Georgia’s new voting law allows Republican state officials to take over local election operations, basically firing local officials and appointing their own people to control elections. They passed this law and are threatening to carry it out based on the Big Lie that Democratic elections officials stole the election on behalf of Biden. “All legal and procedural options are on the table if they don’t do their job,” said state Rep. Chuck Martin, a Fulton county Republican of local elections officials. “That’s not a threat. That’s just good policy.” By “do their job,” he means not counting all the Democratic votes, presumably.
Which brings us to gerrymandering, the partisan carving up of congressional districts that would be stopped by the For the People Act. Georgia, along with North Carolina and Florida, could help Republicans gain as many as five House seats. David Shor, head of data science at OpenLabs R&D, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to advancing progressive causes, estimates “the negative impact of gerrymandering is ~20X larger than the theoretical upper bound of a massively well funded field program.”
Michale Li, redistricting and voting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice, reiterates that with actual data. “In 2012 in PA, Democrats got 51% of the congressional vote but won just 5 of 18 seats. The map was so gerrymandered that even if Ds won 56% of the vote, they would have won only 6 of 18 seats.” House Democrats, in fact, got 4.7 million more votes than Republicans in 2020, and lost 12 seats.
Professor Sam Wang, director of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, sees more of that: As many as eight seats could flip in 2022 in the House as a result of redistricting. “I would say that the national vote could be the same as this year two years from now, and redistricting by itself would easily be enough to alter who controls the chamber.” Even if the record turnout of 2020 was repeated—which is a thing that never happens in midterm elections—the House would still go to Republicans, he is predicting. That is, again, without a federal law curtailing gerrymandering.
Realization might be dawning on at least some filibuster-loving Democrats that this status quo is not sustainable for democracy. Virginia Democrat Mark Warner told Fox News this weekend: “If we have to do a small carve out on filibuster for voting rights—that is the only area where I’d allow that kind of reform.” This isn’t actually a new position for Warner. He told The Washington Post back in March: “When it comes to fundamental issues like protecting Americans from draconian efforts attacking their constitutional right to vote, it would be a mistake to take any option off the table.”
Warner is a key moderate working with the staunch anti-reformer Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin on the bipartisan infrastructure team. That’s what makes his statement—on Fox News on Sunday—noteworthy. It might not be his intention, but the result is that he’s isolating those two staunch filibuster fans just that much more within the caucus.
That’s good, but it might not be enough. Now would be a really good time for the presidential bully pulpit to be used, with the redistricting process now heating up in the states.