As state legislatures gear up for the decennial process of congressional redistricting, one of the few obstacles preventing excessive gerrymandering in a handful of southern states is the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Still, despite the legislation’s massive success in preventing racism, many conservatives are dead set on dismantling the longstanding civil rights law.
In December, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) sounded the rallying cry. During a press conference, Cuccinelli declared that Virginia had “outgrown” institutional racism, and therefore ought to be exempted from the Voting Rights Act. (Virginia is one of nine southern and western states that must get their new redistricting maps pre-approved by the Justice Department in order to prevent discrimination against minority voters.)
Now, one of the architects of the Republican redistricting efforts, former Sen. Norm Coleman, wants to “reconsider” the entire Voting Rights Act. In an interview with ThinkProgress, Coleman argued that it was “absolutely” the right move to loosen the Voting Rights Act’s provisions that prevent legislators from drawing redistricting maps with a clear racial bias:
TP: I know some of the leaders in states like Virginia said they feel like their state has outgrown the racism of the past that led to them being subject to the Voting Rights Act in the first place. Do you think that’s the case, that we don’t really need some states like Virginia and others to be subject to the Voting Rights Act and get pre-clearance for their redistricting plans?
COLEMAN: I think it’s very fair to reconsider that. I think it’s very fair to reconsider that. Absolutely. Absolutely. There should be no reason why there shouldn’t be a reconsideration.
Coleman also argued that as a result of new gerrymandered districts, Republicans would be able to pick up “more than 15 or 20” seats in total:
TP: How many seats do you envision Republicans will gain [as a result of redistricting]?
COLEMAN: I don’t know. Others can give you that, but I can tell you the number if significant, the number if significant…
TP: You think more than 15 or 20?
COLEMAN: Yeah, I think more than 15 or 20 because in a couple states I think you’ll even see five or six seats. But the key is all we’re talking about is fair redistricting. We’re not talking about loading it up for our side, we’re simply talking about a fair reasonable plan I think that will result in working okay for us.
Though non-partisan analysts like Stu Rothenberg dismiss such predictions, Republican leaders like Coleman are doing their best to remove roadblocks to gerrymandering like the Voting Rights Act.