Bouie: Let's Remember the "Guarantee" ClauseHistorians in the News
tags: Constitution, James Madison
Not content to simply count on the traditional midterm swing against the president’s party, Republicans are set to gerrymander their way to a House majority next year.
Last week, North Carolina’s Republican-controlled statehouse passed a new map that would, in an evenly divided electorate, give it 10 of the state’s 14 congressional seats. To overcome the gerrymander and win a bare majority of seats, according to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, Democrats would have to win an unattainably large supermajority of votes.
It is true that Democrats have pursued their own aggressive gerrymanders in Maryland and Illinois, but it is also true that the Democratic Party is committed, through its voting rights bills, to ending partisan gerrymandering altogether.
It is not too much to say that the Republican Party has cleared itself a path to nullifying the votes of millions of Americans. What, if anything, is there to do about it?
Here, I think it is worth looking at one rarely discussed section of the Constitution.
In Article IV, Section 4, the Constitution says, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”
Much of this is straightforward. The federal government is obligated to protect each state from foreign invasion — a legitimate threat in the early days of the United States, when the nation faced foreign powers on its northern, southern and western borders (as well as British naval power) — and is obligated to quell domestic uprisings, from the rebellions that rocked the United States as it existed under the Articles of Confederation to the slave revolts that struck terror into the hearts of the Southern planter class.
But what, exactly, does it mean for the federal government to “guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government”?
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