(AP Photo/Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman)
(AP Photo/Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman) A migrant farmworker marks a row of sorghum in Plainview, Texas, on August 18, 2015. F our years is a long time to suffer the indignity of unpaid wages and miserable housing. But Martin bit his tongue. A Mexican citizen, Martin came to the United States on an H2A temporary visa for seasonal agricultural workers. Martin’s contract specified that he would be housed and work on a central Texas cattle ranch for $10 an hour. But when he arrived at his destination, there was no ranch, no cattle, and no housing. Instead, the company that recruited Martin and other workers required them to drive out to the mountains near the state’s southwestern border to build barbed-wire fences for $65 dollars a day. Despite freezing nighttime temperatures, he had no choice but to sleep in his pickup truck or an open-air shack. But almost anything was better than working back in Mexico, where the daily minimum wage is 80 pesos (about $4). He didn’t mind...
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren Travelers wait in line near an Emirates ticket counter at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. A limited version of President Trump’s controversial travel ban is back in place after the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could impose restrictions on certain foreign travelers and refugees. The constant back-and-forth rulings have created a bureaucratic nightmare for those involved in the refugee resettlement process, and Thursday’s developments promise even more disruption. While President Trump proclaimed victory, refugee and human rights advocates have been on tenterhooks this week . The high court’s decision was certainly a blow to opponents of the ban, but just how hard that blow is will depend on the Trump administration’s next moves. The government’s new guidelines would significantly limit the total number of noncitizens and refugees that can enter the country, according to a State Department background briefing Thursday afternoon. The...
(AP Photo/Steve Helber) Judy Hinch of Chesapeake, Virginia, joins a protest again the construction of a natural gas pipeline through rural Virginia on May 6, 2015. F or decades, Dominion Energy has been one of the key generators of both electric and political power in Virginia. The top corporate political donor in the state, Dominion has benefited from a sweetheart rate structure that keeps profits higher than the national average for electric companies. Among the company’s allies are Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe and the Democratic nominee to succeed him, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, as well as many key Republicans. Now, however, a popular backlash is building against Dominion’s political giving and its inside legislative influence, compounded by a controversial pipeline project. Dominion could become the symbol of the anti-corporate sentiment that has been strong in the base of both political parties since the 2016 election. Dominion, once known as the Virginia Electric...
AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca, File An unidentified Guatemalan woman stands inside a dormitory in the Artesia Family Residential Center, a federal detention facility for undocumented immigrant mothers and children in Artesia, New Mexico. F or the last three months, Jesus Peraza has been unsure which would come first: the birth of his third child or his second deportation. Now he knows. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plans to deport him. “Jesus feels as if he’s been caught up in some awful lottery,” says Jared Jaskot, Peraza’s attorney. Peraza was arrested by ICE agents after dropping his son off at school in southeast Baltimore, nearly 20 miles from the Howard County Detention Center, where he has been kept since March. Under the immigration procedures established by the Obama administration, someone like Peraza, whose only criminal offense is illegally reentering the country after being deported as a teenager, would have been an unlikely candidate for detention and...
It will take nothing short of an electoral wave for Democrats to retake the House in 2018, and that’s exactly the problem.
A new report from the Brennan Center at the New York University School of Law underscores the devastating effect of gerrymandering on recent House elections: The researchers found that over the past decade, not only have Republicans stepped up their gerrymandering efforts, they have become more aggressive in drawing maps to benefit GOP candidates.
Of the 26 states that account for 85 percent of congressional districts, only a handful are responsible for the largest imbalances—and Republicans had sole control of the redistricting process in those states.
“It’s easier than ever to create skewed maps. There’s much more robust data and sophisticated technology than there used to be,” says Michael Li, a redistricting expert and a coauthor of the new report. “Gerrymandering was once an art. Now, it’s a science.”
Republicans derived a net benefit of at least 16 congressional seats from gerrymandering in the 2016 election, according to the report. That’s eight less than the 24 currently needed by Democrats to take back the House.
The report found that Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia were all under single-party control when state lawmakers created new congressional districts in 2011. It’s no surprise that all of these states, with the exception of Texas, are tightly contested. The most gerrymandered states are usually battleground states, where the slightest advantage can make a difference.
Democratic and Republican state lawmakers have always tried to redraw districts to their own party’s advantage. But since the last census, Republicans have done it more often and more aggressively. Why? Because they can.
“One of the reasons Republicans are doing it more is because you need sole control of a state to aggressively gerrymander,” says Li. “Republicans have sole control over far more states than Democrats.”
California is a rare exception. Democrats control the Golden State legislature, yet the state has mostly avoided unfair maps thanks to an independent redistricting commission. The report found that maps drawn by independent or bipartisan commissions consistently exhibited far less partisan bias than those drawn solely by Republicans or Democrats. Maps drawn by the courts following a legislative deadlock were also markedly fairer than those drawn by a single party.
For voters in the dozens of states without redistricting commissions, taking unfair maps to court is often the only option. Lawsuits challenging those maps have been filed in 38 states since the 2010 census—and most have failed.
Without any standard for gauging when state lawmakers have gone too far in a partisan direction when they create new districts, judges have preferred to stay out of the political thicket unless absolutely necessary. The authors of the report aim to equip courts with better ways of assessing partisan manipulation. “Courts have had a hard time deciding where the line is drawn,” Li says. “But when three formulas point in the same direction, it gives [courts] comfort.”
Despite promising initiatives to redraw maps in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, it’s unlikely that the electoral landscape will change much before the midterm elections.
Overcoming a 24-seat deficit isn’t impossible—Democrats took back control of the House after a 31-seat swing in 2006— but it won’t be easy. Despite President Trump’s low approval ratings and a radioactive Republican health care bill, Democrats face an uphill battle in 2018.
“If your only hope of winning a majority is through a huge, ‘500-year flood’ voting wave, that’s not exactly encouraging for your party,” says Li.