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  • March 11, 2022 6:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ClassACT HR73 invites you to an in depth conversation about the Russian war against Ukraine on Wednesday, March 16 from 7:30 to 8:45 PM ET. Noted historian and former Washington Bureau Chief for Newsweek Evan Thomas '73 will lead a discussion with Nobel Prize winning economist Roger Myerson '73 and international security expert and retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian '73.

    Drawing on their knowledge of Ukraine’s past tragedies and its immediate crisis, these panelists will analyze the current state of the war from military, political and economic perspectives. Questions they are likely to consider include: what were Vladimir Putin and his Russian Army’s objectives when they invaded this sovereign democratic nation? Why has the Russian Army performed so badly in the early stages of this war? Will Ukraine’s army and its citizens continue to resist despite the gap in air power and other resources? What are the prospects for peace and the dangers of a protracted war? What will the economic consequences of this war and unprecedented Western sanctions be for Russia, Europe, the United States and the rest of the world? The plight of the millions of Ukrainian refugees who have fled the bombing of their homes, schools and hospitals lies at the heart of concerns about the war’s impact, a humanitarian crisis the panelist are certain to address.

    After a 40 minute conversation these experts will open the floor to questions from the audience.

    This Zoom conversation is open to everyone. Please share this invitation with anyone you know who is deeply concerned about the fate of the Ukrainian people and global stability.

    Register here!

  • March 11, 2022 5:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We provided an extensive update on Gerrymandering and Voter Suppression in the February ClassACT Newsletter through a video interview conducted by Rick Brotman '73 and Jacki Swearingen '73. Here are recent developments.

    As of the last week in February, 42 states had adopted their districting plans for the 2022 House race, although more than a dozen plans are facing challenges in court. With the 2022 state primaries close at hand, politicians have been scurrying to redraw voting districts to take into account the 2020 census numbers. They are focusing on the creation of new districts in areas with a growing population and the elimination of districts in areas where the number of voters has been shrinking. This has led to much creative use of the new tools that enable precise gerrymandering, down to the precinct level. 

    Not surprisingly, the overall trend has been that in states where the legislature carries out the redistricting (the case in most states), the gerrymandering has benefited the dominant political party. Since Republicans control more legislatures, you would expect that the net gains overall to be greater for the G.O.P.  than for Democrats. But in fact, the Democrats have been able to tilt things their way very effectively in the states where they call the shots, such as Illinois and New York. For their part, Republicans have used their redistricting power mostly to make existing Republican-controlled districts even more one-sided, to protect incumbents and keep those districts Republican-controlled well into the future, rather than trying to flip as many districts as possible in their favor right now.

    In New York, an advisory commission whose members were split 50/50 between the two parties deadlocked and failed to propose a unified redistricting plan. Instead, each side presented its own plan, one drawn to the Democrats’ advantage and the other to the Republicans’. The legislature, which is Democratic-controlled, ignored the two plans and drew up its own, which shifted three seats toward Democrats. Furthermore, the legislature did this in a rush, refusing to hold any public hearings to get input on the proposed maps.

    Pennsylvania is a 50-50 battleground state that, because of effective Republican gerrymandering after the 2010 census, has a decidedly Republican-leaning legislature. The legislature created a redistricting plan very favorable to Republicans and sent it to the governor for approval. When the governor, a Democrat, refused to approve the plan, the dispute went to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The court delegated the redistricting task to an independent expert from Stanford University. The expert created a much more equitable plan, which the state will use in the 2022 elections.

    We anticipated in our ClassACT HR73 Gerrymandering Primer that a lot of gerrymandering would take place in 2022 because of faster, cheaper tools available and less time for scrutiny, given COVID-related delays in releasing the 2020 census data. What is remarkable, however, is that now so much gerrymandering takes place in the open, blatantly. In the past politicians tried to keep the proceedings hidden from public scrutiny, behind closed doors.

