Saving democracy with fair representation and elections

The results of the 2020 Census Count depict a nation that is diverse and segregating itself based on geography and race. There can be little doubt that is impacting the toxic political divide we see in America.

The states located along the coast and in urban communities are seeing the largest population growth. Related to this expansion is the congregating of ethnic groups, with rural areas becoming whiter and more coastal and urban areas blacker and browner.

The largest Asian population is in California, New York and Texas with large numbers in New Jersey and Washington.

StatePopulation% Population
California6,085,94715.4%
New Jersey950,09010.2%
New York1,933,1279.6%
Washington730,5969.5%
Nevada272,7038.8%
Massachusetts507,9347.2%
Virginia615,4367.1%
Texas1,585,4805.4%
Georgia479,0284.5%
Arizona257,4303.6%
Colorado199,8273.5%
North Carolina343,0513.3%

The African-American population continues to migrate to the Southeast, with the states of Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia accounting for 72 percent of the total population. 

StatePopulation% Population
District of Columbia285,81041.4%
Louisiana1,464,02331.4%
Georgia3,320,51331%
Alabama1,296,16225.8%
South Carolina1,280,53125%
North Carolina2,140,21720.5%
Virginia1,607,58118.6%
Illinois1,808,21714.1%
Michigan1,376,57913.7%
Ohio1,478,78112.5%
Texas3,552,99712.2%

Hispanics, the fastest growing ethnic group, have moved beyond the border towns in California, New Mexico, and Texas to locations throughout the nation, with significant population growth in Georgia, North Carolina and Florida.  Keep in mind the Latinx growth is from Mexico, Cuba and other Central and South American countries.

State2020 Census% of Population
Puerto Rico3,249,04398.9%
New Mexico1,010,81147.7%
California15,579,65239.4%
Texas11,441,71739.3%
Arizona2,192,25330.7%
Nevada890,25728.7%
Florida5,697,24026.5%
New Jersey2,002,57521.6%
New York3,948,03219.5%
North Carolina1,118,59610.7%
Georgia1,123,45710.5%
South Carolina352,8386.9%

A comparison between the number of Democratic black and brown voters and the number of Republican black and brown voters makes it pretty easy to see why Republicans want to suppress their votes. Nonwhites make up forty percent of Democratic voters, but less than 20 percent of Republican voters.

Voter suppression laws and gerrymandering (a redistricting tactic used to set electoral district boundaries to favor the party in power) already impact representation to the point that the minority of voters rules the majority of voters in many counties and some states.

Both political parties have used redistricting strategy to their benefit.  However, technological sophistication has turned an always nefarious and undemocratic practice into one that facilitates authoritarian rule.  Equally ominous for democracy, voter suppression laws have been passed by at least 18 state legislatures including Georgia, Texas and Arizona.

A great number of Republicans claim along with the former President and his allies that the election was stolen.  They aim to influence future elections by suppressing the vote with myriad strategies that favor Republicans.  Major change is coming our way if they are successful. 

In North Carolina, voter suppression is alive and well with Senate Republicans passing Senate bills 326, 724 and 725 all designed to suppress or limit voting rights.  This includes limiting absentee ballots, requiring IDs to vote in person and prohibiting county board of elections from using donations to support local elections. North Carolina judges struck down the voter ID law writing that it  “was motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters.”

In Georgia SB 202 has limited the Secretary of State’s role on the Board of Elections, taking away monitoring and oversight of state and local elections.

What can be done to stop this onslaught on voting rights?  Obviously, it will not be done by members of the Republican party who support former President Trump’s big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.  This is about unabashed power and control over the nation for potentially decades. 

The most promising answer lies in the Freedom to Vote Act introduced in the Senate by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Joe Manchin and several of their colleagues after they spent the summer meeting with voters and election officials in states around the country to find out what they need from a federal level election overhaul.

According to Klobuchar’s office the legislation “…elevates the voices of American voters by ending partisan gerrymandering and helping to eliminate the undue influence of secret money in our elections.”

The bill would establish nationwide standards for ballot access and would mandate that states follow specific criteria when drawing new district lines to reduce partisan gerrymandering. And it requires the disclosure of donors to so-called “dark money” groups.

To become law, ten Republican senators will have to support the bill. We can only hope there are ten honorable Republicans in that august chamber who will abandon their party’s authoritarian impulse and vote to preserve the most fundamental right on which our nation was founded, the right of the people to choose those who will govern them.

With a country torn by partisan politics and growing more diverse by region every year, if we are to preserve our democracy, we need fair elections that include all eligible voters.  Our future weighs in the balance.

Virgil L. Smith formerly served as president and publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times and Vice President for Human Resources for the Gannett Company. He is the principal for the Smith Edwards Group and writes for Carolina Commentary.

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