“Dismantling Democracy” to Save it: How Democrats Rediscovered the Joys of Rigging Elections

Below is my column in the Hill on the frenzy of gerrymandering in various states and the selective condemnation of President Joe Biden of such practices in North Carolina.

While denouncing Republicans for gerrymandering as attack on democracy, Democratic figures like lawyer Marc Elias are under attack for raising millions to support Democratic gerrymandering. Elias previously declaredRepublicans gerrymander like this because they do not want free and fair elections.” (Elias was previously accused of lying to conceal the Clinton campaign’s funding of the Steele dossier, has sought to reverse election results, and has been sanctioned by the courts). Notably, the raw gerrymandering in New York not only seeks to rig the coming elections but openly flouts the will of the voters who repeatedly demanded that the practice stop in their state. 

Here is the column:

“Voters should choose their representatives — not the other way around.” With those words late Friday nightPresident Biden celebrated a decision by North Carolina’s supreme court rejecting new state legislative districts that favored Republicans. The ruling was used to support Biden’s past portrayals of Republicans as the enemies of democracy, including their use of gerrymandering.

Biden is not alone. Former President Obama condemned Republican gerrymandering efforts as threatening democracy. The liberal Brennan Center has declared that “gerrymandering is deeply undemocratic.” Liberal commentators insist the choice is simple: “It’s restricting gerrymandering or being complicit in the dismantling of democracy.”

Biden was careful to keep his focus on North Carolina in stating that “for too long, partisan gerrymandering has allowed politicians to rig the political process and draw districts in their favor.” Indeed, it required an impressive act of myopia to avoid noting that Democrats have engaged in raw gerrymandering in various states, too. But the North Carolina decision could seriously undermine Democratic plans in other states to rig elections and gain seats in Congress.

For example, in New York Democrats want to add four new seats through gerrymandering, to try to retain control of the U.S. House. One district is designed to guarantee the reelection of Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has held hearings on the evil of  — you guessed it  — gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is to politics what doping is to sports. It is universally viewed as a cheat, an effort to manipulate districts to guarantee electoral victories. Drafting coherent districts evenly and logically to divide populations is not particularly difficult. School districts usually are designed to evenly distribute populations with schools as center points; those school districts often serve as voting locations. Once you depart from such logical divisions, however, political pressures produce a grotesque progeny of malformed districts.

The Nadler district would make Elbridge Gerry blush. In 1812, Gerry — a Founding Father, vice president and governor of Massachusetts — signed off on a district designed to guarantee a seat for the precursor of today’s Democratic Party. The district resembled a salamander, so the Boston Gazette deemed it the “Gerry-mander.”

Notably, the original gerrymandered district looks a lot like what is now being dubbed the “Jerrymander.”

To cite Biden, Rep. Nadler did not simply “choose his voters.” His contorted district virtually selects them individually, weaving through neighborhoods in search of support.

Nadler’s district is not the only monstrous creature dwelling on the map. Republicans currently hold eight of New York’s 27 seats in Congress. Despite being a state in which roughly 38 percent of voters went for Trump in 2020, Republicans would have an advantage only in four districts under the redrawn map, allowing Democrats to pick up the other four. For example, Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis previously beat an incumbent, Democrat Max Rose, in the 11th District. To guarantee that Rose will now win, Democrats stretched the district to include the liberal area of Park Slope in Brooklyn.

This was not supposed to happen.

In 2014, New Yorkers took the extraordinary step of amending Sections 4 and 5 of Article III of their state’s constitution. They created the New York Independent Redistricting Commission to prohibit drawing maps “for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties.” (N.Y. Const. art. III, § 4(c)(5)).

However, the fix was in. After proclaiming a new day of fair and honest elections, the commission was set at ten members divided evenly. Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, admitted that the commission was designed to fail: “Of course it was. When you have an equal amount of people from either side, you are inevitably going to get a deadlock or a tie. And that’s exactly what happened here.” In other words, all the democracy stuff was a lie. When the commission inevitably deadlocked, the Democratic-controlled legislature went on a gerrymandering frenzy.

