Wednesday Q+A with Marc Elias

Democrats’ redistricting guru on fighting gerrymandering and voter ID laws

Democratic elections attorney Marc Elias, at his law office at Perkins Cole.
Chet Susslin
Andrea Drusch
Add to Briefcase
Andrea Drusch
March 14, 2017, 8 p.m.

Marc Elias is an election-law expert who represents all of the Democratic Party committees, and has argued redistricting cases before the Supreme Court. He sat down with Andrea Drusch and Ally Mutnick to discuss Democrats’ plans to combat Republican gerrymandering efforts.

As Democrats look ahead from 2016 losses, how important is it to engage in fights over redistricting and voting rights?

If you look at the arc of history … there was a bipartisan consensus that we ought to be finding ways to make voting more practical in people’s lives. All of that changed after 2008. The lesson the Republican Party took away appears to be that they are not going to be able to convince young voters, minority voters, and others that they ought to vote Republican, so instead they want to make it harder for them to vote at all.

Since then, those efforts have not slowed; they have actually sped up. And now I fear that it is being egged on by the ridiculously false claims that Donald Trump has made about illegal voting. I think that if we don’t find a way to stop the attacks on voting rights, and we don’t find the way to stop the problem of unfair and unconstitutional redistricting, then we’re going to have a less democratic result, and I think that is bad for the Democratic Party.

Is it also personal for you?

If there is one sort of legal struggle of my career right now, it is this one, fighting voter-suppression efforts and ensuring the right to vote. I ask myself what it would be like to be on the other side, to wake up and say, “Today I’m going to figure out another way to keep 17-year-olds from pre-registering. And maybe I’ll come up with an ID law that lets you use hunting licenses but not state-issued college IDs.” Yes, in some ways it’s better for Democrats in terms of winning elections, but also it’s the morally right thing.

Are there Republicans who are a part of the effort to make voting easier?

If you look at the evolution of my comments on this, I used to say there are some who are trying to make voting harder. … It is now hard to not conclude that it is … the Republican Party that is trying to make voting harder. But that doesn’t mean that every Republican is monolithic. Trevor Potter worked with me a few years ago on an effort to modernize voter registration. He was John McCain’s general counsel for the presidential campaign.

What are the pending court cases that could substantially affect the way the lines are drawn in 2021?

On Dec. 5, I argued two Supreme Court cases. One was the Virginia redistricting case, which just came down, but will now be back before the three-judge panel. It involves statehouses, but I think you will see it spur additional litigation this election cycle, because what Virginia was doing was not wholly unusual for how Republicans went about redrawing some of these maps. Case two is North Carolina, still awaiting a decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, that involves the congressional districts 1 and 12. You also have a series of partisan gerrymandering cases. The one that is furthest along is the one in Wisconsin.

How likely is it that the Supreme Court makes a partisan gerrymandering standard in some form this cycle?

I think we are going to get a partisan gerrymandering cause of action. … The question is what the standard is, and which is of these cases is the right way to set it.

If the Court does issue a standard, will that create a flurry of new lawsuits?

Certainly if the Supreme Court adopts a theory of partisan gerrymandering that is an actionable standard, then you’re going to see that applied to all kinds of districts where you can’t say that race was used as a proxy, but they were partisan.

It sounds like a game of Whac-A-Mole. Do Democrats have the resources to fight all these fights at once?

I hope we do but, I’m not sure we do. … The Republicans had a multimillion dollar—probably in excess of $100 million—plan around redistricting for 2010. We don’t have nearly anything to match that. … [Democratic National Committee Chairman] Thomas Perez is, in addition to being former Labor secretary, one of the leading lights in the area of voting rights. He was the head of the civil-rights division in the Department of Justice, he’s a lawyer, he knows an enormous amount about voting rights and these things, so I’m optimistic that the DNC will also play a role.

What We're Following See More »
PER SOURCES
Trump to Visit UK In July
35 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"US President Donald Trump will visit the UK in mid-July, according to Sky sources," with a formal announcement expected soon. "Mr Trump was due to open the new US Embassy in London in February but cancelled the trip saying the building was too expensive and tweeting that he was not a 'big fan' of the decision to move its location."

Source:
TESTS WERE SUSPENDED LAST WEEK
North Korea Testing Site Collapsed
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"North Korea’s underground nuclear test site has become unusable after a large part of it collapsed," say experts from the University of Science and Technology of China. "Their evidence comes just one week after a surprise announcement from leader Kim Jong Un that North Korea would stop nuclear tests." The finding contradicts the Trump Administration's claim that the closure was a major concession by North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, who is set to meet with him for talks with President Trump in May.

Source:
WILL REDUCE DEBATE TIME FROM 30 HOURS TO 8
Senate Rules Aims to Speed Confirmation of Nominees
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Republicans on Wednesday will begin a push to change Senate rules in a way that would allow the faster confirmation of President Trump's nominees, after months of complaints that Democrats are dragging out the process. The Senate Rules Committee will meet in the afternoon to consider a resolution that would reduce post-cloture debate for most Executive Branch nominees from 30 hours to just 8 hours. The goal is to prevent Democrats from stretching out debate over several days."

Source:
LESKO WILL FILL FRANKS’S SEAT
GOP Holds onto AZ-08 Seat Narrowly
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Arizona Republican Debbie Lesko won a special election to fill the deep red seat Trent Franks retired from earlier this year. Unofficial balloting had her up 52.9% to 47.2%. This victory is a bit close for comfort, considering Donald Trump's 21-point victory there in 2016. This victory will do very little to calm GOP nerves five months before Election Day.

TRUMP CALLED HIM A “GREAT GUY”
Apple CEO To Meet With Trump
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

Apple CEO Tim Cook will meet with President Trump today, "at a time of heightened trade tensions between the U.S. and China with technology caught up in the spat. Both countries have proposed import tariffs on each others' products, but the U.S. has been tough on Chinese technology firms." China is an important market for Apple, and Cook is expected to bring up the worsening trade relationship.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login