Gerrymandering is the most useful tool for ensuring the continuation of political power. It turned my home state of Wisconsin from a blue-ish purple state into a ruby-red one, especially at the state level. Talking as a Democrat (a lover as Democracy, not a member of the Democratic Party), I see it as the biggest threat to our Republic.
Every ten years, we have to take a census of the population. Based on who is accounted for, a state is awarded a number of Congressional seats. This is the same where each state redraws its legislative boundaries. Gerrymandering, in the broadest of terms, is to maximize the power of one party over the other for the next decade.
The Supreme Court has struck down gerrymandering based on race in several different cases. The reasoning behind the Court’s decisions was the 14th Amendment: Equal Protection. By deliberately packing minority voters into a few majority-minority districts or cutting them apart into separate voting districts, the court held that minority citizens were being discriminated against. Long story short: racial gerrymandering is unconstitutional.
Political gerrymandering, on the other hand, is still constitutional but that may not be the case for long. Gill v. Whitford, which was heard by the Court earlier this month, is arguing Wisconsin Republicans knowingly and intentionally drew legislative maps to dilute the ability for Democrats to get elected. The plaintiffs are turning to a mathematical argument to help in this case. Known as the efficiency gap, it has been used to show that for every single Republican vote, three Democratic votes were needed to equal it in purple state assembly or senate districts.
I sincerely hope that the court sides with Whitford to make partisan gerrymandering illegal and unconstitutional. The question then becomes how to fairly redraw districts. All is not lost! Iowa’s model is highly popular, very fair, and has never been challenged in the Courts. It hasn’t pushed back primary schedules, lengthened legislative sessions, or led to any large political games.
The secret is its nonpartisanship. Rather than have elected officials redraw the map, it’s tasked out to a group of administrators who draw a new map. The legislature may accept it in whole or reject it in whole, but not alter it. The citizens get a chance to be heard on the new map and it may be taken into account. Redistricting isn’t easy. If you want to give it a try, click here. To listen to John Oliver explain redistricting and gerrymandering in more detail, watch it here. These processes are vital to understanding how things get to be how they are: