Dirty Deeds: Election Mischief, Cybercrimes & Civil Liberties

(Panelists Russell Banks, David Daley, James Steiner, Kelly Vlahos; moderator Victor Asal)

“The call is coming from inside the house,” said Daley, a line from a horror movie. While Republicans now totally control the government, they actually achieved it with fewer votes than Democrats. How?

Daley referenced their “Redmap” strategic plan to dominate legislative redistricting after the 2010 census. To that end they targeted state legislative seats; and were aided by a big 2010 electoral swing in their favor. That enabled them to gerrymander district lines in a majority of states.

What’s gerrymandering? Legislative districts must of course contain roughly equal populations. But if you’re the GOP, what you do is pack as many Democrats as possible into a few districts which they’ll win overwhelmingly. Then the other districts go to Republicans. Thus you can win a majority of seats with a minority of votes. As is true for today’s House of Representatives.

Gerrymandering has a long history, but Republicans have perfected it using “big data” and sophisticated computer programs. Daley called this a “lethal partisan weapon;” now only about 30 of the 435 House seats are competitive.

Republicans have also sought to compound their advantage through voter suppression — e.g., voter ID laws requiring the sorts of ID that Democrat-leaning voters (like minorities and the poor) don’t have. (In Texas, a gun permit is accepted, a student ID is not!) Providing a pretext for such voter suppression is the true rationale of Trump’s “Voter Fraud Commission” fraud. Arguably, voter suppression already in place helped tip some close states to Trump.

Too few voters focus on these ploys. It’s not a sexy issue, too complex, and doesn’t push any cultural identity buttons. Note that the Supreme Court will soon rule on the constitutionality of extreme partisan gerrymandering.

Fake news and Russian meddling also came up again. Russia’s rulers basically see Western democracy’s attractiveness as a threat to their authoritarianism, so they try to throw a monkey wrench into democracy’s workings (in many countries). Propagandistic Russian fake news (“Pizzagate” a prime example), disseminated via Facebook and other vulnerable web portals, probably swung enough votes to Trump (or away from Clinton) to also tip several close states and thus the election.

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One Response to “Dirty Deeds: Election Mischief, Cybercrimes & Civil Liberties”

  1. djedi9 Says:

    That’s the best illustration of redistricting’s possible effects I have ever seen! Thanks Frank!

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