    Each party seems proud of its prowess in gerrymandering and all but flaunts partisan map-drawing as a valuable tool for advancing its interests. Here is what is equally surprising: how much traction the analytics for detecting gerrymandering have been gaining. The Stanford expert who redrew the Pennsylvania voting districts proved to the court, based on his quantitative techniques and analysis of voter data, that his redistricting plan was fair and balanced.

    Furthermore, the State Supreme Court of Ohio has used such analytics to throw out the extremely gerrymandered plans created by the Republican-dominated legislature. North Carolina’s Supreme Court also rejected a voting map because of racial bias, basing its ruling on the results of analytical techniques similar to those we discussed in the Primer.

    There is another encouraging trend, despite the overall trend toward more abuse of gerrymandering tactics. The independent-commission model seems to be gaining some momentum. The model has produced fair maps in California since 2011. Colorado and Michigan implemented independent commissions last year, and they appear to be working well. Under this approach, which we favor, politicians do not appoint the members; the commissioners are balanced among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; and the commission, not the legislature, has the power to draw up the voting maps.

    As we enter the primaries, and then the general elections, we will see what kind of effect these changes, both negative and positive, will have on voting results. Stay tuned.

     -Jim Harbison & Ryan O'Connell


  • February 14, 2022 2:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    UPDATE ON GERRYMANDERING

    Video by Rick Brotman '73

    Last June, ClassACT HR73 presented an eye-opening forum on gerrymandering featuring our classmates Ryan O’Connell and Jim Harbison. Here is an 18-minute video update, shot by Rick Brotman ‘73, in which, interviewed by Jacki Swearingen ‘73, Jim and Ryan provide timely analysis on the current state of gerrymandering in the nation. Click the image of the video and you can watch it on our youtube page!

    If you missed the original forum, click on this link to view it.

    Also, here is the link to the Primer on Gerrymandering.

  • February 14, 2022 2:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    CLASSACT FORUMS RETURN AGAIN THIS SPRING!

    ClassACT Forums have been on a winter break, but we are gearing up to return this spring with a forum on LGBTQ youth: the many challenges they face, the policies that affect their lives, and the impact on their mental health, development and well-being. This forum is presented in conjunction with ClassACT partner JusticeAid. This year JusticeAid has chosen SMYAL as their beneficiary, and we are pleased to announce that an activist from SMYAL will be a member of our panel. Dr. Harold Cottman ‘73, a psychiatrist who has served members of the LGBTQ community and others who have been marginalized, will also be on the panel. The date, our moderator and other panelists are still in development. Later in the year we plan to present forums on health, voting rights and our changing climate.

    Graphic by Pamela Garlick

    Classmates engaged in planning the first forum are: Steve Milliken, Founder of JusticeAid, Therese Steiner, ClassACT HR73 and JusticeAid board member, Donna Brorby, Rick Brotman, Harold Cottman, Marion Dry, Sara Greenberg, Andrea Kirsh, Nancy Saarman, Lindsey Straus, Jacki Swearingen, and Sarah Ulerick.

    We hope you will join us for all of our 2022 forums. Stay tuned!


    JUSTICEAID FOCUSES ON LGBTQ CIVIL RIGHTS

    For 2022, JusticeAid will focus on LGBTQ civil rights, specifically the challenges faced by queer and trans youth who are often marginalized, criminalized, and dehumanized. JusticeAid’s 2022 grantee-partner, Washington, D.C.-based SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders), creates opportunities for LGBTQ youth to build self-confidence, develop critical life skills, and engage their peers and community through service and advocacy. SMYAL’s work includes mental-health counseling; after-school programming; teaching leadership, advocacy, and training skills; and providing housing for homeless youth (40% of homeless youth across the nation self-identify as queer.) Click here to learn more.

