Monday, January 28, 2013

They're doing it -- we can't let them

For those of you who are not paying attention, the Pennsylvania Republican-controlled legislature and governor are pursuing a new, perfectly constitutional, but profoundly undemocratic way  to suppress the vote and steal all future presidential elections from majority voters in the state.
It’s very simple really:  In 2010 the Legislature gerrymandered  the state’s congressional districts to make sure there were more Republican-controlled/safe districts that Democratic districts.  Here’s what the current districts look like:

                                             2010 Pa. Congressional Districts

So now there are five districts – all geographically tiny, urban and densely populated --where the voters are predominately Democratic and 13 where they are predominately Republican.   The Democratic districts are the 1st, 2nd and 13th (Brady, Fattah and Schwartz) in and around Philadelphia, the 14th (Pittsburgh) and the 17th (Harrisburg).  
Why did they do that?  because if they had left the districts alone after the 2000 redistricting, several -- like the 7th in Delaware County -- would have been highly competitive for Democratic candidates.  Indeed, the old 7th was represented for two terms by a very liberal Democrat, Joe Sestak.  The Republicans couldn't have that, so they added the most Democratic areas of the 7th District to Bob Brady's 1st District and shoved the borders of the 7th out into counties where the voter rolls are rural, conservative and Republican.
Then they tried unsuccessfully to suppress the urban, suburban and minority vote by making it harder for people to vote -- which backfired on them spectacularly in the 12012 election. 
Now, however, having carefully drawn and shrunk the number of districts so that widely scattered Republicans -- so thin on the ground they are spread over 15 counties in District 5 and 13 counties in District 10, for example -- can command the largest number of congressional districts, regardless of actual human population (cows, trees and deer not counted),  the Republicans are moving on to step two.

Voter Suppression Step Two

Step two is to enact legislation to change the way Pennsylvania allocates its 20 electoral votes from winner take all -- which reflects the overall popular vote in the state -- to the majority vote within each  congressional district -- plus two electoral votes for the top vote getter.   
In this configuration, President Obama, who got all 20 electoral votes in 2012, would have received 7 electoral votes and Mitt Romney would have gotten 13 in the last election.   If the other large swing states that are contemplating this move-- Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida -- had also changed their laws to apply to the 2012 election, Obama would have still won the popular vote by 4 percent and yet lost the election to Romney in electoral votes by a wide margin. 
Thus, the votes of white voters  in rural areas would count for far more than the votes of urban, minority, largely Democratic voters.  In fact, several pundits have calculated that the vote of an urban black or Latino voter would be worth about 3/5ths of that a rural white voter.  Hmm.  Where have we seen that figure before?

The Destruction of Democracy

 Since the rise of the extreme rightwing over the past four years, we have been witnessing the death of the Republican Party.  Unfortunately, it appears ready to pull down the whole nation as it goes. After a couple of election cycles where the presidential candidate chosen by a majority of the popular vote is rejected by the electoral college under the Republicans' plan that several things may happen: 

  1. The disaffection of voters for the entire political process will become complete.   
  2. The  electoral college may be abolished and the country may switch to a straight popular vote like other modern democracies (which would be a good thing).  
  3. Voters will revile and reject the Republic Party utterly and it will go the way of the Federalists and Whigs.
  4. The people will have to resort to violence and perhaps the kind of armed insurrection the right-wing  gun huggers have been pining for. 
  5. The Republican Party could take over the government by fiat, much like the Nazis did in the 1930s with the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act.
Whether any or all of these things happen, it will be crystal clear to all Americans that the Republican Party is profoundly undemocratic, unpatriotic and hostile to the American people.
Lawrence Lewis at Daily Kos has the best explanation of this whole process I’ve seen so far.  Give it a read.

 They're Doing It

In the meantime, seven  Pennsylvania Assembly Republicans have introduced House bill 94 to enact the the electoral college vote allocation change, with the deceptively banal title “An Act Concerning Elections.”  It has been referred to the House Committee on State Government where it is to be hoped it dies a quiet death.
But those of us who believe in democracy and representative government cannot depend on our hopes alone.   Find your state legislators here.  Let them know how you feel about the hijacking of your presidential vote. 
Contact Gov. Tom Corbett’s Office.  Let him know that while his chnaces of winning re-election don’t look so hot right now, he will surely be committing political suicide if he signs this bill. 
Contact your local ACLU and League of Women Voters.  Ask your Democratic representatives what the hell they're doing to prevent this from happening.  Fight back now, before the damage is done.   

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