When It Comes To Drawing District Lines, Experts Say Transparent Process Is Crucial

Nov 1, 2018

Two experts on redistricting said that democracy isn’t working because of gerrymandering - and that voters already know how to fix it.

“There really is a sense among a lot of people that the system is broken in some really fundamental ways, and redistricting is a big part of that,” said Michael Li, senior counsel at Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program.

Li joined host Mike Collins and author Dave Daley on Charlotte Talks Thursday morning ahead of the midterm election.

Daley, who wrote “Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count,” says gerrymandering and the consequences that stem from it – including extremism and voting challenges – could be viewed as a “key accelerant” in some of today’s political impulses.

“In many ways, what the Republicans managed to pull off in 2010 was the ultimate dirty deed at dirt cheap,” he said.

Daley points to the RSLC Redistricting Majority Project, known more commonly as REDMAP. The $30 million project gave the Republican Party total control over the following year’s redistricting.

By pumping money into “dirty campaigns” in their final weeks, Daley contends, a number of swing states’ legislatures would be flipped — in places where gerrymandering has been historically extreme. Those victories would go on to give the party a chance to draw district lines in their favor and gain a “huge advantage” for the decade.

“It’s not at all a coincidence,” Daley said. 

Credit North Carolina General Assembly

In states like North Carolina, there are more registered Democrats than Republicans. Li calls it a “battleground state” that should have more robust competition with varying opinions. Yet Republicans hold 10 of the 13 congressional seats.

Redistricting reform is on the ballot in four states this year: Michigan, Missouri, Colorado and Utah. A reform bill passed in Ohio earlier this year, and the rest are expected to pass with strong bipartisan support.

Li explained that while it used to be a challenge to get people motivated about the issue, this year people are actively fighting it.

“All they have to do is say, ‘we’re going to take power out of the hands of the political class and we’re going to give it to regular, ordinary people.’ Everybody signs it and everybody understands that this is a problem.”

Li says the American people are “exhibiting a lot of confidence” in finding solutions.

In order to fix the system and regain the trust of voters, Daley says, having everybody at the table and making redrawing a completely transparent process is crucial.

“[When] Everybody gets a say and folks at the end have to show their work and justify what they’ve done, we will have better democracy.”