David Daley wrote an entire book about gerrymandering and the story behind the secret plan to steal America’s democracy, and he walked away with a rebirth of optimism and hope.
The Ratf**ked author spoke Thursday night at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and tried to spread the same message. He detailed citizen-led reforms across the nation that he got a front row seat to see, and he said the crucial battle had been engaged by Republicans perfecting the ancient gerrymander.
“Success does not mean the end of a fight,” Daley said. “Keeping a democracy, it turns out, means a lot of work. … These battles on behalf of what’s right are the proof.”
One of the most successful fights against gerrymandering began in Michigan with a Facebook post from a 27-year-old woman named Katie Fahey.
“I’d like to take on gerrymandering in Michigan,” it stated. “If you’re interested in doing this as well, please let me know.”
It became a statewide movement and Fahey raised millions of dollars and collected hundreds of thousands of signatures for a petition.
Daley told more inspiring stories of change — a Medicaid for All movement in Idaho that shook things up, and in North Dakota, Native Americans organized an identification drive in response to a voter ID law that resulted in the election of the state’s first Native American legislator.
In North Carolina, a curious citizen embarked on a quest to find out why Republicans took so many congressional seats even though Democrats had more of the votes. Duke professor Jonathan Mattingly ended up producing more than 24,000 maps that showed what an outlier the state’s 2016 congressional map was, and his work was cited many times in the most recent U.S. Supreme Court partisan gerrymandering cases.
“[Gerrymandering] has fired up America’s grassroots,” Daley said.
He didn’t sugarcoat the state of gerrymandering, though, and explained that super data and super computers have severed the will of the people from the politicians who serve them.
“Partisan gerrymandering has always been a partisan weapon — it’s just the technology that makes it so lethal,” he said.
Daley said he is hopeful the courts will step in — the high court is supposed to make a decision by June about if it will put limits on partisan gerrymandering.
He added that fixing partisan gerrymandering was in the best interest of everyone, and shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
“If democracy itself becomes a partisan issue, we are cooked,” he said.