U.S. Supreme Court just didn’t pass the buck on the issue of
gerrymandering. It refused to carry out its duty to uphold basic
constitutional protections. The ruling makes the passage of
Missouri’s Amendment 1 last November even more significant.
of standing up for democracy, the High Court stood down, deciding
that legal claims for redress were “beyond the reach of the
federal courts.” The power should stay in the hands of state
legislature no matter how racist, partisan or undemocratic these
SCOTUS opinion was a crushing blow for states needing some relief
from the power-grabbing hands of Republican-dominated state
of us anticipated that the fight for voter rights was moving into a
new era when the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act
(Shelby County vs Holder) in 2013. It opened the gates for the GOP to
run buck wild with an aggressive voter suppression campaign that
included stepping up gerrymandering to consolidate power.
Democratic Party was slow to realize the impact and even slower to
put its own offensive efforts into play. Then U.S. Attorney General
Eric Holder stood up.
the nation’s top attorney, Eric Holder was tasked with
defending the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in Shelby County v. Holder.
When SCOTUS gutted it, Holder read the writing on the wall. Since
then, he was been on a righteous mission to raise the issue and fight
on all levels to protect the voting rights from the streets to the
launched the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC). Last
year President Obama folded his initiative Organizing for Action into
the new operations. This gave the NDRC immediate restructure and
resources to wage a strategic, targeted offensive in incorrigibly
GOP now has a super-majority in 30 state houses. Scary. In eight of
those states, there is a Democratic governor thanks to voters who can
use their veto power to stop, or at least slow down, a partisan,
the SCOTUS ruling in 2013, forward-thinking stakeholders in Missouri
started to scrutinize our own political reality. We knew we couldn’t
rely on the good graces of a Republican governor nor the stacked
state and federal courts to look out for us. That’s why a
progressive coalition took matters into its own hands and worked to
present a ballot initiative to voters last November to address
redistricting, campaign finance and political lobbying. Our hard work
paid off. Amendment 1, also known as Clean Missouri, was
overwhelmingly passed by voters across the state.
importance of Amendment 1 has now come front and center, particularly
the component on redistricting.
the passage of Amendment 1, Missouri was one of a handful of states
whose redistricting map was done by a commission of equally appointed
Republican and Democrats. The map had to be approved by 70 percent
of the commission members.
the new scenario, the redistricting map is in the hands of a state
demographer whose selection process and qualifications were carefully
crafted to minimize any political shenanigans. The district
maps must follow a list of strict criteria spelled out in the
constitutional amendment designed to create districts based on
“partisan fairness and competitiveness.”
changes would still have to be approved by 70 percent of the
commissioners, but it must also adhere to the Amendment 1’s
criteria for fair redistricting—rooted in the language and
spirit of the national Voting Rights Act. Not to comply with the law
is a crime.
intent was to take district mapping out of the hands of politicians
looking out for special interests. There are opportunities for
accountability on several levels along the way. Elected officials,
community leaders and voters must all be woke if we are serious about
protecting and expanding voting rights. Our fight is to make sure the
new law is followed every step of the way as the primary way to
guarantee fairer voting districts and reduce gerrymandering.
is one tool we use to participate in this so-called democracy but
it’s an important one. We have seen persistent attacks on
voting rights from unnecessary identification laws to illegal purging
of voter rolls to trickery at the polling sites.
right-wing is lining up a mighty offensive with all the institutions
at its disposal. If they win, are fate could be set for generations
to come. The defenders of democracy have a big fight on our hands.
Together, it’s a fight we must organize to win.