Elimination of Gerrymandering
Gerrymandering is an insidious practice that must be eliminated to preserve a true democracy where it still exists, and to restore democracy in those parts of the country where gerrymandering has long since eradicated any semblance of it.
The problem with gerrymandering is that a political party can use it to engineering the election decision. In effect, they can predetermine the outcome, regardless of how many people vote or who is running.
There are currently something like a dozen states in which elections are still contested--the so-called "battleground states". In every state, the outcome of every election is all but pre-determined--frequently as a result of gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is all about manipulating the boundaries of your political districts to get the results you want.
We tend to think of gerrymandering as an occasional thing where someone rigs a single district to ensure that they win. That doesn't seem too bad. But it's really much worse than that. We're talking wholesale restructuring of entire states to ensure that the same party always wins in that state.
To contrive a simple example, suppose you had a state that was geographically divided by forks of a river into three districts, where each district had one republican and one democrat in it. That would be a fairly balanced system. The President elected by that state would be the one who managed to get just one vote from the opposing side.
In other words, the election would be a crap shoot. That situation is fine for voters. But political parties want something that's less risky. Enter gerrymandering.
With gerrymandering, you rig the districts so all the democrats are in one district, and you divide the republicans between the remaining two districts. Now, you're always going to lose one district, but you're always going to win two! In other words, you're always the majority party in your state legislatature, your party has a majority of legislators in Congress, and your state's electoral votes always go for your party's presidential candidate.
It goes the other way too, of course. There are states where democrats
control the proceedings. But the fact is that the Republican party spent
a good 20 years pumping money into state level elections--because redistricting
is done by each state. As a result of that manipulation, they have
put themselves into a position of power at the national level,
ensuring that they will be the majority party for many years to come--practically no matter what they do.
It's not even as simple as shifting a boundary one street over, either. With gerrymandering, you no longer see districts in fairly regular geometric shapes, say "from the river over to the freeway". Instead, you see districts that look like "scatter gun pellets" "a squashed spider". There are even instances of so-called "Jesus Districts", where you have to walk on water to stay within district boundaries.
With such districts, you neighbor on either side could be in completely different distrits--and, you would never know unless you look at a map.
Various proposals have been suggested to curb the problem of gerrymandering, but they all tend to have the same fatal flaw--whatever mechanism you choose for establishing geographic districts, it eventually becomes a political affair in its own right.
That's not to discredit such proposals entirely, however. Virtually any attempt at reform is welcome. But with a system of proportional representation, the problem evaporates.
For more on this subject, see:
- What is Gerrymandering?
- When does gerrymandering become a threat to democracy?
- Fixing Elections, by Steven Hill (book)