    Photo from smyal.org

    SAVE THE DATES: MAY 15TH & 16TH IN NYC

    MAY 15TH: JUSTICEAID/ RIVERSIDE CHURCH PUBLIC FORUM

    For the fourth year in a row, JusticeAid is partnering with The Riverside Church in New York City to host a free program that spotlights JusticeAid’s annual issue. This year’s in-person Forum will center on the societal and legal challenges faced by LGBTQ youth, with music and other arts elements.

    MAY 16TH: JUSTICEAID CONCERT AT CITY WINERY CELEBRATING THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF BESSIE SMITH

    Not to be missed! Join classmates Steve Milliken, JusticeAid Co-Founder & CEO, and Therese Steiner, ClassACT HR73 and JusticeAid Board member, and lovers of justice, jazz and the blues, for an incredible night of music honoring “the Empress of the Blues,” Bessie Smith. The concert at the new home of City Winery in New York City will raise vital funds to support the work of SMYAL.

    FEATURING LGBTQ ART & ARTISTS

    Each month, JusticeAid is featuring films, artists and musicians that illuminate the LGBTQ experience, in the hopes that these works will spark conversation between friends, colleagues and family members, and deepen our understanding of queerness. Check it out

  • February 11, 2022 5:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Since we last heard from him in August, David Weeks ‘73 reports that progress has been made on his projects with the Maasai community in the district of Narok, about a three-hour drive southwest of Nairobi, Kenya. He and his partner and former student, Kikanae Punyua, have constructed a medical dispensary, the Osiligi (Hope) Medical Dispensary, for emergency care and to support the childbirth needs of women. In addition, they have almost completed the construction of a facility that will house a pharmacy, dentist’s office, vision center and lab for the making of traditional Maasai medicine to complement western medicine. They have received a $5,000 grant from the Fund for the Future of Our Children Foundation in Washington, D.C., but still need an additional $20,000 to complete construction. Following the construction, a wish list of equipment needs will be developed.

    As part of his overall vision for the community, David is now in the process of working with an architect on a design for a small hospital ward to provide a residential facility for staff and patients. He has already established a MOU with the Narok Health Department which has staffed and made the Osiligi (Hope) Medical Dispensary operational. The Narok Health Department is expected to also support the pharmacy/dental/vision center and the hospital ward, once completed.

    When the three medical facilities are complete, David hopes to see a community center constructed to support traditional Maasai song and dance school competitions and presentations to tourists, to house artifacts from their proud past and to provide a display and marketing room for the beaded handicrafts of the women. He is involved with the Fair Trade Movement and has been supporting the Osiligi Women’s Craft Cooperative and selling their beaded jewelry in Maryland.

    Please see David’s GoFundMe site for further information about projects and the history of his association with this Maasai community in Kenya.

    In addition to his work in Kenya, David is involved with the establishment of the Salih Self Development Center in Ghana. Along with another former student, Ibrahim (Anyars) Salih, David has developed a 501(c)3 to help support the Center to address the needs of the community in Kumasi. A sewing vocational training program and a computer design program have been developed to provide valuable skills to the youth in the Aboabo township. Ibrahim has also been consulting with Kumasi government officials who have wanted to provide more vocational training in the industrial arts: plumbing, electrical, carpentry, automotive and computer. Since the programs take place on rented property, David and his team have wanted to establish a centralized Salih Self Development Center. Land has been purchased on the outskirts of Kumasi, a well has been dug and plans have been drawn for the construction of the center. The design for the facility will be large enough to provide the support being sought by the Kumasi government. David also hopes to establish a MOU with the Kumasi government to assist in staffing this facility upon completion. It is estimated to cost $500,000.

    Essential to the work of David’s projects in Kenya and Ghana are his former students. In Kenya, former student Kikanae Punyua graduated from the University of Maryland with an economics degree and is presently studying for his MBA at a university in Nairobi while working at a hotel in Narok. He lives in Narok with his wife and two daughters. In Ghana, Ibrahim (Anyars) Salih graduated from Hood College with a business degree and is presently working with a company in San Diego and living there with his wife and daughter.