Nevertheless, President Biden and Democrats like Nadler are seeking to take control over state election laws in the name of democracy. It does not matter if they are using the same anti-democratic measures as they accuse Republicans of wielding, because their motivations are purportedly pure even if their means manifestly are not.

There will be challenges this year to gerrymandered districts by both parties. While the Supreme Court said in 2019 that political gerrymandering is constitutional in Rucho v. Common Cause, such changes can be struck down when they result in the dilution or suppression of minority voters. The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on one such race-based challenge to new districts in Alabama. A similar challenge in Illinois failed despite districts that rival Nadler’s in fantastical, illogical shapes to gain Democratic seats.

The North Carolina opinion could complicate things for Democrats, however, if it is applied to other states with anti-gerrymandering laws. The law was notably a gerrymandering case based on partisan rather than racial impacts. The North Carolina court acknowledged the holding in Rucho but voted 4-3 that it could strike down “excessive partisan gerrymandering” on state constitutional grounds. It found that Republican lawmakers drew maps that deprived voters of their “substantially equal voting power on the basis of partisan affiliation.”

The New York districts also are the subject of a lawsuit under the state constitution.

The intent of the voters could not be more clear: While the commission was rigged to fail, voters clearly did not know that and reaffirmed their intent in 2021 when Democratic legislators tried to pass a proposed constitutional amendment to regain redistricting authority if the commission failed to produce redistricting plans. The voters rejected that effort. Thus, these Democratic groups are not only seeking to rig coming elections, but are thwarting the will of voters as expressed in two ballots.

Nevertheless, Gov. Kathy Hochul pledged to “use [her] influence to help Democrats expand the House majority through the redistricting process.” The Democrats and Hochul did precisely that in going ahead and gerrymandering the districts while continuing to condemn Republicans for trying to destroy democracy.

Both parties have engaged in gerrymandering this year — but the blinkered outrage of President Biden to Republican gerrymandering only highlights the hypocrisy of our times. We are left, yet again, with a gang of arsonists espousing fire safety in our political system. Despite voters calling for an end to gerrymandering, their leaders continue to lie to them and frustrate efforts to end this insidious practice.

While the National Democratic Redistricting Committee called for a “Fair Districts Pledge” to “commit to restoring fairness to our democracy,” these politicians have instead followed Oscar Wilde’s rule that “the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

 

 

85 thoughts on ““Dismantling Democracy” to Save it: How Democrats Rediscovered the Joys of Rigging Elections”

  1. They are not Democratic they are socialist . We are not a democracy we are a Constitutional Republic whose founders were wise enough to retain the ability of all citizens to control all of government. The rest is talking about that which does not exist Constitutionally EXCEPT AS SOCIALIST Fascists aka Fascists and Comunists..

  2. Please allow me to call your attention to a trend of the ruling elite, who enact rules and hardships on others that they do not follow. Rules do not apply to the ruling class.

    CA Governor Newsom caught many times maskless.
    Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot caught multiple times maskless, including at a jazz club.
    Rashida Tlaib caught maskless many times, including at a wedding.
    Obama caught maskless many times – birthday party. Caught at a construction site maskless while everyone else was masked.
    AOC caught maskless – many times. Met Gala while the servers, dress fitters, and other staff were masked. In FL.
    Stacey Abrams photographed maskless posing in a classroom with masked children.
    Pelosi maskless many times, including the infamous hair salon video
    Biden maskless many times, while those around him masked
    Fauci caught maskless many times
    LA mayor Eric Garcetti caught maskless many times, including the infamous photo with Magic Johnson

    There are many examples of this.

