Welcome to the new Forwardist Weekly. We are excited to roll out a new format this week that will provide more context to the articles we choose and discuss how they are relevant and important to the Forward Party’s objectives. Also, keep your eye out for some interactive features, and in upcoming editions, to help us learn more about you and what you're thinking.
Signs of Change
The Republican National Committee voted unanimously to withdraw from the Commission on Presidential Debates. RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel cites two major issues with the CPD—first, that the Commission has refused to guarantee that debates will take place before voting begins; and second, that the Commission won’t promise that moderators will not include any individuals who have worked for candidates on the debate stage.
The RNC has stated that all Republican presidential candidates must sign a pledge to appear only in those primary and general election debates sanctioned by the committee.
The Commission says they were willing to make some changes, but Commission co-chairman Frank Fahrenkopf told The Washington Post that the RNC had “wanted to control things we aren’t prepared to let them control.”
Protecting unbiased debates should be important to all Americans. But the very nature of the modern presidential debates has been inherently biased in that they've excluded most third party candidates.
We want to know what you think. Are presidential debates fair to all candidates?
We are happy to see nonpartisan primaries gaining traction. Across the country, tens of millions of voters are currently excluded from primaries where, often, the general election result is predetermined because of gerrymandering. In Oregon alone, more than 1.2 million voters—41% of the electorate—are excluded from partisan primaries for governor, Congress, and the state legislature.
Another 1.3 million Pennsylvanians are also excluded from the state’s partisan primaries. Nearly 15% of voters in the state are registered with a third party or unaffiliated, leading some reform groups to ask if Pennsylvania’s primaries should be open to all registered voters. The answer is YES! All primaries should be open to all voters—political gatekeeping is a detriment to our democracy.
In Nevada, we’re very excited to see the progress of a ballot initiative that would open primaries and implement ranked-choice voting. Nevada Voters First (NVF), one of the leading organizations for the ballot measure, reported massive donations in the first three months of 2022, and reports that it has nearly 65% of the signatures needed to get the initiative on the ballot this November.
Including independent voters should be a norm in a representative democracy like the USA, but that’s not the only reason Americans should want to adopt this policy. Nonpartisan primaries also reduce the risk that hyper partisans get elected and divide America, ignoring the real problems we face. Excluding voters who don’t affiliate with either of the two major parties is one way they “empower the most extreme voters and leave the vast middle unrepresented, feeling that in general elections they must choose the lesser of two evils.”
Gerrymandering cases are landing in the Supreme Court at a rapid pace. In February, the Supreme Court restored an Alabama congressional map that had been thrown out by a lower court. Then, in March, it threw out Wisconsin maps drawn by the governor of that state and adopted by Wisconsin courts. Next, the Court will respond to a petition to overturn North Carolina’s court-imposed map.
So far, the cases heard by the Supreme Court centered on what constitutes fair maps. The case brought by North Carolina would have the court rule on the legitimacy of lower court interference in map creation.
North Carolina State Senator and Speaker of the General Assembly Tim Moore says that the Supreme Court must resolve this issue due to the inconsistencies seen in state court rulings across the country in redistricting challenges.
Meanwhile, Florida’s Republican legislature has turned over control of the redistricting process to Gov. DeSantis. Some anonymous Republican state legislators are concerned that the Governor’s maps are likely to end up in court for being too partisan.
To combat partisan gerrymandering, some states are looking to independent redistricting commissions. The next section dives into these commissions in detail.
With a variety of independent redistricting commissions (IRCs) being launched across the nation, but there are some growing pains highlight bad and good ways to create such commissions.
In New York, the League of Women Voters argued that the state’s maps drawn by an independent redistricting commission and currently under review by a state appellate court “must now be drawn by the Court, not by the Legislature” which runs counter to the entire purpose of the redistricting commission. The amendment establishing the commission—passed by the voters in 2014 to protect against partisan gerrymandering—states that the legislature has authority if the commission fails. This highlights how important it is to design the commissions properly.
New York’s IRC was practically designed to fail since it was packed with five Republicans and five Democrats who, not surprisingly, couldn’t agree on the maps. The clause in the amendment that gives final say on the maps over to the state’s partisan legislature means that the predictable stalemate ends up putting the maps back where they started, defeating the purpose of the commission.
There were growing pains in Ohio, too, where the IRC was effective in producing maps that passed the legislature, but a challenge in the state's Supreme Court resulted in their being rejected.
Michigan, on the other hand, implemented a citizens redistricting commission that turned heads for its fairness by nonpartisan standards. The only glitch was when a group of partisan politicians challenged not the maps, but the commission itself—claiming that the commission violated the constitution. The court refused to invalidate the maps, stating that the maps “came the closest to perfect compliance with the Supreme Court’s ‘one-person, one-vote’ rule.”
Keeping the maps out of partisan hands is tricky, but with smart design like in Michigan, an independent commission can be successful.
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See you next week!
The Forward Party Team
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