The Insidious Practice of Racial Gerrymandering
February 10, 2022
It’s election season again and, in America, sadly, that means it is voter suppression season. Starting in 2020, 49 states proposed over 440 bills to make it harder for Americans to vote, and many of them have passed. In 2021, state lawmakers started using the newly released census data to draw state maps that lock up their political power – often at the expense of communities of color. And now in 2022, these tactics are almost certain to impact the midterm elections for Congress, as well as local and state elections nationwide. Federal legislation that would have addressed these tactics and reversed some of the Supreme Court’s gut punches to the Voting Rights Act has stalled. And Republican lawmakers in at least eight states are trying to strip away power from secretaries of state, governors, and nonpartisan election boards over how elections are run and counted–effectively giving political operatives the power to cancel your vote.
My guest today, lawyer Janai Nelson, has spent her career battling these issues. At the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she currently serves as Associate Director-Counsel and will soon take over as president and Director-Counsel, she has overseen court challenges to racial and partisan gerrymandering, to overturn harsh voter ID laws, and to re-enfranchise folks who have lost their right to vote because of felony convictions.
As a professor of law at St. John’s University School of Law, she has also taught classes on election law and political participation and has written extensively on the dismantling of the Votings Rights Act at the expense of communities of color.
We’re catching Janai at a heady time, just as she is ascending to the helm of one of the nation’s foremost civil rights organizations, and just as those rights face threats we haven’t seen in decades, if not centuries. She joins us today to talk about all this and more.