    Please check out both websites to gain a better appreciation of what David and his former students have been doing:

  • February 11, 2022 5:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It is with great joy that ClassACT HR73 welcomes Ron Dieckmann, Dan Hoffheimer, and Henrietta Wigglesworth Lodge to the board. Each of them brings with them great skills, wonderful vision, and inspiring enthusiasm. As ClassACT has grown, so has our need for strong leadership and innovation. We look forward to discovering the contributions that each of these wonderful classmates will make to our work. Please join us in a toast to Henrietta, Dan and Ron, and take a look at their bios on our leadership page!

  • February 11, 2022 5:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    *click the image below to view the video on our youtube page

    Video by Rick Brotman '73, featuring Dr. Richard Wohns '73 and Jacki Swearingen '73

    A climbing expedition to Mt. Everest and treks through Nepal in the 1970s and 1980s led Dr. Richard Wohns ’73 to found the Nepal Spine Foundation in 2013 as a way to give back to the people there and to bring cutting edge neurosurgical techniques to a country often lacking in the latest medical resources. Today Dr. Wohns, a Seattle resident, and a team of fellow surgeons and nurses travel annually to Kathmandu to help perform spine surgery on patients at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) who suffer from debilitating and excruciating injuries and diseases including tuberculosis. In the months between those visits, Dr. Wohns and the foundation’s neurosurgeons meet monthly via Zoom with the faculty members and residents of TUTH to discuss surgical cases.

    “I love the country, and I love the people,” said Dr. Wohns, who began trekking through the majestic Kathmandu Valley and climbing peaks such as K2 back when only a small number of climbers ventured up the world’s tallest mountains. Yet the splendor of the Himalayas has not blinded him to the country’s health-care crisis, especially in rural villages. With its population of 30 million, Nepal has only 100 neurosurgeons. “The implication is that people are waiting for care or never getting it,” Dr. Wohns added.

    Arriving each year with donated spinal instruments, equipment and implants, Dr. Wohns and his team offer Nepalis who otherwise could not afford the devices and surgery a chance at a new life. Among the Foundation’s success stories is that of one young man, a laborer, who fell from a tree and broke his neck. Despite the collar prescribed by the local doctor, his pain worsened and some extremities grew numb. The young man walked nine days to the teaching hospital in Kathmandu where Dr. Wohns’ team was working. The donated screws, plates and expertise the team brought allowed the young man to receive the care he could otherwise not afford. “He did fine. He went back to the village and he could do work,” Dr. Wohns recalled.

    Dr. Wohns estimates that Nepal needs at least 200 more neurosurgeons to provide the level of care that its population requires. Consequently, another key mission of the Nepal Spine Foundation is training faculty and residents in the latest techniques they normally would have difficulty learning without traveling outside Nepal. When the pandemic hit, Dr. Wohns and his team started monthly online meetings in which they lecture, help to read MRI’s and guide residents learning to present complicated cases.

    “It’s always fun. It’s always interesting. It’s always educational,” said Dr. Wohns of collaborating virtually with his Nepali colleagues, including Dr. Sushil Shilpakar and Dr. Mohan Sharma, the first neurosurgeons trained at TUTH in the 1990s. Both physicians are now members of the Nepal Spine Institute’s Board of Directors. “We’ve got a growing audience with more people coming in from the Kathmandu community of neurosurgeons, not just those at TUTH.”

    In November Dr. Wohns and the foundation team plan to return to Kathmandu for Spine Week, during which they hope to deliver 20 lectures and perform“a significant number of new spinal procedures,” he said. “I would love to have some of my 1973 classmates who are neurosurgeons join me,” he added, extending the invitations to others who are neurologists, physicians assistants, operating nurses, and pain specialists as well those skilled in online medical education. “People who have come with me have gotten the bug and have gotten to make really good friends there.”

