Briana Brady ‘21
If you’re not familiar with the term “gerrymandering,” it is the act of “manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency so as to favor one party or class.”
It essentially enables a supposedly democratic electoral system to craft a methodology that creates skewed electoral results that do not accurately represent the views of the surrounding population.
In the 2016 elections alone, studies show that Republicans had a real advantage in state and national contests.
The Associated Press evaluated all 435 U.S. House races in 2016 as well as 4,700 state house and assembly seats that were up for election in that year using a new methodology that incorporated statistics to determine what effects gerrymandering did or did not have on the outcomes of elections.
According to the AP, there were four times as many states with Republican-skewed state house or assembly districts than Democratic ones. Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Virginia, all typical battleground states, showed significant Republican advantage in their individual U.S. and state house races.
Perhaps most notably, in 2010, when the last Census was recorded, Republicans redrew district lines in all of the aforementioned states. As a result, according to the AP, Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country.
This manipulation resulted in a comfortable victory margin for Republicans during a time in which the margin should have been much tighter.
The AP also notes that while Republicans had other advantages like a more widespread voter base and more incumbents, Democrats’ chances of making ground in elections were limited by gerrymandering.
The effects of gerrymandering are so severe and such a threat to fair and equal elections that Democrats, specifically former Attorney General Eric Holder, are leading efforts to redraw district lines. Former President Obama is backing the movement spearheaded by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.
Democrats, too, have a history of gerrymandering, especially in states like Maryland, where one district has a severe issue with its lines.
Holder hopes to raise concerns in activists and voters by getting across the implications of gerrymandering. He said, “In particular, I’ll focus on making sure that African-Americans, people of color, understand the long-term implications of these elections.”
All in all, gerrymandering has a weighty impact on the legislators elected to serve in public office on state and national levels.
It also belittles the long-held philosophy that every vote matters.
While it is certainly not the only way that this country suppresses votes that it doesn’t want, eliminating the practice of gerrymandering would certainly be a step in the right direction in the process of actuating the statement that all voices matter in this country.