    Do you see the trend? The same people who impose mandates and shutdowns do not follow those rules. Rules are for peons, blue collar workers, and the rest of us peasants. If they thought Covid was as dangerous as Ebola, and a cloth mask was going to miraculously save their lives, then you wouldn’t be able to pry that mask from them with a crowbar. Their actions show how they really feel about the threat of the pandemic today, and the usefulness of masks.

    Nothing so poignantly illustrated the elitist attitude towards rules like AOC, without a mask, wearing couture, a slash of red lipstick, and dripping in jewelry, surrounded by masked low paid wait staff and seamstresses.

    This is how it works in Communist countries. The government ruling class, and high ranking members of the Communist Party don’t wait in bread lines. They don’t go hungry. They aren’t forced to work boring factory jobs or live in depressing concrete government housing. They don’t wear ill-fitting, boring clothes. They live the high life, paid for by money they stole from the slaves of socialism and communism. How many years will it take before the American Left morphs into the same? Already, we see there is a double standard. A ruling elite.

    1. Well said!

      These are the same who jet around the world, travel in large SUVs, surrounded by security and eat steak dinners while preaching climate change and defunding police. These are the uber elite who preach the virtues of the CCP, enrich themselves and their families selling out their countrymen. The same who grasp onto power far longer than expedient for fear of losing their identity and facing their mortality.

      When they speak, it sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher. They are legends in their own mind.

      “As for man, his days are like grass: As a flower of the field so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it and it is gone and the place thereof shall know it no more.

      1. Seems comparable to me

        Communist states are typically authoritarian and are typically administered through democratic centralism by a single centralised communist party apparatus.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_state

        The centralized CDC making mandates for an entire nation seem centralized to me. And of course the good communists know to follow along or suffer the consequences of the ruling elite.

    2. Yes, and let’s add to Karen’s list:

      Democrats in power today want more tyranny, more censorship, more propaganda state media, more war –this time with Russia…trust in the benevolence of pharmaceutical companies, more freedoms taken away under the pretext of emergency, more power to intelligence agencies, CIA, FBI, more crackdown by IRS and a politicized DOJ targeting citizens as political opposition and labeled, “domestic terrorists’….on and on……

      We are at an inflection point as a country.

  3. Off topic. Claire McCaskill former Senator from MO. Now on MSNBC news as a guest.
    Biden needs to consider her for an office in DC.

    Maybe Vice President next time.

  4. Republicans tried to get legislation through under Bush to ban gerrymandering, but were defeated by Democrats.

    This frenzy of Democrat gerrymandering will incentivize Republicans to do it, too. After all, both sides need to play by the same rules.

    Voters – demand a legislative end to gerrymandering.

    Democrats are trying to seize as much power as possible, from wanting to expand the Supreme Court in order to pack it, trying to pass unconstitutional federal voting laws that would ban voter ID, The Democrat Party opposes many constitutional rights – free speech, freedom of religion, the Electoral College, states running elections, the right to bear arms. They openly discriminate based on race, gender, and religion. They often oppose the freedom of capitalism and espouse the slavery of socialism. They want an all powerful government at the expense of individual rights. For example, they took a good thing, a vaccine, and weaponized it instead of simply offering it.

    So many Democrats I knew who used to be moderate are now hard core Left.

    Stop the Fascism of the Democrat Party.

    Republicans and Libertarians – we need you to become more effective fighters. You need to communicate your beliefs to those who don’t watch your media. Now’s the time. People are fed up with the rampant crime, including murder. The out of control shoplifting in blue cities. The discrimination against whites, Asians, and boys. The idea that the Left is entitled to indoctrinate your children in schools when they fail at teaching reading, writing, and math. Americans are tired of being told to judge everyone based on race, and we’re tired of being told our country is hopelessly racist and irredeemable. We do not have to throw our blessings and prosperity away and starve like Venezuela because although we evolved faster than most of the world, we apparently did not evolve fast enough. It’s time for school children to learn in school that Western Civilization ended slavery, while it’s still commonly practiced in the African continent and Asia. It’s time for them to learn that many cultures enslaved; it wasn’t just Southern white men enslaving blacks. The Barbary Slave trade. The castration centers of Prague for Slavic slaves as part of the Muslim slave trade.

