August 15, 2022

Ari Berman: With Extreme Gerrymandering, the Republicans Are Rigging the Next Decade of Elections

5 min read

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring in Ari Berman who writes for Mother Jones, is well-known for his book Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. Can you connect the redistricting and what is happening now, a level we have not seen before, with the filibuster and these two bills?
ARI BERMAN: We are seeing the greatest rollback of voting rights since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 and the greatest attempt to reduce the influence and power of voters of color since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, the most extreme gerrymandering efforts since the Voting Rights Act was enacted. If you look at state after state after state, the same states that are pushing voter suppression are also pushing extreme gerrymandered maps to lock in white Republican power for the next decade at the state and federal level, whether it is Texas or Georgia or North Carolina. What Republicans did is they tried to overturn the election, then they tried to rig elections through voter suppression, and now they are rigging elections through gerrymandering. So it’s a step-by-step-by-step process to undermine our democracy.
The federal legislation that has been proposed by Democrats and filibustered by Republicans would stop these efforts, would make it easier to vote and would also ban partisan gerrymandering, the extreme gerrymandering we are seeing in places like Texas and North Carolina, in Georgia, where these are 50/50 states but Republicans are proposing to have 60%, 70%, and in some cases 80% of seats for the state legislature for the U.S. House through these gerrymandered maps. Democrats are really running out of time to pass this federal legislation. We are already seeing state after state enact gerrymandered maps. We’ve already seen them pass voter suppression laws. There hasn’t been a Democratic response yet. Republicans have filibustered four different voting rights bills this year, four different filibusters of three different voting rights bills. There really needs to be a sense of urgency to overcome the filibuster to save our democracy or Republicans are going to rig the next decade of elections.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ari, you write that North Carolina’s three largest heavily Democratic counties—Wake, Mecklenburg, and Guilford—will each be split into three different congressional districts to dilute the power of communities of color and enhance the power of white rural areas. Can you talk about this in connection to the—because in previous redistrictings, this would have had to have gone through Justice Department pre-clearance as a result of the Voting Rights Act. The impact of the Supreme Court decision on voting rights that now makes it possible for this kind of gerrymandering, racial gerrymandering in effect, to proceed?
ARI BERMAN: Juan, there has been two disastrous decisions by the Supreme Court for voting rights and redistricting. One was in 2013 when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act and ruled that states with a long history of discrimination no longer have to approve their voting changes with the federal government. Another was in 2019 where they said that the federal courts can’t even review partisan gerrymandering cases. This opened the floodgates to more and more extreme gerrymandering so that states with a long history like North Carolina, they had their maps struck down in 2011 for racial gerrymandering and for partisan gerrymandering.
Now they’re doing the very thing that the federal courts and the state courts told him not to do, which is drawing districts in a 50/50 state that will give Republicans upwards of 70% of seats for the state legislature and for the U.S. House, and doing it by diluting the votes and the voices of communities of color by packing them into as few urban areas as possible and then splitting up heavily Democratic areas like Charlotte, like the Research Triangle into as many white rural districts as possible to preserve white Republican power. We have seen that not just in North Carolina, but in Texas and in Georgia and other places where all of the demographic changes are from communities of color. That should benefit Democrats because communities of color are more likely to support Democrats than Republicans, but Republicans are drawing the districts in such a way that maintain Republican power in the face of these big and massive demographic changes.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Georgia. On Monday, the legislature passed a gerrymandered State Senate map giving Republicans 59% of seats in Georgia for the next decade. The map reshapes a district held by Democratic State Senator Michelle Au and makes it lean heavily Republican. This is Georgia State Rep Bee Nguyen responding on the House floor.

REP. BEE NGUYEN: My colleague on the Senate side who currently represents Senate District 48 is the only Asian woman in the Senate, one out of 56 members. It means when six Asian women are brutally murdered in our state, we know there will be at least one woman on the Senate side who can speak about cultural barriers, who can speak about language barriers and who can speak about the fears that plague the Asian American community. just like the senator did from Senate District 48 earlier this year. And here we are, a state—we have added one million Georgians, Asian Americans being the fastest-growing population in our state, and the majority party drew a map that targets the only Asian woman in the Senate, and they did so by diluting the voices of black and brown voters.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Georgia state legislator Bee Nguyen. Ari Berman?
ARI BERMAN: That is really indicative of what Republicans are doing everywhere, which is they are dismantling diverse districts in which African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans are joining together to elect their candidates of choice. All of the demographic changes in Georgia and the South are from those groups, are from communities of color, but instead of having more representation for communities of color because of that population growth, there is actually going to be less representation for communities of color. This is really an effort to dismantle the diversifying new American majority and to maintain white Republican power in the face of these demographic changes.
It is also an attempt to try to take away competitive seats, because Georgia was the most competitive state in the country for the president and for the U.S. Senate. But if you look at the state legislative maps that were passed by Republicans in Georgia, there’s almost no competitive districts for the state legislature or for the U.S. House. That’s the same thing they did in North Carolina. That’s the same thing they did in Texas. I really want people to understand they are rigging the next decade of elections. Election results are basically going to be predetermined for many races at the state and federal level in places like Georgia, Texas, North Carolina because of the maps that are being passed right now. That is how serious of a crisis for democracy this is.
I went to thank you, Ari Berman, Mother Jones journalist, for being with us. We will link to your piece, Republicans Are Erasing Decades of Voting Rights Gains Before Our Eyes and author of Give Us the Ballot.