CHAUTAUQUA — New generations of Americans shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box.
Because demographic anxiety is becoming a popular topic, Michael Li, an attorney, said it’s up to new generations to redefine the United States.
“It is our challenge, our task” he said.
Li spoke to members of an amphitheater audience Thursday on the topic “Voting and Democracy.”
“You know, sometimes it’s easy to curl up in a ball sometimes and think that all is lost. But you know, right now we should be brave like the founding generation,” he added.
Li examines how, following the 2020 census, redistricting efforts have played out across the country, how this redistricting will impact policy in the long and short term, and whether our current redistricting model is truly the best way forward, according to assembly.chq.org.
He said the lines used for elections, also called gerrymandering, can be difficult for people to grasp. According to Dictionary.com, gerrymander means the division of a state, county, etc., into electoral districts in order to give one political party a majority in many districts while concentrating the electoral strength of the other party in as few constituencies as possible. .
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who writes controversial opinions, including overturning Roe v. Wade, he added, actually helped Li with his own redistricting argument. Alito, Li argues, said women are not without electoral political power.
The big idea coming from Alito, Li noted, is the idea that if people don’t like the laws legislators pass, just reject them.
Li said that in 2019, the Supreme Court had occasion to rule that partisan gerrymandering violated the US Constitution in Rucho v. Common Cause. The Supreme Court, Li said, said gerrymandering is complicated and the court does not want to decide gerrymandering cases for fear of getting political. Li said the move opened the door to gerrymandering because officials can claim they are doing so for political gain.
“And unfortunately, it didn’t just open the door to partisan discrimination. It also opened the door to a lot of racial discrimination,” Li said.
Recently, Li noted, some states have attempted to pass redistricting reforms. He said likely more states would have followed, but the pandemic has stalled progress. Two states, Michigan and Ohio, passed reforms. Michigan, he said, had some of the most messy maps of the United States. Currently, there are very decent maps in Michigan.
“I will say a caveat that there was still some question as to whether adjustments might be needed to fully and fairly treat communities of color, but it will be something that has to happen. “ he added.
In Ohio, he said, voters passed a reform that had been passed by the legislature that left the drawing of the lines in the hands of the legislature. It was weak reform, he said, because the people drawing the maps are still elected officials.
Ohio courts, Li noted, can strike down a card although they cannot implement a new card. The courts sent it back to the people who drew the last gerrymandered map and demanded that it be corrected.
“That hasn’t happened in Ohio, either at the congressional level or at the legislative level,” Li said.
Li is a senior adviser for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, where her work focuses on redistricting, voting rights and elections. Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Li practiced law at Baker Botts LLP in Dallas for 10 years. The author of a widely quoted blog on redistricting and election law issues that the New York Times called “essential,” he is a regular writer and commentator on election law issues, appearing on PBS Newshour, MSNBC and NPR, and printed in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Roll Call, Vox, National Journal, Texas Tribune, Dallas Morning News and San Antonio Express-News, among others.
In addition to his work on election law, Li previously served as executive director of Be One Texas, a donor alliance that oversaw strategic and targeted investments in nonprofits working to increase voter participation and engagement. voters in historically disadvantaged African-American and Hispanic communities in Texas. Li received his JD with honors from Tulane Law School and an undergraduate degree in history from the University of Texas at Austin.