    1. Karen, the Republicans were right to push anti-gerrymandering legislation while GHW Bush was President. The Democrats were wrong to oppose it.

      The question is: why are Republicans now opposed to what they supported 30 years ago?

      “Voters – demand a legislative end to gerrymandering. ”

      The House has already passed legislation against gerrymandering. The Republicans in the Senate have filibustered it. Why?

      1. Republicans are not opposed to ending gerrymandering. However, since the SCOTUS deemed it Constitutional, and Democrats have been gerrymandering like their lives depend upon it, they would be fools not to do it, too.

        It’s funny how Democrats defeated the Republican efforts to end it, yet they’re trying to be the only ones allowed to gerrymander.

        What boggles my mind is that Democrat rhetoric calling the few Republican examples of gerrymandering a threat against democracy actually works. And it does. A significant number of voters do no research whatsoever. They do not know about Republican efforts to end the practice, or how aggressively Democrats have gerrymandered. They just dutifully nod their heads – Republicans are racist Fascist threats against democracy, and then they go vote in their weirdly contorted Democrat gerrymandered district. The worst offenders of gerrymandering shouldn’t be able to complain about anyone else doing it, yet they very effectively do so.

        This indicates a need for voters to get more savvy. There’s too much at stake for people to just keep putting blind faith in party affiliation. We’ve had massive year long riots, cities burned, “autonomous” anarchy zones multiple blocks wide, cops assaulted and murdered, businesses closing due to the onslaught of shoplifting mania and looting. Ignorant voting behavior has cost this country much. If the trend continues, how long will it be before there will be refugees from the US seeking shelter elsewhere?

        I see fools eagerly throwing their rights, freedoms, and prosperity away, succumbing to slick campaigns by people slavering for power.

        1. Karen,

          First, you didn’t answer my question: WHY have Republicans in the Senate filibustered the anti-gerrymandering legislation passed by the House.

          Second, your claim that “they’re trying to be the only ones allowed to gerrymander” is obviously false. The legislation that Democrats have passed in the House would apply to all states. Why would you make such a dishonest claim?

      2. Anon, are you referring to the so called ‘For the People Act’? It is typically dishonest of you to claim that the sole reason that Republicans opposed this bill was the provision on redistricting.

    2. You left out Kavanaugh-ing non-dems (not just Republicans, but anyone out of lockstep from any party, including their own) in an attempt to have them stricken from ballots altogether prior to the election.

  5. Obama needs more money from Americans to build yet another mansion but in Hawaii.

    “Scowling Barack Obama inspects the construction of his new multimillion-dollar Hawaii mansion and controversial sea wall which his neighbors fear will erode the beachline”

    Construction appears to be well underway on Barack Obama’s Hawaii beachfront compound
    Obama was pictured speaking to builders and architects from a local island-based building firm
    The former President did not look happy in photos snapped of him as he spoke with the construction crew
    Obama could be seen with his arms folder and making pointed gestures before turning around to walk inside
    His close friend and confidant Marty Nesbitt purchased property for $8.7 million in 2015
    Previously, the site was home to the famous mansion from Magnum PI TV series which was torn down
    In 2020 it was revealed how the buyer of the three-acre plot of land used a planning loophole to preserve a century-old sea wall on the beachfront, much to the annoyance of neighbors and environmentalists
    Experts say such sea walls contribute to beach erosion and can damage the coastal environment

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10481075/Scowling-Obama-inspects-new-multi-million-dollar-Hawaii-mansion-controversial-sea-wall.html

    1. The smartest man on the planet, and one that lectured all of us on the impending doom of ACGCC, has bought two Ocean front properties. That rising sea level thing? forgetabotit!

