3 Dirty Tricks of Gerrymandering

Gerry­man­der­ing is a polit­ical tactic in which voting bound­ar­ies are drawn with the inten­tion of influ­en­cing who gets elec­ted. But how is it done? When we dig into the details we find 3 dirty tricks that are consistently used.

Before redistricting, GOLD wins 2 seats,
GREEN wins 3 seats.
By gerrymandering the electoral map,
GOLD wins 3 district seats through cracking,
GREEN wins 2 district seats through packing.

Stacking is a practice of combining low-income, less educated minorities together to create a perceived voting majority and then placing it in the same district as high-income, more-educated voters who turn out in greater numbers.

Packing combines as many voters as possible (often minorities) into a single district to prevent that group from affecting election outcomes in other districts.

Cracking breaks up a group of minority voters into several districts to prevent them from reaching a majority.

Learn to recognize these 3 dirty tricks and call them out at the local and state level.

California’s Voter Bill of Rights

The Official Voter Information Guide for the California Primary Election on June 7, 2022 begins with the Voter Bill of Rights. It’s visually striking, consuming a whole page. Plus impressive details such as 3 ways to get a new ballot and another 3 ways to report illegal or fraudulent activity.

The Secretary of State really wants to make it easy for eligible citizens to vote. In a democracy, why wouldn’t you?

The California Voter Bill of Rights

Voter Bill of Rights

You have the following rights:

  1. The right to vote if you are a registered voter. You are eligible to vote if you are:
    • a U.S. citizen living in California at least 18 years old
    • registered where you currently live
    • not currently serving a state or federal prison term for the conviction of a felony
    • not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court
  2. The right to vote if you are a registered voter even if your name is not on the list. You will vote using a provisional ballot. Your vote will be counted if elections officials determine that you are eligible to vote.
  3. The right to vote if you are still in line when the polls close.
  4. The right to cast a secret ballot without anyone bothering you or telling you how to vote.
  5. The right to get a new ballot if you have made a mistake, if you have not already cast your ballot. You can:
    • Ask an elections official at a polling place for a new ballot,
    • Exchange your vote-by-mail ballot for a new one at an elections office, or at your polling place,
    • or Vote using a provisional ballot.
  6. The right to get help casting your ballot from anyone you choose, except from your employer or union representative.
  7. The right to drop off your completed vote-by-mail ballot at any polling place in California.
  8. The right to get election materials in a language other than English if enough people in your voting precinct speak that language.
  9. The right to ask questions to elections officials about election procedures and watch the election process. If the person you ask cannot answer your questions, they must send you to the right person for an answer. If you are disruptive, they can stop answering you.
  10. The right to report any illegal or fraudulent election activity to an elections official or the Secretary of State’s office.
Special Notice
  • Polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on the day indicated in the posted county Voter Information Guide.
  • Specific instructions on how to vote, including how to cast a provisional ballot, can be obtained from a poll worker or by reading the information mailed to you by your local elections official.
  • If you are a newly registered voter, you may be asked to provide appropriate identification or other documentation according to federal law. But please note that every individual has the right to cast a provisional ballot even if he or she does not provide the documentation.
  • It is against the law to represent yourself as being eligible to vote unless you meet all of the requirements to vote under federal and state law.
  • It is against the law to tamper with voting equipment.

If you believe you have been denied any of these rights, call the Secretary of State’s confidential toll-free Voter Hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683).

2 Easy Ways to be a Smart Voter

Be a smart voter! Presidential elections get a lot of attention, but elections at the state, county, and local level shape your community. It’s important to remember that your vote is your voice, and you should use it! Here are the things in your daily life that are decided by elections at various levels of government (items italicized that NVC is concerned):

  • Federal elections: president, defense, treasury, justice, labor laws, environmental protection, infrastructure, federal taxes, food and drug administration (FDA), and more.
  • State elections: governor, state house senators, assembly members, attorney general, voting districts, election rules, propositions/initiatives, environmental
    legislation, state taxes, and more.
  • County elections: supervisors, judges, sheriff, district attorney, registrar of voters, public health, county jails, community colleges, local taxes, and more.
  • Local elections: city council, police, fire department, streets, schools, libraries, parks, sanitation, building codes, parcel taxes, and more.