    Classmates and others who are not in health care can lend their support by donating to the Nepal Spine Foundation or joining in fundraising events such as the 2022 Trek to Everest Base Camp. Scheduled for November 11 to December 1 (with the option of helicoptering out of base camp earlier), the trek includes a significant donation to Tribhuvan hospital to promote neurosurgery as well as a final day spent observing the remarkable work of the hospital’s staff.

    “The neurosurgeons at TUTH are tremendously skilled. We want to help them obtain all the tools needed to provide state-of-the-art care,” Dr. Wohns said.

  • December 10, 2021 2:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Back in January, ClassACT produced the Zoom Forum, “When the Stage Goes Dark: Performing Arts in Covid Time.” The arts not only give us joy, but also help us understand the world we live in. The work explored here is by Linda Bond, an artist whose work explores some of the hard stuff in American history. Linda is married to our classmate Rick Brotman, an artist and a central member of the ClassACT team, and, as you will see, Rick collaborated with Linda on some of this work. Our classmate Andrea Kirsh, art critic and historian, explores Linda’s work in the commentary below and in her review of Linda's current exhibition at Drexel University. Rick has created a beautiful accompanying video of that exhibition - please take a look below.

     

    Andrea Kirsh writes:

    I knew Rick Brotman from our mutual work for ClassACT HR73, but we only met at the 2019 symposium at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs that ClassACT HR73 organized in connection with its Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program. Rick, a professional videographer, was covering the event. There I also met Rick’s wife, Linda Bond, and discovered she was an artist whose work addressed U.S. activities and policies in the Middle East and a variety of social justice themes. She has worked on several projects involving video and the web in collaboration with Rick, one with women in Afghanistan.

    My own interests in art are broad, but I have a strong interest in artists who address current social and political topics with work that is largely outside of the art market. Such work is rarely covered by commercial art publications which depend on advertising, so to show and circulate their work artists must find small, not-for profit and artist-run spaces, public libraries with exhibition programs, sympathetic community organizations, university galleries and museums which are not beholden to board members, and non-profit publications .

    Since 2006 I’ve been writing criticism for Artblog, a Philadelphia-based web publication committed to covering the breadth of art produced in Philadelphia and elsewhere, with no consideration for its marketability. It covers work exhibited in coffee shops, in artists’ homes which function as occasional galleries, in artist-run spaces, in public or commercial spaces lent to artists for special projects and in the various circumstances which enterprising artists find to exhibit their work to the public, as well as the more conventional galleries, art centers and museums. There is a lot of art being produced that deserves attention. I consider it my service to the field to broaden the range of artwork that receives critical attention as well as to bring some art historical perspective to work being shown, since few art writers have studied art history nor have most artists, even those who teach.

    I was excited to learn that Linda had two upcoming projects in Philadelphia: a large survey of twenty years of her work at the gallery at Drexel University, a showing which I reviewed for Artblog, and an installation at Eastern State Penitentiary, a historic site that addresses the history of criminal justice reform and current questions of equity in the criminal justice system.

    Eastern State has commissioned artists to produce work for its grounds since 1995, selecting those whose proposals address the organization’s themes. Linda sited her piece, Deadly Weapons, in one of the small penitentiary cells whose walls had remnants of peeling plaster and paint. At first glance the cell had been brightened with reflective silver flooring and both the spare cot in its center and the wall behind were covered with textiles in the bright colors of Mexican festival decorations. Bond used beauty as a seduction to tell viewers the story of immigrants from South and Central America detained at the U.S. Southern border who are taken into custody and have their shoelaces removed so they cannot run away and the laces can’t be used as “deadly weapons.” Placed in detention with only Mylar blankets for warmth, they are released into Mexico to await hearings and their shoelaces are not returned. As a result, they sometimes make new shoelaces out of strips of the Mylar which Bond had woven with shoelaces to make her cover for the cot. She had used more shoelaces as a makeshift curtain at the back wall. That wrenching twist, when the seduction of her materials and technique is confronted with the grimness of her subject, is characteristic of Bond’s method. Like all the best art of a political nature, hers raises questions but doesn’t provide answers. And like the best political artworks, her questions are impossible to ignore.

