What is Gerrymandering?    

Matthew McDonald, Writer and Senior Editor

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One of the most shocking yet still totally legal actions in the United States is the process of gerrymandering. Members of both the left and the right can agree on the unfairness of the greatest, yet one of the least known, deceptions of the American voter. Throughout the history of the United States, this electoral policy has come under fire and scrutiny. So how is this process still legal? Let’s start with what gerrymandering actually is.

Gerrymandering is the process of drawing the borders for electing representatives for the House of Representatives. Each area that sends a representative is called a district. For example, Morristown is in District 11 of New Jersey. In most states, the borders for these districts are drawn by state legislature. This is where major flaws with the system can come into place. One of the largest problems that people have with gerrymandering is the fact that it can heavily benefit one party and help them to win elections, even when they shouldn’t. How so? Well, it all comes back to the borders.

Gerrymandering can draw the borders in any way possible. And I mean in any way. So, if a dominant party controls state legislature, which is what often happens, they may draw the borders in a way that best benefits them. For example, let’s say that the Blue Party’s supporters all live on the left side of town. The Red Party’s supporters all live on the right side of the town. Now, let’s say that the Red Party is in power. Even though the votes are completely equal between the two parties, the Red Party is allowed to draw the borders for each voting district so that there is a majority of Red voters in each district. This, therefore, gives them the majority of the seats and allows them to carry a victory.

Recently, as awareness has been increased around the unfair and outdated process, there have been protests, specifically in Wisconsin. In a 2012 state election, Republicans carried 60 seats out of 99. This should their clear majority in the state right? Well actually, only about 48.6% of the state voted Republican! That’s less than half of the state’s voters that decided for most of the state’s seats. This has raised more than a few eyebrows. Over the past few years since the election, there have been more attempts then perhaps ever in the history of the United States to end the process of gerrymandering.

Although there has been increased public awareness about gerrymandering more than ever before, most people still do not know much about this hindrance of democracy in America. So next time that you see an election result, think twice before you believe it.

 

Improving Judicial Diversity | Brennan Center for Justice, 19 June 2017, www.brennancenter.org/blog/5-things-know-about-wisconsin-partisan-gerrymandering-case.

 

“Who Draws the Lines?” All About Redistricting — Illinois, redistricting.lls.edu/who.php.

http://redistricting.lls.edu/who.php

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