Premium

Who Gives a Rip About Gerrymandering?

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Gerrymandering is a practice that everyone complains about, but nobody wants to actually do anything to fix. People routinely lament the fact that the problem exists. But so far, there has been no viable movement to push for actual solutions.

Everyone knows that gerrymandering is a problematic practice. Redrawing electoral districts in a way that is more designed to favor one party instead of reflecting the political makeup of a state ensures that those who end up representing the state in Congress might not actually reflect the will of its voters. It is a way to subvert the democratic process.

Both parties point the finger at the other, criticizing them for engaging in this dubious practice. But the fact is: Both parties do it. Those pointing the finger seem to only disagree with gerrymandering when it’s the other guys doing it.

The Washington Post gave examples of how both parties have used the tactic to gain an edge. The author wrote:

Much of it was done by Republicans after the 2010 Census in the last redistricting cycle. In some states, like Pennsylvania and North Carolina, Republicans were able to draw districts that gave them majorities in their statehouses and congressional delegations, despite winning only a minority of votes statewide.

The article also points out that in 2012 in Pennsylvania, Republicans won about 49 percent of the votes, but got 13 of the state’s 18 House seats.

In blue states, Democrats have done something similar. The Post explains:

There’s less information about Democratic gerrymandering simply because Democrats were in control of fewer statehouses after 2010 and, hence, had less ability to redraw districts to their liking. But Maryland stands out as a prime example of Democratic gerrymandering. In 2016, Republicans won 37 percent of the statewide House popular vote, which translated into just one of the state’s eight House seats.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, along with other lawmakers, could possibly lose his seat due to Democratic gerrymandering in Illinois. RedState’s Bonchie explained that “Democrats are preparing to shank him in the back with a new redistricting map in Illinois that relieves him of his Congressional seat.”

Democrats in particular have complained about gerrymandering by pointing out it is used to diminish the votes of black Americans living in Republican-dominated states. MSNBC’s Ja’han Jones, argued that GOP lawmakers are implementing a racist form of gerrymandering. He wrote:

The Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby v. Holder gave states with histories of racist gerrymandering practices the freedom to draw their own district maps without first getting approval from the federal government. Conservative lawmakers have taken advantage.

Jones continued, noting that Republicans have “proposed new maps that eliminate seats held by Black and brown lawmakers representing large nonwhite communities” and that in some instances, they have “used population growth fueled by Blacks and Latinos to award white communities more representatives.”

Even if Jones’ assessment is correct, anyone with an IQ above room temperature can see that this is not about race. If blacks and Latinos voted predominantly for Republicans, they would definitely not be drawing the districts in a way that diluted their voting power. This is about politics, not race.

But the question is: Does Jones truly wish to do away with gerrymandering?

If he is like most members of the chattering class who opine on the issue, he probably does not. He would favor eliminating the practice in red states like Texas and Georgia, but would turn a blind eye to what is happening in Illinois and other states. The same would be true in reverse of those criticizing the issue from the right.

To be fair, there have been some who have attempted to deal with the gerrymandering problem. The Post points out:

To reduce or eliminate the temptation to use redistricting as a political weapon, a number of states have taken steps to remove lawmakers from the process completely. From a practical standpoint, that usually means putting mapmaking authority into the hands of a bipartisan independent commission, although states that have done this differ in how much influence the legislature has in creating these commissions.

The author also notes that while the Supreme Court ruling can’t resort to the courts to adjudicate matters, “much of the action around gerrymandering in recent years has happened at the state level,” and that “in Pennsylvania, for instance, the state Supreme Court overturned the Republican-drawn lines.”

Still, without a major campaign to eliminate -– or significantly reduce — gerrymandering, the practice will persist. Solving this problem will require people who are capable of not looking at the issue through a partisan lens. These individuals would have to be willing to fix the problem — even if it means the party they support might lose some power. In essence, we would need folks who place the integrity of our electoral processes over politics. Unfortunately, people like this seem to be in short supply these days.