  6. If we don’t want our districts gerrymandered, then we shouldn’t provide the data they will use to do it. That would mean no party affiliation on voter registration and no demographic data on the census that they may use to gerrymander. The only data needed to determine district size then would be population…period. Then create a districting grid that provides coverage by population only. Candidates would then need to actually spend time in their districts to get to know who they are campaigning to represent. Otherwise, we’re just providing the rope they need to hang us.

    1. In principle I can’t say I disagree with this sentiment, Olly. But the truth is data collection has become much more refined as it ages.

      1. As in, would the government ask the fellas over at GoogleTwitterFacebooketc to share your searches and shares? Corporatism. Bleh.

    2. Geni is out of the bottle.

      Google
      Facebook
      Amazon

      Are just three that have the the data down to zip code, and good algorithms to block by block. Age, race gender, sex, sexual preference, kinks, hat size, church, attendence. politics, voting history.

      I think the only way to do it is geography.
      Maybe give it to a college stat class in a different state every year. California gets Univ. Missouri, Louisiana goes to Bradely, Tennessee gets Colorado technical and mining. You get the point.
      There are way more colleges than states so give one state to 5 colleges. The colleges would get paid…they could bid on the work.

      1. If the general election is open and held on the same date, why doesn’t every state have open primaries, all held on the same date? Who does it advantage?

    3. Olly, do you really think that the Democrats would go along with a plan where no party affiliation would be asked for when registering to vote. When pigs fly to outer space.

      1. I do not believe any politician, regardless of party, would go along with any plan that forces them to work any harder for a vote than they do right now.

      2. The expectation could be that population can be the only criterion used to make the redistricting decisions. And, it’d be tempting to say the shape of the district must be a rectangle or at least have fewer than 8 angles.

        1. What shape are cities, towns, and counties, and states?

          Hard to draw rectangles and include areas that have common interests such as schools, roadways housing etc.

          The North Carolina General Assembly this time around did not use Race as part of its drafting the new districts.

          The Democrats demanded the Democrat Party be a “protected party” stating that most Blacks vote Democrat…..except for those that vote Republican of course.

          There should be no protected party unless all parties are protected….which somehow seems an impossible dream.

          If you look at the NC General Assembly’s Maps that. the NC Supreme Court just rejected on a party line vote….you will see the GA tried to use your concept and it was rejected by the Democrats.

          The 2022 Map done by the Republican controlled GA:

          https://duckduckgo.com/?q=North+Carolina+2022+District+Map&t=osx&iar=images&iax=images&ia=images&iai=https%3A%2F%2Fcookpolitical.com%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Fimages%2F2016-2018.png

          The previous map done by the Democrat Controlled GA:

          https://duckduckgo.com/?q=North+Carolina+2013+District+Map&t=osx&iax=images&ia=images&iai=http%3A%2F%2Fimages.dailykos.com%2Fimages%2F187770%2Foriginal%2FNC_GOP_10-3_Alternate_VRA_State_View.png%3F1453954885

          Notice the New York style of the Democrat Map that was crafted to ensure Mel Watts stayed in Office….it is the one that runs along an Interstate Highway north out of Charlotte.

          So…who do we trust to tell us about “best efforts” in drawing District Maps?

        2. It is the Constitutional protected right of all states to operate their own elections as a republic. It is no busines of Ocasio and Soros to use money to dictate to other geo political areas except their own.

  7. Let me see if I have this straight. Rigging elections by gerrymandering is TRUTH. Rigging elections by rigging the machines is CONSPIRACY THEORY. Okay, got it.

  8. Yes Democrats declareing gerrymandering anti democracy was the definition of hypocritical. In the early seventies we studied gerrymandering….it was a good thing….when it was used to create Black seats. When asked about the safe gaurds to protect form abuse, the teacher just shrugged and moved on. Little things like that experience started to form the basis for my knowledge that public schools are nothing but indoctrination camps.

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