Biased maps, broken democracy

The topic of the day is gerrymandering. We’ll let John Oliver give a good overview of the problematic practice:

As Carol Anderson lays out in “One Person, No Vote,” a combination of a Supreme Court green light for partisan gerrymandering, “the increasing diversity of the cities, the mounting whiteness of the suburbs and rural areas, the rightward shift in the Republican Party, the role of dark money and the Citizens United decision in elections, and the rise of powerful computer mapping software and analytics created a perfect gerrymandering storm that has not only affected state legislatures but also determined the ideological configuration and policy stances of the U.S. Congress and, thus, the nation.”

In gerrymandered areas, the will of the voters is not translated into actual representation in government. Partisan gerrymandering has reared its head all over the country for decades – and race and party are deeply related. A 2016 Pew report found that 87 percent of Black voters identify with or lean Democratic, while 7 percent identify or lean Republican.

Anderson gives an example of the relationship between race and partisan gerrymandering: When two Republican incumbents scraped out wins in 2016 because the growing population of Black voters didn’t support them,

“the GOP-controlled legislature simply redrew their districts, moving the black neighborhoods over to a Democrat and extracting her white constituents to Republican districts.”

Gerrymandering, in addition to silencing voices that participate by voting, also suppresses voter turnout. Why bother to vote if your vote doesn’t matter and the outcome of the election is a foregone conclusion? “Black voter turnout,” Anderson notes, “declined in every gerrymandered swing state during the 2016 election.”

So what to do? First off, do some research and find out the shape of your district. How did it get that way? When was it last changed, and by whom? Does it make sense? Who is included, and who is excluded? What communities are packed or cracked? What do others have to say about these lines? If you aren’t happy with what you find, make an action plan of how you can help change it.

There are also some upcoming Supreme Court cases to keep an eye on: Partisan gerrymandering is the topic of Rucho V. Common Cause and Lamone V. Benisek, and racial gerrymandering the focus of VA. House of Delegates V. Bethune-Hill. As Flippable noted, “Given that redistricting is set to begin in 2021, a ruling in either case would have huge implications for the congressional and state legislative districts we use through 2030.

Flippable also has an interactive map showing their focus states with particularly important gerrymandering issues. Figure out ways you can support those states.

Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 12.38.41 PM

Header image by US Census Bureau.

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