Washington, D.C. — To account for changes in population, the principle of “one person, one vote” requires states to redraw their election districts every 10 years. In some states, legislators can manipulate district boundaries to benefit their own political party, engaging in extreme partisan gerrymandering. Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a case in which a group of voters—represented by the Campaign Legal Center—are challenging maps drawn in Wisconsin. The case will determine whether these maps were drawn unconstitutionally to benefit one political party over another.
While Wisconsin is currently at the center of this fight, it is just one of several states where partisan gerrymandering is particularly acute. Extreme partisan gerrymandering weakens voters’ ability to affect election outcomes and exercise accountability over government, negatively affecting the responsiveness of legislators and crippling fair representation. Ahead of tomorrow’s hearing, Center for American Progress experts Liz Kennedy and Billy Corriher have prepared state-specific fact sheets on states with some of the most extreme examples of partisan gerrymandering and its consequences: Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Virginia.
“Gerrymandering leads to less competitive elections, and this means legislators don’t have to worry about what voters think. Democracy is about voters being able to influence their elected officials, but gerrymandering makes it harder for voters to make their voice heard,” said Billy Corriher, deputy director of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the fact sheets.
In 2016, slightly more than half of voters in North Carolina chose Republican candidates for their House of Representatives, but the GOP secured a supermajority of seats. Federal courts have already ruled that the state’s redistricting maps discriminated against African American voters. In response, when legislators drafted new districts, they said that the new maps were drawn based entirely on partisan—not racial—criteria. In other words, the Republican majority sought to maximize its party’s advantage by discriminating against voters who they believed would vote for Democratic candidates. An analysis by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center found that Republicans only needed a statewide vote of 45.7 percent to maintain their majority in the state House.
Because so many legislators in North Carolina are insulated from accountability to voters, they are able to govern in ways that frequently disregard the will of voters. A shocking 2 percent of voters supported a 2013 bill to raise the limit on interest charged for consumer finance loans to 30 percent, but that did not stop the Legislature from passing this boon to lenders. Dealing another blow to economic equity, although more than 60 percent of North Carolina voters supported an extension of the state’s earned income tax credit and an increase on taxes on the wealthy, the Legislature repealed the earned income tax credit and cut taxes for millionaires. The Legislature has been rolling back advances for workers and the LGBTQ community—against the wishes of the people of North Carolina. In 2016, in response to a Charlotte law that extended civil rights protections to LGBT people, the state Legislature passed a bill that ended local government authority over civil rights. However, a 2015 poll found that 64 percent of North Carolinians supported LGBT nondiscrimination laws. The same bill prohibited local increases in the minimum wage, even though a 2016 poll showed that 76 percent of voters supported raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour.
“The bottom line is that extreme partisan gerrymandering discriminates against targeted voters by locking them out of achieving representational power. This prevents progress on solutions that majorities of voters support, such as a higher minimum wage and expanded Medicaid programs,” said Liz Kennedy, director of Democracy and Government Reform at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the fact sheets. “In Gill v. Whitford, the Supreme Court has to stand up for the right to fair representation in our democracy and set limits on partisan gerrymandering to prevent these continuing abuses.”
For more information or to speak to an expert on this topic, please contact Tanya Arditi at email@example.com or 202.741.6258.