To ‘stop the steal’ we must end partisan gerrymandering

Congressional districts used in the 2020 general election.

Back in 2016, Andrew Reynolds wrote in the Raleigh News & Observer, “North Carolina’s overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone… When it comes to the integrity of the voting district boundaries no country has ever received as low a score as the 7/100 North Carolina received. North Carolina is not only the worst state in the USA for unfair districting but the worst entity in the world ever analyzed by the Electoral Integrity Project.

Worst… in the world. Let that sink in for a minute.

Our electoral district boundaries, drawn up by the Republican majority in Raleigh, rank worst in the world for fairness. If you don’t believe me here’s a link to a breakdown of how that was determined. Please go see for yourself.

Partisan gerrymandering shortchanges every American, regardless of their political party or personal beliefs, by denying us all fair, competitive elections at every turn. It is the only form of widespread election fraud that actually exists in America today, and worst of all, our elected officials do it openly and unapologetically while distracting most people with ridiculous, easily disproven claims about illegal ballots and rigged voting machines.

The term election fraud has been so overused in the last few years that for most of us it doesn’t even register anymore when we see or hear it. Given the sorry state of our democracy, here and across the nation, is it any sort of surprise that so many of our neighbors believe outrageous conspiracy theories when our elections have been rigged in broad daylight for so long?

The man who lost our most recent presidential election is still claiming that he won, that the election was stolen from him, despite more than sixty lawsuits that never made it past the first hearing. The 2020 election was probably the cleanest, most scrutinized election we’ve ever held in this country, and no amount of wishful thinking, conspiracy theorizing, or incitement to sedition will alter that fact. Joe Biden won the election, fair and square, full stop.

We have a very secure election system in North Carolina, and anyone, Republican or Democrat, who has ever worked the polls here will tell you that. Our elections are secure, but thanks to partisan gerrymandering our democracy is on its deathbed, ranked worse than a third-world dictatorship because Republicans, a statistical minority party, cheated their way to a supermajority ten years ago. They have spent almost every day since doing everything possible, legal or otherwise, to further entrench themselves. In practical terms, they have created a one-party state.

In the 2020 election, 29,199 more votes were cast for Democratic Congressional candidates in North Carolina (2,660,535) than were cast for Republican candidates in the same races (2,631,336), yet Republicans account for eight of the thirteen members our state sent to the House of Representatives. This is not a fluke. It has happened in every election since the last redistricting in 2011, despite there being roughly 300,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in this state for most of the decade.

This is not the representative democracy our founders worked so hard to create for us, and Republicans, despite all their talk about patriotism, first principles, and originalism, are more than happy to abandon those principles as long as they get to keep driving the bus.

Election fraud is real, but it has nothing to do with rigged machines, stuffed ballot boxes, or illegal voters. Real election fraud takes place every time politicians from either party get a say in how district lines get drawn. You want to stop the steal, here’s where you need to start: end partisan gerrymandering by making it a crime comparable to treason. 

Republicans will be quick to point out that Democrats were guilty of partisan gerrymandering for decades, and that is true, but as my mother used to tell me, two wrongs don’t make right. It was never right, but at least in the past it was more of an imprecise guessing game. The tools used in making electoral maps today have become surgical in their precision, allowing mapmakers to divide precincts and carve up neighborhoods down to individual houses based on the voting histories and party affiliations of the occupants. 

Partisan gerrymandering cheats us all – liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, unaffiliated, all of us – by denying us fair, competitive election districts. In a partisan gerrymandered district the winner of a primary election has a better than 99% chance of winning the general election in November. Any voter who chooses to vote in the other party’s primary has no say in that decision.

That’s not a democracy, it’s tyranny. Politicians at the federal, state and local levels have been playing that game and getting away with it for far too long, and these days the results are disastrous. Instead of the best possible candidate winning we end up “electing” the least qualified, most abrasive fringe elements among us, all thanks to partisan gerrymandering.

Later this year the Republicans in our General Assembly will get another crack at drawing maps for U.S. House, N.C. House, and N.C. Senate districts across our state, and once again I expect them to intentionally screw us all by creating as many safe, partisan districts for themselves as possible… because they can. It’s past time to stop this steal.