    Linda’s work at Drexel will be showing through February 20th, 2022, and her installation at Eastern State Penitentiary will be open through the spring. 

    Rick has also produced the following video about the 20- year retrospective at Drexel.

    Link to video: Errors and Omissions - Linda Bond 

  • December 10, 2021 2:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    ClassACT is dedicated to “achieving change together.” While our efforts often focus on national and global changes, the connections made through ClassACT create ripple effects that result in positive change for individual lives. We are delighted to share another such example. Our classmate Jeremy Bluhm lives in Sydney, Australia and has attended some of ClassACT HR73’s virtual events. When the tailor on Jeremy’s street, Reza Nikan, asked for help, Jeremy thought of ClassACT. Reza, who is “a wonderful Hazara man who has lived in Australia for about 15 years,” asked for help for his aunt, Hanifa (52), and cousin, Sabera (24). In October, Hanifa and Sabera were able to escape from Afghanistan to Islamabad, Pakistan, with a goal of resettlement in the US, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. Reza reported that they landed in a foreign country as unaccompanied women and felt very vulnerable and afraid.

    Upon Jeremy’s request for assistance, we reached out to two of our former Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program fellows, Natasha Jehangir Khan and Nadia Rehman, and one BBLP Associate (and Natasha’s husband), Muhammad Ali, who all live in Islamabad. The three immediately responded and have begun connecting with the women. Natasha and Ali are contacting the Afghan Representative in Islamabad to find out how the women can be helped. In addition, Natasha is helping Sabera, a fledgling dressmaker, connect with vocational training to improve her skills. Nadia is in the process of reaching out to Hanifa and Sabera to offer her assistance as well. Jeremy has been told to reassure Reza that they are living in a “fairly safe” neighborhood and that there are other Afghans living in the area. We are following these ongoing efforts and will provide updates in future communications.

  • December 08, 2021 6:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The News on Gerrymandering is Grim 

    The redistricting process is in full swing, and unfortunately, some politicians in both major parties are grossly abusing their power to redraw election district maps. As we highlighted in our primer on gerrymandering, Gerrymandering: Our Democracy At Risk, these trends are growing more extreme. That is partly because the United States Supreme Court has either eliminated or gravely weakened provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that previously helped to prevent egregiously gerrymandered maps in many states.   

    Now, more than ever, it is critical that the Senate pass The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. These measures would provide Federal standards to protect key voting rights, in Congressional races, from attacks by state officials and lawmakers.  We urge you to contact your Senators and ask them to support these two crucial proposals. 

    Independent Commissions Work…

    Certain politicians from both major parties are trying to stack the deck in their favor in several states where their party dominates the legislature. In some instances, they are ignoring, or undermining, advisory commissions that were recently created in efforts to reform the map-drawing process. These developments have reinforced our view that independent commissions are the best way to ensure that maps are drawn fairly.  

    Truly independent commissions can succeed because, unlike advisory commissions, they have the power to draw and implement electoral maps—not just recommend them. Even in the best models, such as California’s, politicians don’t appoint the commissioners, who are subject to strong conflict-of-interest rules. Furthermore, the commissioners are evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and independents. This structure forces Democrats and Republicans to compromise on the maps, so they can get the independent commissioners to approve them. 

    With such safeguards in place, no single party can dictate the maps. Still, we should monitor independent commissions’ deliberations to make sure they produce non-partisan outcomes. 

    But Advisory Commissions Hit Roadblocks in New York

    The problems with two recent reform efforts demonstrate the flaws of advisory commissions and the advantages of independent commissions.  

    In New York, Democrats hold super-majorities in both the state assembly and the state senate. Voters approved the creation of an advisory commission to draw up maps in this redistricting cycle. However, the commission can only make recommendations, and the legislature retains the ultimate power on redistricting decisions. Democrats have essentially ignored the maps proposed by the commission. 

