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A Clear and Present Danger: Gerrymandering is no Game



Image by Amy from Pixabay
Gerrymandering might sound boring, but it truly affects voters and election outcomes.

Are you familiar with the term “Gerrymandering?” No . . . it is not some game played with a guy named “Gerry.” Gerrymandering is the manipulation of electoral district boundaries to favor one political party or group. It strikes at the core of our democratic principles, undermines the fundamental tenet of fair representation, and distorts the electoral process.


As I write this, gerrymandering in Wisconsin and Louisiana is not only subverting the democratic process; it is contravening the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). The VRA is landmark legislation passed to protect the voting rights of all citizens, particularly those belonging to marginalized communities.

           

Specifically, the VRA was enacted to combat discriminatory voting practices that disenfranchised Black voters and other minority citizens. Its purpose was to ensure that every citizen, regardless of race, ethnicity, or language proficiency, had an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process. Gerrymandering in states like Wisconsin and Louisiana undermines the goal of the VRA by diluting the voting power of minority communities and perpetuating unequal representation.

 

Gerrymandering is No Game          

Before my Republican friends scream, “But both sides do it,” I confess that both parties engage in the process. And, while I dislike the practice regardless of which side participates, it is undeniable that Democratic gerrymandering does not attempt to subvert the VRA the way that Republican efforts do. 

           

In Wisconsin, for instance, gerrymandering has been used as a tool by a majority Republican legislature to entrench its political dominance at the expense of minority populations and fair representation. Following the 2010 census, Republican lawmakers in the Badger state engaged in extreme partisan gerrymandering, redrawing district boundaries to maximize their electoral advantage. Through sophisticated mapping techniques, they strategically packed Democratic voters into a small number of districts and spread Republican voters across a larger number of districts. As a result, although Democrats won a significant share of the statewide vote, Republicans secured a disproportionately high number of seats in the state legislature. Trump was correct—it is a rigged system— in favor of his party. By diminishing the electoral influence of minority communities, Wisconsin Republicans undermine the principles of fairness and equality enshrined in the VRA.


Louisiana also has a sordid history—state Republicans routinely gerrymander to undermine the voting rights of minority citizens, especially African Americans. Gerrymandered districts marginalize the voting power of these minority communities. By manipulating district boundaries, Louisiana majority lawmakers (Republicans) seek to maintain control, preserve the status quo, and protect the interests of the ruling political elite.


Gerrymanderers create racially polarized districts, concentrating African American voters into a small number of majority-minority districts, minimizing their electoral influence in other districts. This practice, known as “cracking,” dilutes African American voting strength and undermines a community’s ability to elect the candidates of its choice. The Louisiana legislature’s deliberate seizure of meaningful political representation runs counter to the promise of the Voting Rights Act. The VRA prohibits any voting practice or procedure that discriminatorily impacts minority voters, regardless of intent. The evidence supports a conclusion in both Wisconsin and Louisiana that gerrymandering has resulted in the systematic disenfranchisement of minority communities.


Considerable progress has been made since the passage of the VRA, but gerrymandering remains a persistent threat to voting rights and democratic principles. To address the scourge of gerrymandering and uphold the principles of the VRA, comprehensive reforms must be implemented to ensure that all citizens have fair and equal representation. Establishing independent (non-political) redistricting commissions, transparent and inclusive redistricting processes, and strict, active enforcement mechanisms that create accountability are just a few examples of ideas whose time has come.


President Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, has headed the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC) since 2017. Its mission is to build a comprehensive plan to favorably position Democrats for the redistricting process. The NDRC website describes its work as a four-part strategy focused on legal action, grassroots organizing, advancing and supporting reforms, and targeting and winning select elections.


“American voters deserve fair maps that represent our diverse communities. We need a coordinated strategy to make that happen,” says Holder. Since its formation, the NDRC has taken various actions in Wisconsin, Louisiana, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, Arizona, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah.


I know what you’re thinking. Bello is just being dramatic, and this is not a significant issue in America. But consider the 2010-2011 Wisconsin effort I mentioned previously. The district lines drawn were so Republican-friendly that a Democratic popular vote victory of almost 200,000 votes was not enough to prevent the GOP from winning close to 2/3 of the legislative seats. The case ultimately landed in the lap of the Supreme Court, which ruled that “the voters” do not have standing to make a statewide challenge to a redistricting plan. A single voter must allege “personal harm” to have standing. Since statewide harm is not personal harm, the Court sent the case back to the district court. Wisconsin Democrats have been unsuccessfully pushing the “majority rules” concept ever since. The issue is currently in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.


Gerrymandering undermines the principles of democracy and equality and runs contrary to the VRA. By manipulating electoral boundaries for political advantage, thus disenfranchising minority communities, lawmakers betray the ideals upon which our democracy was founded. We, the People, must demand an end to this process and work towards a future where every voice is heard and every vote counts. Only then can we call ourselves a true democracy.


Clearly, gerrymandering is no game.


Bello's books

Please check out Mark Bello’s ripped-from-the-headlines legal thrillers, all available online at Amazon and other major online booksellers. He has quite the hero in Attorney Zachary Blake, who fights for justice on all fronts. His books are Betrayal of Faith, Betrayal of Justice, Betrayal in Blue, Betrayal in Black, Betrayal High, Supreme Betrayal, Betrayal at the Border, You Have the Right to Remain Silent, The Final Steps – A Harbor Springs Cozy Legal Mystery, and his latest, The Anti-Semite Next Door. Also, he’s written a wonderful children’s book about bullying, “Happy Jack, Sad Jack,” and he's just announced the pre-order release of "Love Hate Law," a new legal romance novel. For more info, just check markmbello.com.



 

 

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