Elections are the primary mechanism through which citizens hold public officials accountable for their actions. However, voters have been systematically disenfranchised through manipulations such as partisan gerrymandering. Today, more than 95 percent of congressional districts are not competitive, meaning they are “safe” seats for one of the two major parties. This structure has fostered a system of entrenched political interests. Voters deserve to be heard in state capitols and in Washington, D.C. To that end, we are funding strategic litigation to challenge laws that insulate incumbents and are working to expand electoral systems that empower voters.
We funded the Campaign Legal Center to represent 12 voters in Wisconsin who challenged state assembly district lines as an unconstitutional gerrymander. In 2011, Republicans redrew voting maps to maintain control of the state legislature. The following year, they secured 60 percent of seats in the state assembly, despite earning just 49 percent of the vote statewide. Although the United States Supreme Court has ruled that excessive partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution, it has yet to adopt a standard for identifying instances of illegal redistricting, because the court considers methods proposed by previous defendants to be unworkable. The plaintiffs represented by the Campaign Legal Center are seeking to establish a standard by which courts nationwide can assess partisan gerrymandering claims using statistical metrics that show how a redistricting plan favors a particular political party. In November 2016, a three-judge panel struck down Wisconsin’s voting map in district court. The state then appealed the ruling to the United States Supreme Court, which heard the case this fall.
We also supported FairVote, which led nonpartisan voter education efforts in Maine, the first state to pass a referendum to implement ranked choice voting (RCV). Under RCV, voters rank candidates in order of preference. The process allows constituents to vote for the candidate who best represents their views and helps to broaden political dialogue, giving moderate and third-party voters the opportunity to voice their opinions. FairVote is now working with other grassroots organizations on similar efforts across the country.