    There were two other major flaws in the structure:

    ·   politicians chose the commissioners

    ·   the commissioners were evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans

    Predictably, the commission deadlocked, so its members issued two sets of maps: one drawn by Republican appointees and another drawn by Democratic members. Both were dead on arrival.

    And Deadlocked in Virginia

    We had been more optimistic about the possible outcome for Virginia’s new advisory commission, but that reform effort has also run into trouble. As in New York’s structure, politicians appoint the commissioners, who are split 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats. They were supposed to deliver maps to the state legislature, which can accept or reject them. But the commissioners could not agree on the maps. 

    However, Virginia has a fallback provision that may lead to a less partisan result than New York’s. Since the commissioners did not issue maps (and the legislature did not accept any), the Virginia State Supreme Court is now empowered to redraw the electoral districts. Judges on that court are not elected, and the Court has a history of acting impartially. The court will hire a special master, a non-partisan professional, to create the maps. 

    By contrast, the newly-established independent commissions in Colorado and Michigan seem to be off to a good start. Arizona also has a fairly independent commission, although its safeguards are not as robust as California’s. 

    Both Sides are Gaming the Rules but…

    Democratic lawmakers in Maryland and Illinois, as well as those in New York, are engaged in gerrymandering in this cycle. However, most extreme gerrymandering attempts are being carried out in states dominated by Republican legislatures. That is because Republicans control more state houses than Democrats do and because they are trying to preserve their electoral advantage in battleground states where they are facing adverse demographic shifts. 

    As Nick Corosaniti of the New York Times has observed (GOP Cements Hold On Legislatures in Battleground States),  

    “In Texas, North Carolina, Ohio and Georgia, Republican state lawmakers have either created supermajorities capable of overturning a governor’s veto or whittled down competitive districts so significantly that Republicans’ advantage is virtually impenetrable—leaving voters in narrowly divided states powerless to change the leadership of their legislatures.” (Nov. 25, 2021). 

    These are all key battleground states. North Carolina and Georgia voters are fairly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, and Texas is getting close, but extreme gerrymanders have enabled Republicans to dominate those legislatures. Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin and Michigan, two other hotly contested jurisdictions, have also gerrymandered districts heavily, although the new independent commission in Michigan offers hope for a fairer outcome in this cycle. 

    The Senate Must Pass Voting Rights Acts NOW

    After the Democrats failed last summer to pass the sweeping For the People Act, they introduced a scaled-down bill, the Freedom to Vote Act. This bill contained many of the FTPA’s key measures, but it dropped the requirement for states to establish independent commissions to conduct Federal (not state) elections, and it included other concessions. 

    The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, is also before the Senate. 

    This bill would:

    ·   restore federal oversight of states practices to ensure that states do not pass laws that discriminate against voters based on race or political background

    ·   require greater transparency in changes to voting laws and practices

    ·   restore voters’ ability to challenge discriminatory voting practices in court

    These two pieces of legislation present the best way to protect voting rights from abuse by state officials and lawmakers. If enacted, these proposals would make it easier to sue jurisdictions for extreme gerrymandering and help to prevent racial gerrymandering and purging voters from rolls. 

    Time to Create an Exception to the Filibuster

    Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has promised to bring the bills for a vote in the Senate before year-end, and we hope he means it, because time is running short. The 2022 election cycle will soon begin in earnest. 

    At this point, it is clear that no Republican Senator will support either of these measures. Instead, Republicans will filibuster the two bills, arguing that they infringe upon “states’ rights” …while ignoring the abuses the two proposals would stop.  

    We urge you to contact your senators and let them know how important passage of these two bills is for ensuring that our elections remain fair. And if they are Democrats, ask them to carve out an exemption to the filibuster for proposals, like these two measures, that would protect fundamental rights such as voting. 

    Ryan O’Connell ‘73

    Jim Harbison ‘73

ClassACT HR ‘73
Classacthr73@gmail.com

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