Gerrymandering criticized because it violates the two basic
Gerrymandering is the redrawing of political boundaries, otherwise known as district lines, in a state to give one party a numeric advantage over the opposing party. This is done by dividing districts up into highly irregular sections to achieve the goal of having voters from a particular party highly concentrated in some areas and thinly scattered in other areas (Donnelly, Fortune). Gerrymandering has been criticized because it violates the two basic principles in electoral designation; compactness and equality of size of constituencies in electoral designation (The Editors, Britannica). There is currently no law against the process of Gerrymandering. However, the current Supreme Court case Gill v. Whitford could change that. If the Court rules in favor of the challengers, it could be ruled unconstitutional. Gerrymandering is often used in place of the word redistricting and vice versa. While they are both relating to the redrawing of district lines, they are not the same thing. Redistricting is a process of redrawing district lines every 10 years after a census to accommodate for population growth and fair distribution of representatives. Gerrymandering simply takes advantage of the process.State Legislature, independent commissions, and political commissions are responsible for gerrymandering. State Legislature gerrymanders in 37 states and the “elected state lawmakers are responsible for drawing their own legislative districts and the boundaries for the congressional districts in their states. The governors in most of those states have the authority to veto the plans”(Murse, ThoughtCo). In Independent Commissions, “panels are used in six states to redraw legislative districts. They keep politics and the potential for gerrymandering out of the process because they are apolitical”(Murse, ThoughtCo). State lawmakers and public officials are “prohibited from serving on the commissions. Some states also prohibit legislative staffers and lobbyists, as well. Seven states use Political Commissions with panels made up of state lawmakers and other elected officials to redraw their own legislative boundaries. Even though these states take redistricting out of the hands of the entire legislature, the process is highly political, or partisan, and often results in gerrymandering districts”(Murse, ThoughtCo).The purpose of gerrymandering is to give one party power over the other by drawing up districts that hold high concentrations of like voters who are favorable to a particular party’s policies(Murse, ThoughtCo). By segregating like-minded voters from each other, Gerrymandering greatly reduces races among congress across the United States, in essence, greatly swaying the vote. “Gerrymandering often leads to disproportionate politicians from one party being elected to office. And it creates districts of voters who are socioeconomically, racially or politically alike so that members of Congress are safe from potential challengers and, as a result, have little reason to compromise with their colleagues from the other party”(Murse).”Gerrymandering is not hard,” Sam Wang, the founder of Princeton University’s Election Consortium, wrote in 2012. “The core technique is to jam voters likely to favor your opponents into a few throwaway districts where the other side will win lopsided victories, a strategy known as ‘packing.’ Arrange other boundaries to win close victories, ‘cracking’ opposition groups into many districts.”(Murse). Packing and Cracking are the two main tactics for gerrymandering. Packing is when the opposing party’s members are grouped into a single district. This ensures that the opposing party will win that particular district, but the other party will will all of the other districts. Cracking is when the opposing party’s voters are broken up and scattered throughout districts to make them the minority in each district. Both methods are effective in preventing the opposing party from winning any of the electoral votes(Murse).Gerrymandering is viewed by many as a great problem in the U.S political system, as it is seen as a way of cheating the system. For example, during the 2012 election cycle in Pennsylvania, 51% of the votes cast in the U.S. House elections were for Democrats, yet the Democratic Party only won 5 out of 18 seats. If the majority of voters support one party, yet barely a quarter of representatives are a member of that party, it would appear there is disconnect between constituents and representation (No Labels, No Labels). There are two strong reasons for citizens to demand a change of our “gerrymander-prone redistricting system” (Time). The first is Fairness. “Because bias determines the electoral choices of most voters and the behavior of elected representatives in Congress and state legislatures, it is essential that the collective will of the voters be reflected in the partisan composition of legislatures”(Time). “Partisan fairness is often undermined by partisan gerrymandering” (Time). For example, “the Campaign Legal Center reported than in 2012, in six state legislatures (Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin), the gerrymandering party received a minority of the statewide vote, yet still retained control of the legislature” (Mann, Time). The most scandalous of these was in Wisconsin, where the new partisan map basically ensures the Republican majority for the entire decade—whatever the popular vote. That same year, “Republicans kept their majority in House, even though Democrats won a larger share of the overall national vote” (Mann). The second is that it paralyzes the U.S politics and governance(Time). Redistricting has become a huge factor in the permanent campaign between the parties. Party members in Congress and state legislatures are selfish in re-election and majority status as they put their own interests first and are in turn importantly connected to these redistricting efforts. This makes them even more willing to cooperate with partisan “team play” which hinders the policy-making process’ ability to negotiate and compromise(Time). It is often said that gerrymandering contributes to the cause of