Richardt Stormsgaard: Shameful gerrymandering and outright voter suppression
Darrell Berkheimer’s Sept. 30 column on gerrymandering being one of the causes of our broken political system was generally insightful.
It is reassuring to hear from moderate Republicans who believe in democracy, and that the principle of one person one vote should be the ideal of our system during a time when many conservative jurists argue that individual states should have the right to decide how, where, and who can vote, and in effect make voting very difficult, sometimes even impossible, for voters of certain groups.
Mr. Berkheimer concludes that “because of gerrymandering, eight or nine out of 10 politicians are reelected.” In my view the more accurate way of looking at it is the politician with the most money that wins.
In 2012, 95 percent of winners to the House of Representatives, and 80 percent of senators had the most campaign money. Since the Citizens United decision in 2010 by the Supreme Court, floods of dark corporate money have flowed to conservative candidates. In the 2016 election almost a billion dollars were invested to further the conservative causes, attacking our social safety net, infrastructure investments, clean air and water protections, and more by the Koch/ALEC networks in 2016 alone.
He mentioned Maryland as an example of “shameful Democratic gerrymandering.” The 2012 and the 2016 elections were won by Obama and Hillary Clinton by more than 60 percent, and Democrats won seven of eight House seats. The “shameful Democratic gerrymandering” Berkheimer refers to in our inherently flawed winner-take-all system is not immediately obvious.
Let us contrast this with Virginia, where Obama won with 150,000 more votes than Romney, yet Democrats only won three of 11 Congressional districts. Hillary Clinton won the state by 175,000 votes, and again Democrats only picked up three of 11 seats in the House of Representatives. In North Carolina, notorious for shutting down 189 polling stations in the 2016 election in Democratic areas, both Romney and Trump won by narrow margins, but won eight of 11 Congressional districts. In 2012, Obama won in Michigan by 450,000 votes, but Democrats only won five of 14 seats in the House of Representatives. Obama carried Pennsylvania by 300,000 votes, but Democrats won only five of 13 seats. In Florida, Obama won by almost 100,000 votes, but Democrats won only 10 of 27 seats. In Ohio, Obama won by 150,000 votes, but Democrats won only four of 16 seats. And Obama carried Wisconsin by over 200,000 votes, but Democrats took only three of eight Congressional seats.
These are results that clearly indicate “shameful gerrymandering,” and easily account for the current Republican majority in the House of representatives.
The conservative Supreme Court in 2013 invalidated major sections of previous Voting Rights Acts, enabling Republican states to institute voter suppression initiatives in Democratic districts, leading to the election of Trump — even though he lost by almost 3 million votes nationwide — and millions more Democratic voters were prevented from voting by more than a half dozen Republican different methods of voter suppression in the 2016 election.
Despite the targeted suppression of voters in Democratic districts in Republican states, four exit polls predicting Hillary Clinton wins mysteriously ended up in the Trump column. At literally the last moments Trump overcame Hillary Clinton leads in Florida of 1.3 percent, in North Carolina of 2.3 percent, and in Pennsylvania and in Wisconsin of a whopping 3.9 percent.
Exit polls are generally so accurate that they are universally accepted as the best indicator of fair elections, including by the U.S. State Department and the United Nations. When elections in Peru, the Ukraine, and Serbia in recent times showed discrepancies between exit polls and the final vote counts the US and other nations cried foul, and claimed massive voter fraud.
In 2000, exit polls showed Al Gore winning Florida, and in 2004 exit polls showed John Kerry winning Ohio. Had the exit polls prevailed in those two states there would have been no disastrous Bush Administration, and likely neither an Iraq War nor a 2008 financial meltdown of such severe proportions.
Historically, the U.S. has been an inspiration for countries around the world in advancing the principles of democracy, but has now become a country that produces suspect election results. This might explain why many conservative Republicans claim the U.S. was never intended to be a democracy in the first place.
Richardt Stormsgaard lives in Nevada City.
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