1: Check out the endorsements.

Endorsements are the easiest way to assess candidates and ballot measures (i.e., propositions and initiatives). How do you feel about the people and organizations who support or oppose them?

When considering candidates, consider their endorsers and those endorsers’ values. Are they individuals, groups, and values you respect? Candidate endorsements are especially helpful during primary elections where people from the same political party are competing to be on the final election ballot.

When it comes to propositions and initiatives the details can be overwhelming, but guess who has time to study the details… endorsers and PACs.

Additionally, check out the legislative sponsor and cosponsor(s) of any legislative bills. They are listed on the first page of a bill, before its main text. You can determine the sponsor and cosponsors of a particular bill by opening a bill information page on Congress.gov and selecting the “Cosponsors” tab.

2: Follow the money.

  • Bills are often named in a misleading way or through contrived acronyms (PATRIOT Act, anyone?) that sow confusion. To get to the bottom of a bill quickly, go to leading endorsement website for the bill and click on donate or read the about us information to find out how donations are handled.

Social welfare organizations cannot support candidates. 501(c)(3) types whose donations are tax-deductible (e.g., League of Women Voters Education Fund
and 411.org) may only do limited advocacy on issues, while 501(c)(4) types (e.g., League of Women Voters) whose donations are not tax-deductible are allowed to advocate on issues.

In Memoriam: Jerry Weinberger, 1942 – 2021

Jerry Weinberger 1942- 2021

Jerry Weinberger was a founding member of the National Voter Corps, a tireless defender of voter rights, a dedicated father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, and a dear friend. He passed away peacefully on June 4, 2021 after a brief illness.

Jerry was born on February 12, 1942 in San Francisco, CA and was raised in Wildwood, NJ. A graduate of the Wildwood High School Class of 1959, he served in the US Army, and went on to work 40+ years as an aerospace engineer for GE/Lockheed Martin.

Jerry is survived by his sister, Elaine (CA); his loving daughters, Kimberly Weinberger (Salt Lake City, UT) and Kristi Singer (Henderson, NV); his five grandchildren whom he loved dearly, Sydney Baisch, MacKenzie Machado, Shelby Hedges, Griffin Hedges and Dominic Singer; as well as three great-grandchildren. He will be greatly missed by many friends and extended family members, especially his cousin Susan Fox Hirschmann of North Wildwood, NJ, and his dear friend Amy Laden of Mountain View, CA.

As a founding member of National Voter Corps and its steering committee, Jerry set much of the tone for NVC and helped guide our efforts, locally and nationally. Please take a moment to read his post My Personal Opinion to get to know Jerry and his passion for voting rights a little better. He is sorely missed.

You & The Voting Rights Battle of 2021

The Brennan Center for Justice recently published “Voting Laws Roundup 2021” (February 8, 2021) By their count, 33 states had proposed about 100 bills to restrict voting access versus 37 states that proposed about 400 bills to expand voting access.

It doesn’t sound too dismal, does it? Not until you read the details, some of which include:
• Eliminate no-excuse mail voting and eliminate drop boxes
• Require mail ballots to be notarized
• Allow the general public unobstructed access to observe absentee ballot processing and expand voter roll purges.
• Prohibit using student ID’s and require citizenship verification.

On the other hand, there’s legislation proposed to:
• Expand vote by mail and increase ballot drop boxes
• Improve “notice and cure” practices so voter errors can be corrected
• Expand return deadlines and start processing mail ballots early
• Allow same-day and automatic voter registration
• Restore voting rights to former prisoners

So, while state legislators battle over these changes, what can we – you and I – do to promote voting rights? Two thoughts come to mind.

First, make sure your representatives know how you and your friends are thinking. Thank those who have promoted rights and make sure voting rights opponents also know how you feel. Get your friends in other states involved, too.

