Gerrymandering is a process wherein politicians can determine the outcome of elections by drawing district boundaries in a manner that greatly favors their own party. In 2018, Democrat Doug Jones was elected to the United States Senate from Alabama. In this statewide election Jones won the majority of votes. However, let us assume that instead of a Senate race, this was a race for the seven seats in the United States House of Representatives. If we took the actual votes in this Senate election, and parceled them out by their respective Congressional districts, then the Republicans would have won six of the seven seats, and the Democrats would have won only one. This is the power of gerrymandering. Gerrymandering distorts elections and disenfranchises voters.
Since the Democrats won just over 50% of the votes in this Senate election, one would expect that the hypothetical House election the Democrats should have won three or four seats. Instead they won only one.
We have all seen maps with strange patterns of electoral districts. The term “Gerrymandering” comes from Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry who in 1812 created a boundary for a district in Boston that resembled a salamander.
Perhaps even more that the maps with strange shaped districts, is the table below that shows the intended outcomes of Gerrymandering.
In this table there are 50 “X’s and 50 “Y’s.” Given the equal numbers a fair outcome would be that each party control five of the ten districts. However, by looking at the results, it becomes obvious that Party “X” has Gerrymandered the districts so that it controls eight out of the ten districts. This was done by concentrating the Party “Y” voters into Districts 1 and 2. Districts 1 and 2 might represent, for example, the urban core of the region.
The practice of Gerrymandering is a win-at-any-cost method of controlling elections. It disenfranchises voters and makes a mockery of our right to vote. It is done with corrupt intent as an unwarranted political power grab.
One of the chief purposes of the courts is to protect us from such usurpation of power by unscrupulous politicians. When our elected officials pass unjust laws, it is only the courts that can mitigate the damage. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the final arbiter. Recently SCOTUS ruled on a Gerrymandering case, and rendered one of the worst decisions in the history of the United States.
Rather than declaring the practice of Gerrymandering unconstitutional, as the liberal wing of the court proposed, SCOTUS remanded the decision back to a lower court for further clarification.
The issue identified by SCOTUS was that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring suit. SCOTUS concluded that there was no standing because no one was denied the right to vote for the candidate of their choosing. The horrendous logic of the court left out the fact that even though no voter was denied the right to vote, voters were denied the right to have their vote count.
SCOTUS has recently ruled that Gerrymandering is unconstitutional if it is tied to racial discrimination. The question before the court is now is whether Gerrymandering for partisan advantage is unconstitutional. It is hard to see how anyone with any sense of integrity and fair play would want to allow politicians to engage in any form of political chicanery in order to control elections. This strikes at the very heart of our democracy.
There are several lessons to be learned here. The Republican Senate under Mitch McConnell denied any confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, who was appointed to SCOTUS by Barrack Obama. This act “stole” a SCOTUS seat from the Democrats and gave it to the Republicans.
We must learn that in our democracy voting is essential. It matters who is in the White House because the president has the power to make nominations. It matters who controls the Senate because the Senate has the power to confirm nominations. And, it matters who controls the state legislatures and governorships because these offices have the power to set district boundaries. 2020 is a census year, meaning that many congressional districts will be reconfigured. It is urgent that we all vote for people who will restore ethics, integrity, and fairness to our government.