Gerrymandering Gets It Wrong

Left Alone, Politicians Mess Things Up!

When we think of gerrymandering, we often think of political mischief gone unchecked. Because, well, that’s what it is. It’s a nefarious exercise that’s practiced by both the democrats and republicans.
gerrymandering donkey and elephant

A gerrymandered district allows politicians to pick their constituents. Instead, we constituents should pick our politicians. Gerrymandering gets it backwards! Gerrymandering includes as many voters of a given political party in one district for a political party advantage.

As is humorously portrayed above, the result can create quite a mess. From a serious perspective, it’s not fair!

Can Gerrymandering Be Stopped?

Given that gerrymandering has been around since 1812, the practice enjoys a long history and acceptance. We need to question its validity!

Supreme Court Justice Sotoymayor confronted the legality of gerrymandering in the October 3rd hearing of Gill v. Whitford. Mark Joseph Stern’s excellent article in The Slate points out her questions often get to the hub of the issue at hand. She asked, “Could you tell me what the value is to democracy from political gerrymandering? How does that help our system of government?”

Emily Barone of Time Magazine, in the October 9ths edition, notes in her article entitled, “Computers made gerrymandering worse. Can they fix it?” It appears to be a rather thorny problem that leaves everyone confused and frustrated.

Good questions! Will there be good answers?

Let’s Get Back To Basic Principles

Gerrymandering is a method used to reshape a congressional district for the advantage of the political party in power. This is, to me, wrong in two basic ways.

First, why let politicians reshape a district at all. Isn’t that a bit like letting the fox guard the henhouse?

fox and henhouse

Can we even blame the politicians for being so tempted? Let’s let an independent entity evaluate the district.

Second, and probably most important, a district should encompass a given area of land, not a group of people (voters). I devote an entire chapter in my book “Making All Votes Count!” to gerrymandering because it so negatively impacts voting results. I show how a few simple principles could be used to define congressional districts. The results are districts with a mere three to seven boundaries.

simple district shapes

Just from a visual point-of-view, districts should not look like some kind of Rorschach test, though many do now. Here are two example districts in Texas. The one on the left is currently the Democratic 18th District and the one on the right is the Republican 2nd District.

gerrymandered districts

Divide A Land Area Without Sorting The People

Cattle are sorted into groups according to age and gender. We are not cattle!

cattle sorting

At no time should the residents of a district be identified according to their political bent. We are citizens – pure and simple. The land area we live in should be divided only according to the lifestyle(s) it offers.

For example, fire districts and school districts are divided according to how these services can best serve the communities. They are not set according to the political makeup of their citizens.

Urban areas should be separated from rural areas. Small towns should be left intact within a given district. Large cities should be divided according to similar types of industry/commerce or housing subdivisions. Citizens of similar concerns should be contained within homogenous districts other than left/right political, racial, and/or religious preferences.

The book delves into Congressional District voting in some detail but you can get a summary by checking out the question about it in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the website.

The point is that a citizen’s political preference should not serve to dictate which district they are in. It really isn’t all that complicated.

In the true spirit of “Making All Votes Count!” let’s encourage our political leaders to eradicate gerrymandering. It’s the fair thing to do for all of us.

2 Replies to “Gerrymandering Gets It Wrong

  1. Nice job Jerry. I could not agree more and sadly must admit that I did not give it much thought in the past. Thanks for the eye-opener.

  2. Racial mapping has been ruled unconstitutional; political mapping has been considered a legislative prerogative. The last time the SC considered Gerrymandered results, the lack of objective measurement to identify what is or is not a skewed political result left the court to rule that there was no enforceable means to remedy. Gill v. Whitford revisits Gerrymandering with a new element to present to the SC: a means to measure voting efficiency. That is, the gap between the percentage of votes a party achieves and the number of seats won. Specifically in Gill, Democrats in Wisconsin in 2012 won a majority of statewide votes and yet only won 40% of legislative seats. Gill presents not only arguments of violation of One Man, One Vote, but also an efficiency gap algorithm to measure the degree of violation. SC will likely rule 4-5 one way or the other, but it is difficult to imagine what reasoning would permit the unchanged continuation of political Gerrymandering.

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