Joe Biden is based in the fact that he could work “across the aisle” on some issues while working against other issues supported by his racist Republican counterparts. If the issue were gerrymandering rather than race would the outcry be as loud and as misinterpreted?

    I voted Absentee Ballot last November and hope to again simply due to my age and physical condition but the difficulties facing working people, the lack of convenient early voting sites and the laziness of too many Americans today, makes the vote by mail is a viable solution.

    Then I remembered living in Florida in 2000 and that bogus recount ordered by George W’s baby brother Gov. Jeb Bush included the sudden “discovery” of a closet full of Absentee Ballots which arrived well before election day being discarded as “not being received in time to be counted”. There must be a law broken somewhere in that election as it involved the United States Postal Service. Can we be assured it won’t happen again if the option to “vote by mail” is enacted?

  5. Thank you, Justice Kagan.. backbone,and cool. we need 5 more like her.. seems NC and MD will be able to see who can out do each other,while oregon passed a give it all to the popular vote canidate. we are long overdue on a change . mcconnells constitutents,if they dont under stand the seriousness of this play, that kid who showed the world how education works in kentucky, and what we as the people,have to contend with.. ditch mitch campaign,donate,and support anyone on the dems side. even the cfo is taking ky to court. if the miners who got severly stepped on in health care,and wages, and benifits,dont rise up, then let em sink with the rest..

  6. If the Court can see motive behind the White House case for the citizenship question on the Census and rule accordingly, why is then the Court unable to read nefarious motive behind gerrymandering?

  7. Mitch McMconnell’s theft of a Supreme Court seat was the most explosive and damaging blow to our supposed democracy that was possible. The mere fact that he got away with that theft is sickening.

    He must wake up every morning and go to bed each night feeling so proud of himself. Rather than being punished for his criminal act he most likely receives constant admiration from his donors and fellow evil cohorts who are pleased with the illegal bounty that keeps rolling in from this ill-gotten seat, knowing that the bounty will keep rolling in for many years to come.

    Far too many of us have absolutely NO RESPECT for the Supreme Court any more. We may have respect for a handful of the decent people who serve on the court, but as a whole we have completely lost respect for it and see it as a political joke.

  8. “if that doesn’t happen…history will record Mitch McConnell’s capture of the Supreme Court and the GOP’s unhindered voter suppression as a successful coup d’etat.”

    We must eliminate the option of a successful coup RIGHT NOW, not later.

    I would suggest reading “Coup d’etat: A Practical Handbook” by Edward Luttwak (Harvard Univesity Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1968) p. 130:

    For example: “Which organized groups will be sufficiently strong to oppose us even if
    the voice of the government is silent and the capital city is in our hands? Not many, but we must remember that even one well-organized demonstration, or a well-timed strike, could pose a serious threat to the coup in the delicate transitional phase.”

    Presently, we in the U.S. are now in the TRANSITIONAL PHASE. Are we frozen?

  9. “…if the miners who got severly stepped on in health care,and wages, and benifits,dont rise up, then let em sink with the rest..”

    jack smith; thank you for this reminder. I have suggested before that the MSNBC special with Chris Hayes and Bernie Sander sitting with Trump voters in the poorest county in West Virginia, should be rebroadcast. Now I believe Chris and Bernie need to RETURN and get their current views on all of these issues and air their current personal conditions.

  10. How is it the Court can read motive behind the Administration’s case for the citizenship question on the pending Census and rule against and not read the nefarious motive behind gerrymandering to rule accordingly?

  11. Nancy writes, “Far too many of us have absolutely NO RESPECT for the Supreme Court any more. We may have respect for a handful of the decent people who serve on the court, but as a whole we have completely lost respect for it and see it as a political joke.”

    AGREED.

    It will take lots of pressure to convince states to take action in red states. Maybe instead of them whining about losing young innovative kids (brain drain) to more progressive communities, the state legislature and our governor can figure it out without another stupid study underwritten by Eli Lilly.

    My congressional district in Muncie is so gerrymandered that I cannot understand how they can count the votes accurately.

  12. This slow-motion coup instigated by members of the DuPont and Bush families, only interrupted by W.W. II, is dynamic, not static, and has been moving sub-surface, two steps forward, then one step backward, ever since General Smedley Butler’s testimony before Congress in 1935.

  13. I personally think this was the wrong strategy. Political party is not a protected class under any law nor under the Constitution. Look at who gets hurt before you file a lawsuit. Bring the right suit with the right argument.

  14. Don’t forget lawyers are not free, they’re at the mercy of the state bar associations. The make-up of some of them are more “malignant” than our present Supreme Court.

    See “Cancer in the Body Politic: Diagnosis and Prescription for an America in Decline” by Peter D. Mott, MD (EPICA Books, Washington, DC, 2006).

  15. I would also suggest reading: “Fascism: what it is and how to fight it” by Leon Trotsky (Pathfinder, New York, 1944).

    What about a MOTHER’S MARCH AGAINST FASCISM?

  16. Some where the GOP and Koch Bros., must be drinking Champagne toasts to McConnell. Gerrymandering is another issue the Democrats have been handed. There is no chance of a Constitutional Amendment on a Federal Level that would address Gerrymandering.

    The Blue Wave of 2018, must be at the least duplicated and enhanced. The Presidential Race is sucking up all the political oxygen. Everyday, we will probably have the McMega Media give us the “flavor of the day” presidential candidate they want to hype up or downgrade.

    The Democratic Party has little chance of turning the Evangelical Wing of the GOP. So the focus must be on issues, and finding viable candidates that appeal to independents.

  17. If we can’t stop gerrymandering on the federal level, it needs to be fixed on a state-by-state level. All the reason why we need to focus on local races and change the balance in our state legislature.

  18. Monotonous,

    “The Blue Wave of 2018, must be at the least duplicated and enhanced. The Presidential Race is sucking up all the political oxygen. Everyday, we will probably have the McMega Media give us the “flavor of the day” presidential candidate they want to hype up or downgrade.

    The Democratic Party has little chance of turning the Evangelical Wing of the GOP.”

    Surely, not by itself.

  19. Folks – the path to ending gerrymandering runs through the Senate and MM. We MUST focus on that as JOB 2.

    The U.S. House passed an elections bill in March that would require states to appoint independent commissions to handle redistricting, rather than leaving the job to state legislators. That bill, however, has no chance of passing the Senate.

    Much easier than working red state by red state…

    If passed, no doubt the Power folks would take it back to the Supremes, but at least it would buy some time and be a stronger argument.

  20. The main problem is the mindset of the vast majority of Evangelical Christians. Many of you on this blog, have tuned them out. I haven’t. Ground Zero of the movement has been in Jacksonville, ever since 1991, after the Evangelicals lost the battle for 1 man, 1 vote, in Dallas.

    They’ve been taught and I have listened to their sermons: that THIS world is not the most important, it is the NEXT ONE that counts. If this is the case, then how in the world can pure rhetoric change their minds? They need to care about the present. It has to be demonstrated to them. That’s why EFFECTIVE MARCHES are probably the only way, if there is away.

    Sometimes, you have to SEE it, to BELIEVE IT

  21. Hey Marv —
    How ’bout a FATHER’S MARCH where participants hold up signs that say: BLACK LIVES MATTER; EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN; EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK; SCIENCE IS REAL; I SUPPORT THE LBGTQ COMMUNITY COMPLETELY; NO HUMAN BEING IS ILLEGAL; OVERTURN CITIZENS UNITED NOW; REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS; etc. And I expect to see you at the front of the pack. Please let all of us know when & where the march will occur so we can see how committed our WHITE FATHERS are to these causes. You are the person you’ve been waiting for!
    Here’s info on MY march: https://www.facebook.com/events/2267056656681000

  22. Kathy M,

    “And I expect to see you at the front of the pack. Please let all of us know when & where the march will occur so we can see how committed our WHITE FATHERS are to these causes. You are the person you’ve been waiting for!”

    Fathers aren’t going to do anything whether they are white, black, yellow or pink. I can’t speak for women. When it gets down to this level, I doubt if anyone is going to EFFECTIVELY step-up.

    I’m responsible for the 1 man, 1 vote victory in Dallas. It cost me custody of my daughter, my second marriage, my law practice, my reputation, my solvency, my friends & more.

    There’s NO PHYSICAL PROTECTION. Not many are willing to pay the price, maybe none. I learned my lesson, POLITICAL SUICIDE doesn’t solve anything.

