March 24, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) emphasized the anti-democratic impacts of gerrymandering on American elections during a hearing of the Rules and Administration Committee earlier today, which was convened to consider S.1, the For the People Act, a package of legislative reforms co-sponsored by Senator King, aiming to strengthen voting rights and enact federal standards to increase transparency in federal elections. After discussing the dangers of gerrymandering with Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice, Senator King pressed Lee Goodman, former Republican Chair of the Federal Election Commission, and Trevor Potter, former Republican Chair of the FEC, for clarity on disclosure regulations related to identities of those who donate through “SuperPACs”.
“I consider [gerrymandering] one of the most serious problems afflicting our democracy and it happens in both ways – there are Democratic gerrymandered seats and there are Republican gerrymandered seats. The problem is, instead of the voters choosing the politicians, the politicians choose the voters,” said Senator King to Mr. Waldman of the Brennan Center. “…One of the hidden problems with gerrymandering is that if you’ve got a district that is all Democratic or heavily Democratic or heavily Republican you tend to have members elected who are on the edges of their two parties. You don’t win a primary in those by being moderate and I think that’s one of the things that’s contributed to the polarization that we see in the Congress.”
Waldman agreed with Senator King, stating that the For the People Act would ban gerrymandering and “requires that redistricting be done with standards for representation of communities and other fair standards.” Adding that gerrymandering also works to dissuade Americans from voting, Waldman concluded “if there are abusive redistricting practices and unfair maps that are drawn, those can lock in a bad system, a bad system can lock in advantage for much of a decade, and it really does make it something where voters don’t want to vote if they don’t have a real opportunity to be heard.”
Wrapping up his remarks in his first round of questioning, Senator King touted Maine’s electoral systems and expressed skepticism over unfounded fraud claims from the 2020 election. Senator King closed by saying “In Maine, we have same day registration, no-excuse absentee voting, no voter ID, and no fraud. I just wonder about all of these provisions that are being enacted all over the country to chase fraud allegations that I have not yet seen validated in any objective form.”
In his second round of questioning, Senator King explored the need for more effective campaign finance reform with Mr. Potter, probing the impact and reach of “dark money” that floods elections with little transparency or accountability. “Am I correct that dark money comes into campaigns through independent expenditures, and we can’t find out who they are?” asked King.
Mr. Potter, concurred with Senator King’s line of questioning about anonymous donors influencing races, saying, “We still need work on this subject … what can happen is that a [501(c)4 campaign non-profit] gets the money and then transfers it to a super PAC, which spends it – and you end up gutting the disclosure requirements.”
Today’s hearing represents the most recent example of Senator King’s commitment to and advocacy for campaign transparency to increase voter trust and engagement in our democracy. In addition to co-sponsoring S.1, Senator King last week reintroduced the Real Time Transparency Act, which would require that all political contributions of $1,000 or more be filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) within 48 hours, and again cosponsored the Sunlight for Unaccountable Non-Profits (SUN) Act, which would require the IRS to publish the names of any donors who give more than $5,000 to tax-exempt political organizations. In February, Senator King cosponsored the Spotlight Act, which aims to identify the dark money political donors that seek to influence political debate anonymously. In September 2017, Senator King announced his support for a series of campaign finance bills called the We the People Democracy Reform Act of 2017. This bicameral legislation proposes a series of wide-ranging electoral reforms to restore integrity, accountability, and transparency to America’s political system. In June 2016, Senator King joined with a group of his colleagues to announce a legislative package aimed at reforming America’s campaign finance system and making government more accountable to the people.