By Robert Reich
In 2020, we need to pay attention to state elections as well as elections for president and Congress. State elections could decide whether the Republican Party further corrupts American democracy.
As demographics change — and America becomes more diverse and more liberal — the GOP has responded by implementing policies that will take away power from the American people. Rather than changing with the times, they’ve got another plan: minority rule – by them.
Beware. The 2020 elections offer a chance for Republicans to tilt political power in their direction for the next decade. In most states, the party that wins control of the legislature effectively gains the power to draw once-a-decade maps setting district boundaries for state and congressional elections after a new census count. And the next census count will be in 2020.
So you can bet that on Election Day 2020 Republicans will try to further entrench their gains from the last census in 2010, when they swept into power in 20 state capitols and redrew political maps that secured a decade of political dominance.
Despite the fact that Republicans continually receive fewer raw votes in national elections, they could regain control of the House through such gerrymandering.
And even though racial gerrymandering – drawing district lines on the basis of race – is unconstitutional, the Court’s new ruling could give Republicans an opening to use race and pass it off as partisan gerrymandering.
State governments can act now to prevent this power grab by taking redistricting out of the hands of legislatures, and starting independent commissions, as in Washington State and California.
Another way Republicans will seek to establish anti-democratic power if they win state houses in 2020 will be to suppress the votes of people of color through unjust voter ID laws and other attacks. These tactics, such as reducing the number of polling places in Democratic districts, tighter restrictions on early voting, or purging voter rolls, make it harder for people of color – who tend to vote Democratic – to cast their ballots.
We’ve seen this play before. After gaining full control of key state legislatures and governorships, Republicans in states such as North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin passed restrictive voter ID laws that disproportionately targeted minorities. These voter ID laws not only make voting harder for those who show up, they also discourage voters from even turning out in the first place.
So show up and vote in your state elections. Your votes could decide whether a shrinking Republican Party gives fewer and fewer people more power over the rest of us.