In two previous posts, Bill Moyers, journalist David Daley, and others featured in the new documentary, Slay the Dragon, explained how gerrymandering has traditionally worked and what changed in 2010. Republican legislators used redistricting to essentially guarantee victory in both the state house and the US House of Representatives in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Michigan.
But they didn’t stop there.
In this clip, journalists Vann Newkirk, Ari Berman and others explain how, in 2013, the North Carolina legislature quickly and systematically began rolling back almost every provision that had been passed in the previous 20 years aimed at registering more voters in the state, and particularly African American voters. And it’s not just North Carolina. Across the country, 25 states have passed restrictive voting laws since 2010.
Bill Moyers talked with journalist Dave Daley earlier this year about gerrymandering and the 2020 election.
BILL MOYERS: You describe the United States as a country covered with, quote, “democracy deserts.” What’s a democracy desert?
DAVID DALEY: We talked about supermarket deserts sometimes, you know, places in which it’s really hard to find fresh food. What we are seeing across this nation is an outbreak of democracy deserts as well. Places where it is very, very difficult to ensure that you will have free and fair access to the ballot box or that a majority of citizens are able to translate their votes into a majority of seats.
What you see as you look around the country are blue states, largely coastal states, that are making it easier for people to vote. You see things like automatic voting registration taking hold or expanding days of early voting, [and] making it possible to register online. All of these things that make it simpler and easier for people to vote. None of which, by the way, are partisan. All of these reforms are deeply nonpartisan and the academic studies make it clear that they do not help voters of either party.
What we are seeing is an outbreak of democracy deserts. Places where it is difficult to ensure that you will have free and fair access to the ballot box .
And then you see all of these red states which are going the exact opposite direction. You see voter ID bills. You see toxic, extreme partisan gerrymandering. You see racial gerrymandering. You see purges of voter rolls, 16 to 18 million Americans knocked off of voting rolls in the last two years alone. You see precincts being closed, especially in minority neighborhoods. You see days of early voting being taken away and often those days of early voting are exactly the days that state legislatures know that minority voters are most likely to go to the polls.
You see all of these new voter ID requirements and that they have specifically chosen the forms of voter ID that they believe young and minority voters are least likely to have. I was able to obtain the files, tens of thousands of documents of Thomas Hofeller, the master Republican gerrymandering operative of the last 40 or 50 years after he died. And as I went through his files, and looked at his draft maps that he drew in North Carolina, he had on his computer the addresses of every single college-age voter in North Carolina along with whether or not they had a driver’s license. Because he knew that if they didn’t have a driver’s license they wouldn’t be able to vote. And he drew his districts knowing this. He drew these districts completely aware of who would and would not be able to vote.
1. Learn More
2. Take Action
There are many organizations working on voting rights issues and you can join them in their efforts to make democracy work for all of us.