polarization. This is not the case, gerrymandering only contributes to the problem. Polarization is the measurement of the overlap between the two parties. The higher the level of polarization, the less republicans and Democrats agree with each other. The problem with party polarization is that the American political system requires a level of cooperation between parties in order to get big things done, but during periods of intense political polarization, it is almost impossible for this to happen (Klein, Vox).The overall public consensus about gerrymandering is mainly negative. The latest poll conducted by Economist/YouGov resulted in 52% of Americans opposing gerrymandering. The polls showed how 45% of Republicans, 46% of Independents, and 65% of Democrats voted to strike down the process of gerrymandering (Frankovic, YouGov). Joshua Douglas stated that “Voters should select their representatives, not the other way around” and “It is high time for the high court to stop politicians from drawing district lines for their own political benefit”(Douglas, CNN). These two ideas are popular opinions among the people. They are sick of the political leaders having so much control in a process that was meant to be in the control of the voters. The majority also agrees that state legislatures should not be in control of drawing of district lines. The University of Washington conducted a survey and by a margin of 74%-15%, state residents voted that an independent board should draw the state lines instead of state legislature (Arrington, UVAToday). Many solutions have been proposed as an alternative to gerrymandering. The most popular potential solution is Proportional Representation. The basic idea of proportional representation is that instead of each place having a single representative selected by either plurality(when a candidate polls more votes than any other, but does not receive a majority(gets the most votes, but not more than 50% of the votes)) or a runoff system(two party system, in the first round, only two candidates make it onto the second round), a bunch of people’s votes are grouped together and then assign seats to parties in proportion to their popularity (Yglesias, Vox). There are two ways that Proportional Representation could work. The first is a party list system. In a party list system, voters mark a ballot for a party and then seats are distributed based on the share of the votes that party got. If one party gets 25 percent of the vote, they get 25 percent of the seats, and if that works out to 40 seats, that means the first 40 people on their list get seats. The second is an alternative vote system. “In an alternative vote system, individual candidates still run for office, but instead of single-member districts, each state might be a big district with multiple members. In a state like Maryland with eight House members, voters would rank a bunch of candidates in order of preference, and then a formula would determine which eight people get the seat” (Yglesias).The biggest con of the alternative vote system is that the ballots are very complicated. A party list system’s ballot, however, is very simple, but some people don’t like the way it breaks the direct connection between voters and politicians. While these different systems all have some pros and some cons, they all fundamentally solve the redistricting dilemma. The main way they do that is by simply making decisions about where the boundaries go much less relevant. Most states wouldn’t have any district boundaries at all. A big state like Texas or California might need to be sliced into three or four chunks, but because the outcomes are guaranteed to be proportional, the exact details of the chunking don’t matter very much (Yglesias). Proportional representation also ensures that almost every district is in a “fair fight.” Even if a state like Georgia has a pronounced lean toward the Republican Party or a state like Massachusetts has a strong lean in the other direction, the margin of victory ends up mattering a lot. Since the margin of victory matters, parties have incentives to try to communicate with, appeal to, and mobilize voters in every corner of the country. This helps boost participation and engagement, but also ensures that no incumbent can feel so “safe” in his seat that he doesn’t need to try to work hard, avoid scandal, and otherwise do his job (Yglesias).Other pros of Proportional Representation are that people who live in cities wouldn’t have their votes devalued due to clustering, no one’s vote would be “wasted”, it would eliminate the uncompetitive districts created to protect incumbents, and Under PR rules, it is impossible for one party to have a monopoly on the seats in a district and to prevent the others from winning any representation. Instead of a winner-take-all system we would have an all-are-winners system, where all parties have a reasonable chance to win some district seats.Gerrymandering has been a hot topic in 2017, as Supreme Court is currently dealing with the Gill v. Whitford case. The case is about Republicans’ ability to tilt the political playing field in their favor through the tedious task of redrawing district lines. Supreme Court will rule whether or not to invalidate a redistricting plan Wisconsin adopted for its state assembly in 2011. The argument is that Wisconsin drew their lines unconstitutionally to benefit the Republicans (Gerstein, Politico). The Republicans gained complete control of the state’s government for the first time in more than 40 years. In 2012, Republicans won 48.6 percent of the statewide vote for Assembly candidates but captured 60 of the Assembly’s 99 seats (Liptak, nytimes). “”Gerrymanders now are not your fathers’ gerrymanders,” warned Paul Smith, the lawyer for Democrats challenging the Wisconsin plan. He said data-crunching is now so sophisticated that there could be virtually no competition in U.S. elections in much of the country after 2020, if the high court doesn’t impose restraints” (Gerstein). The outcome of the case has the potential to radically reshape politics by pushing courts across the country into the role of examining district maps for excessive partisan bias.