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Democracy at Risk
Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Aug 31, 2016

November 8th: Four Key Factors for the Armchair Strategist

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/november-8th-four-key-factors-for-the-armchair-strategist/

Two months to elections and counting. Americans will be voting for the entire House, a third of the Senate and the President, as well as all members of state legislative lower houses and usually half of their state senators.

It may be an historic election, an election in which many states will be operating under rules adopted only in the last half dozen years. These rules affect the value of one’s vote and the ease of voting. All of this is occurring in a setting where fewer and fewer federal races are even competitive. Together these impose considerable challenges for those trying to dislodge incumbents the success of which may depend significantly on the level of voter turnout.

Voter dilution, voter suppression, turnout, the dwindling number of winnable seats. These four key factors will influence the outcome of the 2016 election and determine the future composition of the federal government.

Voter Dilution

Every 10 years, by Constitutional mandate, the U.S. government conducts a Census that determines the number of Representatives allocated to each state. The Constitution largely, although not entirely, leaves the manner in which those Representatives are elected to the states.

According to Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Choosing Senators.”

In 1842, for the first time, Congress intervened in state elections, eliciting howls of protest from states’ righters. Congress demanded that Representatives “should be elected by districts composed of contiguous territory … no one district electing more than one Representative.”   In 1872 Congress added the requirement that districts have “as nearly as practicable an equal number of inhabitants.” In 1901 and again in 1911, Congress also required the district be “compact.”

In 1929 Congress dropped all state election requirements excepting for single member districts. For the next three decades the size and design of voting districts rested entirely in the hands of state legislatures. To protect their seats, incumbents drew wildly unequal and discriminatory election districts. Fearful of losing their legislative dominance as populations shifted to urban areas, rural legislators designed districts whose populations sometimes varied by as much as 100 to 1. Race-based gerrymandering was common.

In 1962, in a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court finally decided that federal courts could intervene to determine the constitutionality of state voting districts.  As Justice William Douglas explained, if a voter no longer has “the full constitutional value of his franchise, and the legislative branch fails to take appropriate restorative action, the doors of the courts must be open to him.” In 1964 the Supreme Court clarified and amplified this decision by ruling that state Congressional districts must be similar in size so that “as nearly as is practicable one man’s vote in a congressional election is to be worth as much as another’s.” Still another decision extended this requirement to both houses of a state legislature.

At the same time Congress again intervened, this time with the 1965 Voting Rights Act that banned racially based redistricting and racially discriminatory voting requirements.

Since then courts have repeatedly been asked to intervene. When faced with a clear case of racially based redistricting, they’ve often been willing to do so, but they’ve adopted a hands-off approach when the shape of a district, no matter how oddly drawn, is a result only of political partisanship, no matter how stark. Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Jul 27, 2016

The Next President Will Likely Appoint 4 Supreme Court Justices: Who Do You Want Picking Them?

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/the-supreme-court-the-public-good-and-the-2016-election/

The future of the Supreme Court is at stake in the 2016 election. We know the numbers. The death of Scalia split the Supreme Court between four Conservative Justices appointed by Republican Presidents (Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Kennedy) and four Liberal Justices appointed by Democratic Presidents (Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor.) The Republican Senate, in… Continue reading

Featured Article, Resource filed under Banking, Broadband, Energy, The Public Good, Waste to Wealth | Written by ILSR | No Comments | Updated on Jun 1, 2016

Video: Break the Chains, Build Local Power

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/break-the-chains-build-local-power/

Since our founding in 1974, we have worked to rewrite the rules and empower communities to choose their own future. Across several vital economic sectors, we help break the corporate stranglehold that extracts wealth from local economies and undermines democracy. We give communities the tools to build a strong local economy themselves. From banking to energy, healthy… Continue reading

nonpartisan league wagon
Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Jul 5, 2016

How to Make a Political Revolution

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/how-to-make-a-political-revolution/

On June 14th, North Dakotans voted to overrule their government’s decision to allow corporate ownership of farms. That they had the power to do so was a result of a political revolution that occurred almost exactly a century before, a revolution that may hold lessons for those like Bernie Sanders’ supporters who seek to establish… Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on May 11, 2016

What Should Bernie Do Now?

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/what-should-bernie-do/

“What should Bernie do?” That seems to be the question of the month. Permit me to weigh in. Here’s what we know at this point in the campaign. For Sanders to have any chance of winning the support of superdelegates he must arrive at the convention with more elected delegates than Hillary.   To do that… Continue reading