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Our Founders' Warning: “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.” (Thomas Jefferson)

Gerrymandering: Redrawn Districts to Favor Incumbent Sitting Members

Gerrymandering with Redrawn Districts to Favor Incumbent Sitting Members

Though congressional redistricting is the responsibility of the States, special interests promoting a party or policy use gerrymandering with redrawn districts to favor incumbent sitting members and thereby have a major influence on the process.

In 36 states, redistricting is the responsibility of the state legislature; in seven states (AZ, HI, ID, NJ, WA, and WV), redistricting is done by independent means; and seven states (AL, DE, MT, ND, SD, VT, and WY) have only a single district (Wikipedia).

Gerrymandering with Redrawn Districts to Favor Incumbent Sitting Members
Classic Gerrymandering (Courtesy © Wikipedia)

Gerrymandering has the effect of redrawing voting boundaries so that voters of the first group make their votes more effective than the votes of a second group. It wastes the second group votes artificially—thereby voiding their vote and their Article 1 Section 2 right of choice. As of 2012, the disenfranchisement due to partisan-controlled redistricting was a total of 4.4 million voters from both parties. (Princeton Election Consortium, Sam Wang).

Gerrymander works by packing opponents’ votes into redrawn districts where the opponents will already win, and by distributing the remainder into redrawn districts where opponents become a minority. It particularly favors incumbent congresspersons because they generally influence the drawing of the voting boundaries—and the effects are far from trivial. For example, if two parties have an equal number of votes, it is possible to gerrymander so that one party gets almost two times as many seats as the other. Sophisticated computer mapping systems, which require substantial financial support, design gerrymandering today. Consequently, special interest money is again crucial. Voters should choose which political party should be in power; instead, congresspersons, special interests and political parties choose their voters to assure their power. Today in the House of Representatives, about 190 sitting members are safe for each party, leaving only 55 seats (i.e., 13 percent) where the outcome is open. The underlying 1967 law creating gerrymander’s opportunity established that the number of Districts shall be equal to the number of Representatives (U.S. Code › Title 2 › Chapter 1 › § 2c).

Resolution

There are several well documented, tested, and reliable solutions to this problem. But it is unlikely that a congress, with 87 percent of its sitting members and probable incumbent benefits from gerrymandering, will ever change the law. So, if the people want to remedy the problem, it will require a Constitutional Amendment today, or if we have the Initiatives Amendment, in can be done simply with a Direct Legislative Initiative.