Andrew Reynolds doesn’t just have a Ph.D. in Political Science, he also co-created an accurate scale for determining the degree of integrity in our ‘free, fair and democratic’ elections. You could say he’s the guy that wrote the book on it… really, a true expert.
Reynolds is a an Associate Professor for the University of North Carolina (UNC), and a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow with the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP). Each year, the EIP looks at global elections and measures their fairness. This year, it also studied elections in each U.S. state, looking at things like voter registration, electoral laws and post-election response. Reynolds applied his scale to North Carolina, the results were truly horrifying.
North Carolina, Reynolds declared, no longer qualifies as a democracy:
When we evolved the project I could never imagine that as we enter 2017, my state, North Carolina, would perform so badly on this, and other, measures that we are no longer considered to be a fully functioning democracy.
In the just released EIP report, North Carolina’s overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly free democracy that is only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world.
But it gets uglier. North Carolina ranks with Iran and Venezuela with respect to legal framework and voter registration. Then, it blows every country in the world out of the water; North Carolina has the lowest ever rating for district lines at 7/100. That is gerrymandering, and in this, North Carolina is a world leader.
North Carolina has become the least democratically districted electoral system ever measured by the Electoral Integrity Project, anywhere.
North Carolina, “can no longer call its elections democratic.” If that doesn’t outrage the country, it should. According to Reynolds, the most respected measures of democracy tell us to what extent “exercise of power depends on the will of the people,” and North Carolina fails. Good democracy means that “governance is not arbitrary, it follows established rules and is based on popular legitimacy.” In North Carolina, the power isn’t with the voters, it is with party bosses.
Reynolds gives three main reasons that North Carolina is empirically shown to lack the characteristics of a democracy:
- “First, legislative power does not depend on the votes of the people.”
- “Second, democracies do not limit their citizens’ rights on the basis of their born identities.” (HB2, the infamous bathroom bill.)
- “Third, government in North Carolina has become arbitrary and detached from popular will.”
That third point is illustrated in the coup exercised by the Republicans limiting the incoming Governors powers:
When, in response to losing the governorship, one party uses its legislative dominance to take away significant executive power, it is a direct attack upon the separation of powers that defines American democracy. When a wounded legislative leadership, and a lame-duck executive, force through draconian changes with no time for robust review and debate it leaves Carolina no better than the authoritarian regimes we look down upon.
Just imagine if the Congress of the United States moved right now to reduce the incoming president’s power. There would be no question in anyone’s mind that it is undemocratic. “Patriots” would march in armed resistance and cry treason. Certainly, there would be irate, ugly tweets coming from the White House waiting area. There would be outrage: where is it for the people of N.C. whose elected Governor is being made into a useless figurehead?
We are watching the decay of democracy to Dictatorial and Puppet Governance levels in one of our own states. This is the future that the GOP has in store for the entire country.
This is why we must come together in a solid, cohesive resistance. We must demand that our representatives fight for fair districting, and end legislative abuse, rooting it out and replacing any politician who fails to fight it.
The fight is for equal access to the vote. These are the barest standards of a functional democracy.