gerrymandering by quinn

Gerrymandering; what is it?


    Gerrymandering, to put it as simply as possible, is the manipulation of electoral district borders with the intention of favoring one party. It’s a difficult process to explain, as the root of this tactic isn’t logic, it is simply competition. Politicians created this scheme to help take control of the House of Representatives. If all of a state’s districts have a 51% majority of the same party, the state is more likely to have one party control the state legislature, leaving the dispersed or minority groups left without representation. Ideally, a state’s electoral districts should reflect the people; if a state with 5 districts is 60% Blue party and 40% Red party, the ideal districts would be ⅗ Blue and ⅖ Red. Through Gerrymandering, there are different approaches to how to move these people and draw the lines so that they favor the party in control.

    The first commonly used tactic of Gerrymandering is labeled “packing”. It is basically what it sounds like; they pack more than 51% of one party’s voters into one district, essentially eliminating the competition for majority in the other districts. Virtually, whether the majority is 52% or 85%, everything over the initial 51% needed for majority is an unnecessary vote. Packing voters takes advantage of this by over-representation of one party in a few districts, making the minority group seem more spread out and larger than it really is.

    The second commonly used tactic of Gerrymandering is called “cracking”. The maneuver of cracking voters is also pretty easy to comprehend; this tactic is used to crack apart the majority party so that they hold majority in no districts at all. Let’s say there was a state with 5 districts, and each district contained, for example, 500 people: 60% Blue party 40% Red. The ideal district breakdown for this state would be 3 blue majority districts and 2 red majority districts. When the cracking tactic is used, the district breakdown would look a bit more like this: if the Blue party was in control of redistricting the state, they could use the cracking tactic to disperse the 40% of Red party voters so that the Blue party would hold majority in all districts, and be more likely to have all Blue party representatives in the House, and the opposite goes for if the Red party was in control. These two tactics, packing and cracking, are often used in conjunction with one another--packing one party voters into a few districts and cracking the minority to seem as though it is the majority.

    Gerrymandering is a problem because is takes minority groups and packs them into fewer districts, essentially eliminating the competition for seats in the House of Representatives. John McGlennon, a longtime professor of government and public policy at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, said this:  With an increasing number of districts being drawn to deliberately favor one party over another — and with fewer voters indicating an interest in crossover voting — lots of potential candidates will look at those previous results and come to a conclusion that it’s too difficult to mount an election campaign in a district where their party is the minority.

Not only does Gerrymandering misrepresent entire groups of people, but it also instills a fear in possible candidates, making them more likely to not run against candidates they already assume will win. This results in many districts only having one candidate, or only candidates of one party. In Fall of 2016, it was concluded that 42% nationwide State Representative elections faced no major party opponents. In Georgia alone, only 31 out of the 180 state house districts had both Republican and Democrat candidates, making the nation’s highest uncontested rate of 83%.

    All-in-all, the effects of Gerrymandering go far beyond the original intent of controlling the House; it silences entire groups of people, leaves less room for voters to clearly see both parties, and discourages possible candidates from running at all. We, as a country, are essentially showing people that they will have a difficult time advocating for their needs over the needs of others, and that one group will always overshadow the others. This  needs to be demolished; if we would, instead of instilling fear in, support and provide resources to these possible candidates, who knows what would be different! The capability to create new policy and ideas lies within everyone. Right now, our country is just by the people. All voices of the American people need to be equally represented to genuinely be by and for the people.














References

9. (n.d.). Gerrymandering. Retrieved from https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/gerrymandering/

Associated Press. (2017, June 26). Possible effects of gerrymandering seen in uncontested races. Retrieved from https://wtop.com/government/2017/06/democracy-with-no-choices-many-candidates-run-unopposed/

Ingraham, C. (2015, March 01). This is the best explanation of gerrymandering you will ever see. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/03/01/this-is-the-best-explanation-of-gerrymandering-you-will-ever-see/?utm_term=.5f1c03fe9009

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