League of Women Voters launches $500K anti-gerrymandering campaign
The League of Women Voters is launching a half-million-dollar nationwide campaign to make sure the country's electoral boundaries are drawn to assure more competition in the next decade.
The plan, announced Thursday by one of the nation's most venerable civic organizations, is "focused on creating fair political maps nationwide" — a goal that's not otherwise explicitly explained, but seems clearly intended to tackle the rise in aggressively partisan gerrymandering.
The investment toward the adoption of voting districts drawn without partisan intent following the 2020 census includes varying approaches.
The focus areas include helping pass or protect ballot measures creating independent commissions in 21 states, where such initiatives have already been approved or could be proposed to voters.
The group also plans to ensure fair redistricting provisions are followed in the 18 states where such provisions are mandated in state constitutions. This week, for example, a panel of judges in North Carolina ordered a remapping of all state legislative districts on the grounds the current map's Republican bias violates the rights of Democratic voters under several provisions of the state's constitution. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania threw out a congressional district map last year.
In 26 states, LWV chapters will focus on state laws related to the redistricting process, such as improving the public input process and increasing transparency over map-making decisions.
Other aspects of the group's People Powered Fair Maps Campaign include working with congressional lawmakers from 18 states to push federal legislation that would strengthen the Voting Rights Act ahead of the next redistricting as well as public outreach to improve community engagement around the redistricting process.
The Supreme Court's ruling in June that banned fair map advocates from challenging partisan gerrymandered districts in federal court spurred LWV's multi-year campaign, League of Women Voters CEP Virginia Kase said in a statement.
"When the Supreme Court ruled that federal courts could not play a role in policing partisan gerrymandering, we realized that, while the decision was a blow to our efforts, it also presented an opportunity for us to lead a national conversation about other fixes to this flaw in our democracy," Kase said.
The $500,000 advocacy, education and mobilization campaign will continue through 2021, when the bulk of redistricting at the congressional, state and local levels will take place.
In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.
The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.
With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.
This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.
Laura Williamson says her career was shaped by growing up in North Carolina, which she describes as being historically at the center of the best and worst of American democracy. She spent seven years working with young people at progressive groups and got a master's in public affairs at Princeton before joining Demos in the summer of 2018. The think tank aims to combat "threats to democracy, racial equity and economic inclusion" and as a senior policy analyst she's focused on voter registration, voting rights, money in politics and civic participation. Her answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less?
Abolishing all disenfranchisement schemes and achieving an inclusive, multiracial democracy.
Describe your very first civic engagement.
Testifying at the North Carolina General Assembly against cuts to funding for vocational education. The woodworking classes I took throughout high school were among the most formative of my public school education, so as a high school senior I advocated for their continued funding to lawmakers in Raleigh.
What was your biggest professional triumph?
It's actually a triumph-in-progress. At Demos, we are privileged to work with powerful grassroots leaders redefining democracy and pushing the reform conversation across the country. Alongside these Inclusive Democracy Project leaders we are dreaming and scheming about what it would take to build a truly inclusive democracy — without limiting ourselves by what's perceived as politically feasible or reasonable — and to chart a radical reform agenda that meets the challenge. Our agenda is in progress and, like all real victories, is benefitting from the efforts of many smart and talented people. Stay tuned, it'll be ready for public consumption soon!
And your most disappointing setback?
They have always come after I've not listened well enough, have brought too much ego and taken things too personally, or not followed my gut about when a process or decision felt off.
How does your identity influence the way you go about your work?
I'm from North Carolina, where we pioneered multiracial, pro-justice fusion politics during Reconstruction, civil disobedience during the civil rights movement and franchise-expanding voting reforms since the 1990s. More recently, we have also been home to the vanguard of voter suppression and other democracy stifling tactics since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. I stand on the shoulders of giants and against the abdication of our identity as democracy leaders. I also do this work because, as a white woman, I know the exclusion of entire communities from our democracy was — and is still — led by my people and, often, in my name. I work every day to undo that legacy and ongoing reality.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Learn to simultaneously practice patience and show up with urgency in all the work I do.
Create a new flavor for Ben & Jerry's.
Impeaches and Cream
West Wing or Veep?
West Wing — for the sometimes-too-earnest belief that government can be a force for good, not the centrist politics!
What's the last thing you do on your phone at night?
Turn on do not disturb.
What is your deepest, darkest secret?
I'm deeply terrified by karaoke.
Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.
With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.
Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.
Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.
I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.
Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.