Saturday, February 9, 2013
Today In Voter Suppression: Gerrymandering
Gerrymandering is the process of "packing" (cutting electoral districts so that there will always contain your preferred party's majority) or "cracking" (intentionally separating pockets of the opposing party's supporters so that they can never achieve an electoral majority) during a redistricting. The word Gerrymander was coined in 1812 when Massachusetts Governor Elbrige Gerry approved an electoral map favoring his Democratic-Republican party, in which districts were so contorted that they resembled the shape a salamander. (The more you know.)
Neuroscientist Sam Wang makes a compelling case that not only is gerrymandering a partisan activity (duh) it is a severely Republican one. There has been murmuring in the Democratic community ever since the Democrats lost (or I guess continued to not have) the house in 2012 despite Democrats winning the majority of votes cast for Representatives in November. Democrats won more than half the votes but fewer than half the Congressional seats in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Wang estimates that the way the districts are drawn now, Democrats would have to win the popular vote by 7 percentage votes in order to take control of the house. It should be noted that although the Supreme Court has ruled it is illegal to change electoral maps to dilute racial minority voting blocks, it is perfectly legal (though ethically questionable) to draw districts to break up partisan voting blocks (see Vieth v. Jubelirer).
Wang's solution is to appoint a non-partisan redistricting committee as they have in California. (As well as hope for the Supreme Court to step through the crack in the door it left open in Vieth v. Jubelirer.) If you would like to try your own hand at redistricting (and it's not easy) you can download this app. For a list of fairness laws already in place for each state, click here. Have fun!