Howard Steven Friedman: Simple Steps to Eliminate Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering congressional borders based on party affiliations, race, or some other criterion in order to maximize your support and minimize your opponent’s creates congressional district maps that look like a combination of computer-drawn algorithms and children’s crayon art. The idea is to pack the other party’s voters into fewer districts, thus limiting the number of districts they can win, or to scatter your opponent’s voters among a bunch of districts to deny them a sufficiently large voting bloc in any single district. Gerrymandering is often found in elections where there is a single winner, as opposed to elections where there is proportional representation, and is usually initiated by incumbents tightening their grip on power. The issue is so extreme in the United States that in 2004, election observers from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, a part of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), criticized the congressional redistricting process and the resulting lack of competitiveness in congressional election contests. Among its undemocratic consequences, gerrymandering gives an extraordinary advantage to incumbents. It also has the side effect of increasing political partisanship since once a politician is assured of reelection (through redistricting), that politician now has less need for compromising with dissenting views or even campaigning in any meaningful way. Gerrymandering has led to legislative standoffs. In 2003, the Republican majority in the Texas legislature redistricted the state. This redistricting resulted in diluting the voting power of the heavily Democratic counties by distributing their residents out to more Republican districts. Democratic legislators famously “hid” in neighboring states in an attempt to stall the vote. In 2006, the Supreme Court, in a shockingly antidemocratic ruling, upheld the right of states to redistrict for political purposes as often as they like, provided race is not used as a consideration.Read More…
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Howard Steven Friedman: Simple Steps to Eliminate Gerrymandering

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