Second, make the effort to understand the voters who believe and feel very differently from you. This is not the same as agreeing or coming to a compromise. Many excellent books and articles have appeared on how to listen carefully and ask questions that don’t make people angry or defensive. Adam Granth published an editorial, “The Science of Reasoning with Unreasonable People” in the New York Times (Jan. 31, 2021), subtitled “Don’t try to change someone else’s mind. Instead, help them find their own motivation to change.” See also Megan Phelps-Roper’s TED Talk from 2019 with “4 tips for talking to people you disagree with,” including different values.

We are all Americans and need to find something in common with fellow Americans, whether they think like us or not. I’d love to hear your ideas for more ways to bridge the divide that exists today.

COVID-19 Threatens Democracy, Too

How long can the primaries be postponed, and what will happen in November? Nine states have postponed primary elections due to the Corona virus.  (https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/16/politics/state-primaries-postponed-coronavirus/index.html.)

What will happen If the crisis lasts past the new election dates?  The U.S. has never cancelled federal elections before — even during WWII, soldiers were sent special vote-by-mail ballots if they didn’t have “absentee” ones. (https://americanhistory.si.edu/democracy-exhibition/vote-voice/keeping-vote/state-rules-federal-rules/soldier-vote.)

Alaska has seized this opportunity to convert to vote-by-mail, for the primary at least, and Maryland is mailing ballots for the special election for Elijah Cummings’s Congressional seat.  But most states don’t have the resources to switch to vote-by-mail – it’s expensive. The $2 Trillion stimulus package makes a start, but offers states only a small fraction of what’s needed. The League of Women Voters explains at https://www.lwv.org/newsroom/press-releases/covid-19-stimulus-package-falls-short-adequate-election-funding.  Another benefit of vote-by-mail is its paper trail.  No complex, online system is un-hackable. Tallies and recounts must have the ability to be audited.

Expense is one obstacle to vote-by-mail. The other is a tradition of voter suppression.  Some states (AL, AR, CT, MA, MO, NH, WV) require an excuse from all voters, and others (IN, KY, LA, MS, TN, TX, SC ) recognize seniors might have difficulties getting to their polling stations and don’t require them to provide an excuse. (https://www.voteathome.org/ ) The application process varies in difficulty by state, but is always easier for people with cars and the ability to take time off from work without losing wages. The process is clearly intended to discourage poor and minority voters.

A less expensive, but riskier option in the short term, is simply to extend early voting.  Allow enough time for voters to show up in manageable groups, during and after work, staggered by address or other identifier.  And make sure the polling station has enough voting booths and volunteers with masks and gloves to avoid crowding.  Long term, it’s more economical to offer vote-by-mail with centralized voting centers for assistance, and to register people automatically at motor vehicle and social services agencies.

What Can You Do?

Ask your elected representatives and your social media friends to support legislation to adequately fund upcoming elections. And volunteer with groups that promote voting rights and voter registration.  Here’s what your Registrar of Voters should be doing to promote voting according to the League of Women Voters https://www.lwv.org/blog/10-things-elections-officials-can-do-safeguard-our-elections-spring-summer-and-fall?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=033020 and the Brennan Center https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/estimated-costs-covid-19-election-resiliency-measures.  

Must-See Articles (Jerry’s Introduction)

Ever see articles on voting rights that make you go “Wow!?” I’ve saved my favorites to share with people who care about voting rights and preserving our democracy. The list will be updated as I find articles worthy of your interest, so please check back regularly. The list is no longer being updated – rest in peace, Jerry, our friend.

I welcome comments – that are thoughtful and free of trash talk. As it has been said, “When they go low, we go high.” Let’s go!

Voter Suppression, “what is it, really?” people have been asking me lately. See for yourself in my latest entry, the Brave New Films video Suppressed – The Fight to Vote.

Disclaimer: I make every effort to post only articles consistent with NVC’s policy of non-partisanship. (Note that these articles are neither written nor verified by National Voter Corps.) However, voting has lately become a highly politicized subject. While both parties have historically used redistricting to favor their interests, in recent years one party has taken vote suppression in its various forms to new levels. So I’m sharing articles that are not intentionally partisan in nature, but are simply stating the facts.

Jerry, the Editor