Sunday, June 30, 2013

It's Time To Do Away With Gerrymandering

Are you frustrated with the political environment we see not only in Georgia but in Washington, D.C?

Looking at the entrenched partisanship and gridlock in our political system, it's easy to become cynical. Year after year, it seems nothing changes. That's because your votes don't really count. One of the reasons is simple: GERRYMANDERING

Gerrymandering has effectively disenfranchised the majority of voters - and they don't even know it.

Districts are noncompetitive, so the winners are determined in primary elections, where the turnout is always low (typically about a third of registered voters) and the electorate is dominated by the most extreme and partisan voters. Legislators can only be defeated in the primary and so must become rigidly ideological, since any compromise can (and has) cost members their careers. That has led to legislatures as well as Congress incapable of solving problems.

With the SCOTUS decision to drop section 4 of the VRA, which was a huge mistake, what really needs to be looked at now is the total elimination of Gerrymandering.

In this redistricting process, gerrymandering – the manipulation of district lines for political advantage – has become the political weapon of choice. The two main purposes of gerrymandering are to protect the seats of incumbents and to allow the dominant party in a state to win more seats that it deserves.

A typical example of gerrymandering would be to draw district lines to keep a city with a large African American population out of a white Republican’s congressional district. The politicos would do this because African Americans are more likely to vote Democrat. In exchange for this the Republicans let the Democrats exclude white rural areas likely to vote Republican from their districts.

The result of this gerrymandering is that our politics get artificially polarized along ideological, cultural and racial lines. Republicans can safely ignore the concerns of African American voters because they know they won’t be a factor in their reelection. Democrats can safely ignore the concerns of rural and suburban whites because they know those people don’t vote in their districts. Instead of a healthy two party contest, elections become nasty little battles between different factions of one party. In many cases narrow ideologically focused bands of extremists can dominate the electoral process. Candidates have to pander to these groups rather than address issues of real concern to voters.

Eliminating gerrymandering for Congressional & Legislative districts could make our politics more moderate. When elections are held in predetermined geographic regions not drawn up by politicians, American voters tend to elect moderate middle of the road candidates dedicated to compromise. When politicians have to face election outside predetermined regions they tend to move the center. History also proves that candidates will abandon polarizing racial, cultural and ideological politics when their re-election depends on those of another race or culture. Getting rid of gerrymandering wouldn’t be a cure all but it could go a long way to improving our political system. In particular it could give us a House of Representatives that actually looks something like the America it represents.

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