If you live in a “swing state” like North Carolina or Texas, or have more than a passing interest in democracy, you are probably aware of how severely Republicans have gerrymandered state and federal electoral districts. Rather than voters being able to pick our representatives, they have drawn lines to pick the voters they want, and packed the rest of us into as few districts as possible. It’s been remarkably effective and has led to passing legislation like HB2 with total impunity since the GOP leaders know their majority can’t be threatened with the current districts, even though our state actually has way more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Don’t believe it? I just looked up the latest stats from the NC state board of elections, and as of 7/29/17 we had 39% Democrats, 30% Republicans, 30% unaffiliated, and less than 1% Libertarian. (Unaffiliated has been growing rapidly, for good reason. Don’t make the mistake of assuming these are centrist voters.) Meanwhile our NC senate is 70% Republican and our house representatives are 60% Republican.
You might also know that The Supreme Court found that NC’s districts are racially gerrymandered and told the state legislature to redraw them and hold a special election ASAP. I was skeptical that Republicans wouldn’t just redraw them in a way that ensured their majorities but didn’t follow racial lines as closely. But in fact, they haven’t even done that. They have been filing appeals and dragging their feet, as explained in the timeline in this very helpful article by NC Policy Watch, “Republicans silent in wake of court order to draw new maps in one month”.
So the NC house and senate redistricting committees are now taking comments at this form, and they are meeting tomorrow so it’s a great time to let them know that you value representative democracy.
Here’s more information and ways to speak out from Democracy NC.
Header and more excellent maps at the districks blog.
I just learned that the suspicious and misleading robocalls from “Lamont Williams” to North Carolina voters, were actually the work of Women’s Voices, Women Vote. WVWV is an organization that works to empower single female voters, and which I used to support. Turns out they have a habit of sending poorly-timed voter registration information, causing thousands of voters to mistakenly think they are not registered to vote!
WUNC’s Laura Leslie posted the audio of the robocall on her blog on Monday, but as far as I can tell has not actually done a story about it. (She’s probably too busy begging for money. Way to schedule a pledge drive at the height of our primary, WUNC!)
Today I read a long investigative piece by my friend Chris Kromm at the Institute for Southern Studies that shows that WVWV was behind this, and that they have been confusing voters all over the nation with their automated phone calls and voter registration packets. “Women’s Voices’ questionable tactics have spawned thousands of voter complaints in at least 11 states and brought harsh condemnation from some election officials for their secrecy, misleading nature and likely violations of election law.”
WVWV claims that their campaign in North Carolina was designed to get unregistered, single, female voters to register to vote in the November general election. However, there is overwhelming evidence indicating quite the opposite. For example:
- The voice on the calls is a male calling himself “Lamont Williams.” Not exactly ideal for the supposedly female target audience.
- Many of the people who received the calls are married, male, and/or already registered.
- WVWV is no newcomer to politics. They have been operating since at least the 2004 election. They are a well-funded organization with a savvy staff. The two top leaders each have at least two decades of political experience a piece. (One as Congressman David Price’s ’96 campaign manager – the one year Price lost.)
- In fact, many WVWV staff and advisors gained experience working for the Clinton Whitehouse. For example, board member John Podesta (President and CEO of the Center for American Progress) served as President Clinton’s Chief of Staff for over two years.
- There is no way that these seasoned political operatives could have missed the fact of our prominent May 6 primary, or that anyone with experience in voter engagement wouldn’t be fully aware of the timing involved.
I can only logically conclude that they are either intentionally suppressing voters (in an Obama-friendly state, hmm) or are criminally negligent and unable to carry out their stated mission of “Improving unmarried women’s participation in the electorate and policy process.” Either way, the only responsible step I can imagine is immediately cease operations and consider whether to reorganize or disband this organization.
WVWV’s President Page Garder re-posted her press release as a blog entry over on Huffington Post. Let’s let her know what we think of it.
More related links & discussion: NPR News Blog, BlueNC.