    Good luck!

  23. Kathy M,

    The reason an EFFECTIVE MOTHER’S MARCH might be possible, as it looks cowardly when men attack women. In Nazi Germany, the only EFFECTIVE march as I remember, was when the Christian women marched in defense of their Jewish husbands, who had fought for Germany in W.W. I.

  24. Copied and pasted from an NBC news item: “WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide the fate of DACA, the federal program that has allowed 700,000 young people — known as “Dreamers” — to avoid deportation.

    The court will hear the case during its next term, which begins in October. A ruling in such a contentious case wouldn’t be likely before early 2020, assuring that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will figure in the presidential campaign.”

    “The Supreme Court, in an indefensible 5/4 ruling, has declined to stop political parties from engaging in extreme gerrymandering.”

    Eenie-Meenie-Miney-Moe now tells SCOTUS which way to go. Declining to hear the gerrymandering issue they have taken up a President Obama issue which is against everything Trump is fighting for and already a major issue with the Democratic candidates; any guesses on the outcome of this one?

  25. I remember from law school that we were told the Supreme Court will not intervene in political matters due to the Separation of Powers Clause. Trouble is, the Supreme Court gets to decide what is and is not “political” in a “him what’s got the gold makes the rules” exercise in determining their own jurisdiction – and I am having trouble determining the difference in the census question they correctly decided and was thus not apparently a political question and the gerrymandering question they decided. Both, it seems to me, have plain political implications and by the court’s own logic should have thus been undecided by the court. I am beginning to think that the Separation of Powers view is a convenient scapegoat for the court’s not wanting to make a decision. I personally think the court should have adopted the Kagan view and if this involves intervention under the Separation doctrine then so be it since one of the fundamental rights of democracy (one man-one vote) is involved, and its breach is more important to heal than obedience to some view that Separation of Powers is more important, a view the court need not follow and should not have followed given the importance of voting to our democratic values, one of which is that we are to be governed by majority rule.

    Sheila is right to note that the answer is to have a massive turnout at the polls in such numbers as to defeat Republican gerrymandering, and her advice is good for another reason in such connection, to wit: The upcoming election, where the art of gerrymandering is now unleashed by the court’s decision, is most important in terms of electing state senators and representatives who will end such gerrymandering and/or redraw such districts to conform to Baker v. Carr. Given the hands off decision by the court (which chills gerrymandering suits throughout the federal court system), state elections in 2020 are arguably as important as are federal elections (and the latter are perhaps critical to our survival as a democracy). Fortunately, Madison gave the conduct of elections both state and federal to the states, so if we can prevail in state elections we may be able to blunt some of the ill effects of the court’s decision to do nothing about gerrymandering. TURNOUT has never been more important at every level of government, so let’s get going. Today.

  26. Will Mitch’s treason be regarded in history as the death throes of American fascism or the birth of it? Democracy will take a stand in 2020. Armageddon has arrived earlier than expected. Will we celebrate or defeat it?

    Certainly the Democrats are offering a wide range of alternatives. Capable, competent, honest, and of, for and by we the people. The party has done its job. The ball is ours now.

    2019 is our listening year. 2020 the action year. History is paying rapt attention to us and our voices.

  27. The Supremes have been openly partisan since Gore v. Bush. They have no qualms about making major changes to our country by 5-4 votes – Majority rules; screw the minority – nothing the 9-0 Brown decision.

    The gerrymandering ruling is about imposing their own view of America on the country, even though it is the minority view. For the census case, there was a smoking gun – it may have been a bit too much for Roberts. I don’t know how he would have voted if the emails hadn’t surfaced.

    Sheila is absolutely right – massive turnout is the only solution.

    Traditionally, the Democrats want to follow the Marquis of Queensberry Rules in a cage match. When Tom Delay pulled of his mid-decade re-redistricting in Texas, I strongly advocated Illinois (and every other Democratically controlled state) do a redistricting of their own. For Illinois, I recommended the “squid” district – the district of Chicago based Jesse Jackson, Jr. or Danny Davis with tentacles reaching to the homes of the top two Republicans Henry Hyde and Dennis Hastert. Boy, did I receive flack for even suggesting that Democrats not “behave properly”.

    VOTE! That is the answer.

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