Here’s a conversation I had recently on voting rights and democracy with David Daley, the former editor of Salon and the author of Ratfucked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, about the GOP’s extreme 2011 gerrymander. It was recorded by Heleo, a site that hosts conversations between experts on topics of public interest.
Watch the whole thing, if only to admire the uncanny level of outfit coordination between David and I. But I wanted to highlight a prediction I made during the conversation, because I think it’s important that democracy advocates and the press don’t get caught off guard.
Last November, Democrat Roy Cooper was elected governor of North Carolina, defeating the Republican incumbent Pat McCrory. In the lame-duck session that followed the election, the Republican legislature changed state laws regarding the powers enjoyed by the governor and his party, including ending the governor’s control of state and local election boards. McCrory signed the legislation before leaving office.
The scheme, which drew national attention, seemed to plumbed new depths in using partisan maneuvering to change the rules and undermine the will of voters. (Parts of it were recently overturned by a state court, which ruled that they violated North Carolina’s constitution).
In 2018, several crucial purple states that are currently under full Republican control — Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa — will host governor’s races. Given the current mood of the country, it’s likely that Democrats will win at least some of these. But thanks to the GOP’s 2011 gerrymander, Republicans almost certainly will retain control of the legislatures in these states. So in states that elect new Democratic governors, Republican lawmakers will likely use the lame-duck session right after the election to do what North Carolina did, and strip the incoming governor of key powers.
But this time, among the powers they’re likely to go after is the governor’s role in the redistricting process. (North Carolina Republicans didn’t need to do this, because it’s one of the rare states where the governor already has no significant role in redistricting). That would leave the 2021 redistricting round entirely in the hands of the legislature in these states, which, again, is likely to remain in the hands of the GOP for the foreseeable future.
In other words, it would ensure that Republicans once again have free rein to subvert the popular will and draw district boundaries for both congressional and state legislative races in a way that’s most favorable to their party. And remember, next time around they’ll be using software that’s even more sophisticated.
Can we say for sure this will happen? No. But it’s likely enough that those who care about ensuring a system that reflects the will of voters should probably start getting ready for it.