It's been almost a month since the election, and I'm disappointed that the fact that over a third of state legislative races went without competition has not received more attention.
Elections are usually about choices: choices between platforms, choices between parties, choices between personalities. Yet voters don’t always have a choice when they go to the polls. In the 46 states in which there were elections in 2014, more than one-third of all legislative races were not contested in the general election—the highest of any election since 2000. This repeats the 2012 scenario in those 46 states, when 33 percent of all seats were uncontested. It is up significantly from the last midterms in those 46 states in 2010 when 27 percent of all seats were uncontested.
2014 Contested Races (By State)
The percentage of state legislative races left uncontested increased by 33% between 2010 and 2014, from 27% to 36%. It should come as not great surprise that the 2010 elections were conducted under the old maps, while the Tea Party drew many of the new state legislative maps. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
If you wanted to put together the perfect three step plan to destroy our democracy, you couldn't come up with much better than what's happening in the states right now. And we are hurdling to what seems to be comical conclusion, until you realize this is no joke.
Step 1: Gerry Rig Everything
Photo voter ID laws only go back to about a decade. Prior to the passage of the first photo voter id law in Arizona in 2004, American elections had successfully been conducted since the very birth of our nation without presenting a valid photo id. In fact the notion of requiring voters to present any sort of id only extends back to the 1950s, when the state of South Carolina began requiring ids in order to vote. I wonder what could possibly have motivated that move. As late as 2000, only 14 states required id in order to vote. As of 2014, this number has more than doubled.
As I noted, for the first 220 years of our history, we were able to get by just fine without demanding, "Papers Please!" when Americans go to vote. The irony of this whole scheme is that while credible studies have found in person voter fraud has a 3.1 in 100 million incidence, strict photo voter id laws would disenfranchise more than 1 million voters in Texas alone. Note again the overlap between those states with strict voter id laws and those in which large numbers of state legislative races are left uncontested. It's almost as though they planned it this way.
Step 2: Seize Up the System
Given the gerrymandering of state legislative districts, and the gerry rigging with voter id laws, it shouldn't be a huge surprise that turnout plummeted in the 2014 midterms:
Because turnout drops for midterm elections compared to presidential elections, it makes more sense to compare Tuesday's voter turnout to the last midterm elections in 2010. Turnout was less for eligible voters this time around: 36.6 percent voted, compared with 40.9 percent in 2010, according to data from the United States Elections Project. ...
In exit polls from Tuesday's midterms, for example, only 13 percent of voters were under 30. Nonvoters are also more racially diverse than the voting population and are less educated. More than 40 percent of likely nonvoters in the 2014 elections identified as Hispanic, black or other racial/ethnic minorities, compared with 22 percent of likely voters. While most voters (72 percent) have completed some college, nonvoters are more likely to have never attended college.
Just how bad was turnout
Note again, the overlap with strict voter id states, and those in which electoral competition is weak. There's a sinister, overarching logic here.
By forcing out poor/minority voters, and making election results a foregone conclusion, our new masters are able to simultaneously seize the reins of power and rail against the do nothing establishment. If only there were a way to rig the system further, so that power could be concentrated in an ever shrinking set of hands.
Step 3: Become the Solution to the Problem You Created
So now that you've managed to disenfranchise all sorts of people, and generally make any possibility of actual government action in the public interest impossible, what to do now?
Why not "fix" the problem by doubling down with a constitutional convention?
... much of the current impetus comes from fervent fiscal conservatives. This includes calls for an amendment requiring a balanced budget and other restraints on the federal government's spending and taxation powers.
A constitutional convention is a rallying cry for right-wing talk-radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin; the idea has been endorsed by Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Oklahoma's Tom Coburn, both conservative Republicans. An influential backer is the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, an organization of conservative state legislators and private sector lobbyists that advocates for corporate interests. ...
If, however, the backlash against Washington intensifies, the Republican-led Congress stalls, these imperfections are corrected and a convention were held, Congress would play a relatively minor role. It might decide how the size of different delegations should be determined. After the federal lawmakers "specify the time and place for kicking it off," [Professor Michael] Paulsen says, "they then have to get out of the way."
Although it's chiefly the political right driving this proposal, there are more than a few staunch conservatives who say it's a bad idea. Foremost is U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the longtime leader of the court's conservative bloc, who observed this summer: "Whoa! Who knows what would come out it?"
Let's be clear, the Article V Convention
that ALEC and gang are planning is clearly run by the states, but there the details begin to run short. Conservatives are wanton to restrict the agenda of any convention to federal budget matters, with two dueling amendments being proposed. The Balanced Budget Amendment
would require that the Federal government to run exactly that. The National Debt Relief Amendment
would strip the power to raise the debt ceiling from Congress and require the federal government to get the consent of a majority of states in order increase the debt ceiling. This would mean that state legislatures representing as little as 17.8% of the US population could veto increases in the federal debt ceiling.
To the untrained ear, this may sound, dare I say it, anti-democratic. As in this sort of thinking represents a fundamental challenge to out established system of government. To Tea Party "Partiots" this is a matter of state's rights, because they believe that the constitution grants rights to states, but not individuals. We really must ask which flag it is they pledge to. This is quite literally the same pablum that underlaid the fights against de-segregation, and the abolition of slavery. Yet, here we go again.
We've already talked about how voter suppression and gerrymandering have produced a system in which ever fewer participate, and precious few have an actual voice. Returning to an Article V Convention, in all likelihood, the threshold of 34 state calls for a convention has been met. A Congress is the final arbiter of whether this is the case, the Republican takeover increases the chances that it would rule that sufficient state resolutions exist to call a constitutional convention. This leaves the matter of delegates. Who would be selected by state legislatures, with each state given an equal vote, if the procedure of the 1787 convention is followed. Look at the map below.
If the 1787 protocol is followed, the GOP will dominate any convention with a minimum of 62% of the votes. Democrats enter with only 22% of the vote, with a further 16% of the vote in states with split control.
Luckily, the results of any convention have to be approved by the legislatures of 38 (3/4ths) of the states. Yet, again a Tea Party convention will start with 31 states in the bag, needing to only another 7 states in order to replace the US Constitution with one of its own design. Because an Article V Convention has never been called, we are short on details. Even if they can't muster the votes now, in all likelihood, at some point in the future changes in partisan control of state legislatures will produce a situation in which it can.
Is this all crazy? Umm ... yes. But we live in a country in which conservatives are calling for the President to be banned from giving a state of union address. Idiotic, but effective at stirring up your base. Imagine the ideas they'd come up with if given the chance to literally re-write the Constitution. Because we have to do something about government not working.