Friday, December 23, 2016

Banana (No Longer A) Republic

Gerrymandering election districts is a way of life in America, and Republicans have all but perfected the art, drawing districts so complex and convoluted that the courts have slapped them down in a number of states.

But the worst example by far is my home state of North Carolina, where from a statistical and mathematical modeling standpoint, Republicans have so completely rigged state general assembly and US House congressional districts that UNC-Chapel Hill poly sci professor Andrew Reynolds finds that the state technically no longer qualifies as a representative democracy.

In 2005, in the midst of a career of traveling around the world to help set up elections in some of the most challenging places on earth – Afghanistan, Burma, Egypt, Lebanon, South Africa, Sudan and Yemen, among others – my Danish colleague, Jorgen Elklit, and I designed the first comprehensive method for evaluating the quality of elections around the world. Our system measured 50 moving parts of an election process and covered everything from the legal framework to the polling day and counting of ballots. 
In 2012 Elklit and I worked with Pippa Norris of Harvard University, who used the system as the cornerstone of the Electoral Integrity Project. Since then the EIP has measured 213 elections in 153 countries and is widely agreed to be the most accurate method for evaluating how free and fair and democratic elections are across time and place. 
When we evolved the project I could never imagine that as we enter 2017, my state, North Carolina, would perform so badly on this, and other, measures that we are no longer considered to be a fully functioning democracy. 
In the just released EIP report, 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. If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly free democracy that is only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world. 
Indeed, North Carolina does so poorly on the measures of legal framework and voter registration, that on those indicators we rank alongside Iran and Venezuela. 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
That North Carolina can no longer call its elections democratic is shocking enough, but our democratic decline goes beyond what happens at election time. The most respected measures of democracy — Freedom House, POLITY and the Varieties of Democracy project — all assess the degree to which the exercise of power depends on the will of the people: That is, governance is not arbitrary, it follows established rules and is based on popular legitimacy. 
The extent to which North Carolina now breaches these principles means our state government can no longer be classified as a full democracy.
That utter lack of integrity of the 2016 elections in the state are a large part of the reason why a federal judge is now forcing the state to redraw everything ahead of the 2018 elections.  But getting that fixed will require a Department of Justice that's actually intrested in fixing the problem, and there's precisely zero indication that the Trump administration will do anything in that regard under probable AG Jeff Sessions.

In fact, there's every indication that Republicans will try to do to the rest of the country what they've already done to NC, and very little reason to believe that they won't succeed in an impressive fashion.
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