Behind the Right's War on Southern Voters | The Nation

Behind the Right's War on Southern Voters

  • A redistricting hearing in Virginia (1 of 9)

    In virtually every state in the South, at the Congressional and state level, Republicans—to protect and expand the electoral gains they made in 2010—have increased the number of minority voters in majority-minority districts represented overwhelmingly by black Democrats while diluting the minority vote in swing or crossover districts held by white Democrats.


    In How the GOP Is Resegregating the South, Ari Berman explains how the GOP is cynically using race to their own partisan advantage, enshrining a system of racially polarized voting that will make it harder for Democrats to win races on local, state, federal and presidential levels. Here are the main movers and shakers behind the redistricting push and how they’ve made their mark on the racial politics of the South.



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  • Clarence Thomas (2 of 9)

    One of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s major contributions to the battle against democracy has been his advocacy to do away with Section 5 of 1965’s Voting Rights Act. In a 2009 dissenting opinion, Thomas argued that the section—which requires states covered by the act receive pre-clearance from the Justice Department or a three-judge District Court in Washington for any election law changes that affect minority voters—is a band-aid in search of a wound, because intentional discrimination in voting “no longer exists.”


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  • Ben Ginsberg (3 of 9)

    In the 1980s and ’90s, when white Democrats ruled Statehouses throughout the South, Republicans supported new majority-minority districts for black Democrats in select urban and rural areas in exchange for an increased GOP presence elsewhere, especially in fast-growing metropolitan suburbs. With Democrats grouped in fewer areas, Republicans found it easier to target white Democrats for extinction. Ben Ginsberg, a prominent GOP election lawyer who was instrumental in making this redistricting shift a reality, memorably termed the strategy “Project Ratfuck.”


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  • Republican State Leadership Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (4 of 9)

    In recent years, GOP operatives have stepped up their aggressive redrawing of election boundaries In 2012, the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) unveiled the Redistricting Majority Project (REDMAP) to target Statehouse races and put Republicans in charge of redistricting efforts following the election. The group, which as a tax-exempt 527 could accept unlimited corporate donations, became the self-described “lead Republican Redistricting organization,” taking over many of the functions of the RNC.


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  • Chamber of Commerce (5 of 9)

    The RSLC attracted six- and seven-figure donations from a wide variety of corporations and interest groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce, which donated nearly four million dollars in 2010.


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  • Art Pope (6 of 9)

    One of the RSLC’s largest funders in the key redistricting state of North Carolina was Art Pope, a furniture magnate who has bankrolled much of the state’s conservative movement. Pope’s variety wholesalers gave $36,500 to the RSLC in July 2010. The RSLC then gave $1.25 million to a group called Real Jobs N.C. to run attack ads against Democrats. In total, Pope and Pope-supported entities spent $2.2 million on twenty-two state legislative races, winning eighteen.


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  • American Crossroads (7 of 9)

    Karl Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC also gave generously to the RSLC, and funding from groups like Crossroads allowed the RSLC to spend $30 million on state races in 2010.


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  • ALEC (8 of 9)

    Not content with just redistricting, the American Legislative Exchange Council has been active in voter suppression on other fronts as well, particularly by pushing for restrictive voter ID laws in states across the country.


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  • Greg Abbott (9 of 9)

    Down in Texas, the state’s Attorney General Greg Abbott has been a key defender of Texas’s new redistricting maps, which just happen to benefit his Republican allies. He’s also been pushing hard to implement Texas’s controversial new voter ID laws, despite a pending Justice Department investigation into whether these laws would disproportionately disenfranchise minority voters.


    For more on conservative efforts to redistrict Democrats out of the South, read Ari Berman’s article in this week’s issue, How the GOP Is Resegregating the South.


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