The Decennial Census and the Voting Acts that Address Discrimination
Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution (the Enumeration or Census Clause) mandates that every ten years people are counted in a Decennial Census. Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed by Congress in 1866 and ratified by the states in 1868, changed the Census Clause rules that counted former slaves as three-fifths of a person. The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 amended the Census Clause exclusion of Native Americans.
This means that every U.S. citizen was supposed to be counted equally as it relates to Congressional representation but it took the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to address voter discrimination and denial, stating that “no federal, state or local government could in any way impede people from voting because of their race or ethnicity.”
The Coronavirus Pandemic and State Redistricting
After each census, all U.S. states redraw their legislative and congressional districts in a timely manner to comply with their Constitutional obligation that every citizen have equal rights to representation through elections. The delay of the 2020 Census due to the Coronavirus-19 pandemic has caused major problems with this process being finalized by all states prior to the midterm elections. Some states, like Texas, have preyed on this situation.
The Republican-controlled state legislature and governor passed redistricting maps that do not adjust representation to reflect that 95% of their 3.9 million person population increase is non-white. (1) Even though there are both current state and federal lawsuits to disallow these changes, Texas has requested more time to prepare the evidence, so the cases will not be completed prior to the November 2022 midterm elections.
Texas governor candidate, Beto O’Rourke’s reaction to Texas being sued by the U.S Department of Justice for its 2021 discriminatory redistricting map, “This is what happens when those in power aren’t interested in serving the people they’re supposed to represent. Texas leaders would rather gerrymander election maps and handpick their own voters than earn their place in power by listening and responding to the needs of Texans.”
How the Texas Partisan Redistricting Can Affect California
The Nov. 8, 2022, midterm elections may influence a great deal more than how states govern themselves, while not accurately reflecting the will of the people. The most publicized example is South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposed nationwide abortion ban, that if passed could affect states like California, New York, Colorado, New Mexico, and Washington, which have policies in effect to protect women’s health.
At this time, the House of Representatives has 224 Democrats, 213 Republicans, and four additional delegates. The Senate has 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and two Independents, (3) but potentially discriminatory voter laws and redistricting in states like Texas could change the partisan split so both bodies have Republicans as the majority and additional nationwide laws could be passed.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, in response to Sen. Graham’s bill, has launched a campaign proclaiming that California will protect women’s rights with a website that provides information and resources for women in states that have banned abortion (while not tracking their information), purchased billboards in these states with messages like “Texas doesn’t own your body. You do.”
In a Sept. 13, 2022, tweet, Gov. Newsom said, “Make no mistake–Lindsey Graham’s new national ban on abortion is about controlling women. That’s their agenda. CA’s fighting back.”
You can fight back, too, by voting and promoting voting with your family and friends. The NBA is doing their part by not scheduling any games on Election Day. “The scheduling decision came out of the NBA family’s focus on promoting nonpartisan civic engagement and encouraging fans to make a plan to vote during midterm elections,” the league said.
On November 7, 2022, all 30 teams will play and promote voting with their fans. “The NBA is creating a culture of political participation, which extends not only to its athletes but to fans as well,” said Andrea Hailey, the CEO of Vote.org, which has partnered with the National Basketball Players Association on various initiatives in recent years. “Players, coaches, event staff and fans all deserve to have the time and space to make their voices heard at the ballot box. The league is setting an important precedent that I hope other businesses and leagues will follow.”
Featured Image: Women’s March for abortion rights, July 9, 2022 in Washington, D.C.Photo by Valerie Pickering