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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Reopening a front on the War on Voting

Dave Weigel reports that “Georgia’s legislature, now run by a Republican supermajority, has inched ahead on a resolution endorsing the repeal of the 17th Amendment. Honestly, I thought that fad died out sometime in 2011, but it’s easy to forget that the 2012 election firmed up Republican control in red states, and that ideas like this have empowered sponsors.”

The 17th Amendment allows the direct election of senators, who were previously chosen by legislatures and sent to Washington. The amendment was part of a far-ranging election reform movement that, along with party primaries, sought to reign in government corruption and cronyism caused by senators and candidates being chosen behind closed doors in the infamous “smoke-filled rooms.”

So why would you want to do away with that? Simple. “If state legislatures were re-empowered to pick senators, there’d be no nettlesome Democrats from North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Alaska, Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, or Michigan,” Weigel explains. “The only states with Republican senators who wouldn’t be there under the legislative-election system are New Hampshire and Maine.”

See, the issue here is gerrymandering. Republicans can rig state legislative and federal house elections by drawing electoral maps that screw Democrats. What they can’t rig are Senate elections. Those are statewide offices, so there are no district maps to redraw. But if gerrymandered legislators elect senators, you wind up with what amounts to gerrymandered senators. You also wind up with the corruption and the cronyism and the smoke-filled rooms.

Of course, this means that Republicans want to shrink democracy quite a bit. The loss of a vote is an erosion of freedom. ” I still find it rather remarkable that those who celebrate ‘freedom’ the loudest also hope to transfer power away from the American electorate when it comes to electing members of the Senate,” comments Steve Benen.

The enemies of democracy are the enemies of freedom. Republicans can take those stupid little flag pins off their lapels, because their pretense of patriotism is a damned lie.

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