Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Demonstrators rally in Lansing, Mich. on July 18, as the state's Supreme Court heard arguments about whether voters should be able to pass a constitutional amendment that would change how the state's voting maps are drawn. (Dale G. Young / Associated Press)

Demonstrators rally in Lansing, Mich. on July 18, as the state's Supreme Court heard arguments about whether voters should be able to pass a constitutional amendment that would change how the state's voting maps are drawn. (Dale G. Young / Associated Press)

As Polarized As Americans Are, They Agree on This: Gerrymandering Is Wrong

In red states, blue states and purple states, they’ve had it with politicians drawing their own districts, choosing their own voters and distorting democracy

David Daley

 by the Los Angeles Times
America’s deeply divided electorate agreed on at least one thing on election day: Voters hate gerrymandering. In red states, blue states and purple states, they’ve had it with politicians drawing their own districts, choosing their own voters and distorting democracy.

Colorado, Michigan and Missouri all approved ballot questions — by wide margins — that would remove the power to draw federal and state legislative districts from politicians and hand the responsibility to citizen commissions or nonpartisan entities. Redistricting reform also leads in Utah, with almost 80% of the vote counted.

These states join Ohio, where voters passed similar reforms in May. California created a nonpartisan citizen commission to draw congressional districts in 2010, and in six other states (North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin and Maryland), legal battles and court orders have overturned — and in some cases redrawn — unfair maps, putting gerrymandering front and center in those states’ political debates.

Real reform requires genuine transparency in the redistricting process.

But in the majority of states, including those where courts have intervened, drawing voting lines still falls back into the hands of politicians. The next redistricting is fast approaching — it will be based on the 2020 census. What can be done, and done quickly to make this process more fair?

There’s no easy fix.

The Supreme Court has made it clear that it won’t save democracy. The justices unanimously punted on two extreme gerrymandering cases last term, and few would predict that the current court will reverse that trend. Lower federal courts and state courts are friendlier to overthrowing gerrymandered maps, but litigation takes time and it generally doesn’t change the process, just one set of maps. Citizens could take charge with more ballot measures, but only a few states remain where that is even an option. In the meantime, the advanced mapping software and big-data “mining” techniques that make possible the most egregious maps — the kind that all but ensure a decade of one-party power in state and federal representation — are only becoming more sophisticated and precise.

There is a way forward, however. The statehouse politicians who will draw the majority of federal and state legislative maps in 2021 should make note the overwhelming support of voters for fair maps, and make reforms themselves. Sooner or later, even with rigged maps, they may lose their hold on the process and become its victims instead of the perpetrators.

States can start by banning the use of outside political data that allows mapmakers to group certain kinds of voters together to get the outcome they want. Or they can more broadly ban the drawing of district boundaries that favor or disfavor a political party or incumbent.

Unfortunately, additional safeguards have to be enacted to ensure that such reforms can be enforced. Florida, for example, banned districts drawn to ensure one-party domination, but its legislators ignored the law until they were sued by the League of Women Voters and other good-government groups. The lawsuit uncovered emails and draft maps revealing a shadow redistricting process, and an outraged judge overturned several districts.

Real reform requires genuine transparency in the redistricting process. Mapmakers, statehouse staff, legislators and consultants should all be required to use official email accounts subject to open-records laws, and to maintain a paper trail of draft maps and meeting notes so that how the map-making progressed can be checked against the requirements at every step.

Mapmakers should also be required to justify their work in writing. If those deciding the boundaries want to divide cities or counties, or design districts that resemble the infamous bit of gerrymandering known as “Goofy kicking Donald Duck” — because of the unusual shape created in a Pennsylvania congressional district — they should have to explain those decisions to us all.

Better still, legislators could embrace technology that reveals gerrymanders rather than make them easier to design. Some of the strongest evidence in the victorious North Carolina and Pennsylvania anti-gerrymandering lawsuits came when political scientists and mathematicians used supercomputers to draw politically neutral maps, then showed the court the comparison with those drawn by politicians. In Pennsylvania, for example, computers drew tens of thousands of maps but did not produce districts as extreme as the ones enacted by legislators.

The gold-standard reform is the Fair Representation Act, introduced in Congress by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.). It would slay the gerrymander once and for all by eliminating winner-takes-all, single-member districts entirely. Instead it would create large, multi-member districts with representatives chosen via ranked-choice voting, in which voters choose more than one candidate and indicate which they consider their first, second and third choice as a representative. (Maine’s experiment with ranked-choice voting worked well on Tuesday.)

Gerrymandering used to be a wonky topic that made citizens’ eyes glaze over. As its partisan and racial evils become clearer on our electoral maps, opposition to it has become one thing that seems to unite voters of all stripes. Politicians should get on board. The people are leading the way.

© 2021 Los Angeles Times
David Daley

David Daley

David Daley is the CEO of the Connecticut News Project and the former editor-in-chief of Salon. He is the author of "Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy." Follow him on Twitter: @DaveDaley3

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'When We Organize, We Win': Ocasio-Cortez Joins India Walton at Rally in Buffalo

The two progressives joined striking hospital workers on the picket line at Mercy Hospital after the early voting rally.

Julia Conley ·

Fatal Film Set Shooting Followed Outcry by Union Crew Members Over Safety Protocols

"When union members walk off a set about safety concerns, maybe 'hiring scabs' isn’t the solution you think it is."

Julia Conley ·

New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Catastrophic and Irreparable Harm' to Wolves Averted as Wisconsin Judge Cancels Hunt

"We are heartened by this rare instance of reason and democracy prevailing in state wolf policy," said one conservation expert.

Brett Wilkins ·

West Virginia Constituents Decry 'Immorality' of Joe Manchin

"West Virginia has been locked into an economy that forces workers into low-wage jobs with no hope for advancement, and after decades of this our hope is dwindling," said one West Virginian. "The cuts that Sen. Manchin has negotiated into the agenda hurt our state."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo