An infamous technique might finally be coming to an end, which could result in a significant step forward in safeguarding our democracy.
During election season, everyone goes crazy. But the delegates and state legislatures take the cake.
Since the first political parties, state legislatures have redrawn district lines in order to favor a certain party. Elbridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts, created a district purposely dividing a county that strongly supported the Federalists. The district that the governor signed off on, looked like a salamander, and this process of drawing district lines unfairly to favor one party, became known as gerrymandering.
Most times, governors and state legislatures are in charge of redrawing district lines, and whichever party controls the legislature, gets an advantage in redistricting. It is common, for Democrats and Republicans, to reconfigure district lines in order to ensure that more of their delegates hold seats in Congress. Both parties have been doing it for centuries.
Usually, gerrymandering consists of Republicans, for example, drawing a district that packs mostly Democrats into one area. After some more redistricting, a state could be left with three districts that are mostly Democratic, but ten districts that house a Republican majority. Therefore, Republicans are purposely meant to have more of a representation in the government than Democrats.
Often, these districts end up looking like a haphazard creation, like when you close your eyes and wave your pencil around a sheet of paper. One of the worst case of gerrymandering can be seen in the 2012 elections.
In 2010, Republicans took over state legislatures, giving them the power to redraw district lines as a Democratic president was in power. The results of elections gave a Republican majority to the House of Representatives, with a Democratic president and Senate. Most Americans wanted a Democratic House, but gerrymandering had a mind of its own.
Although Republicans lost the popular vote in the 2012 election, they held a majority in the House because of gerrymandering. Since representatives of the House are determined by population, Republicans drew district lines so there were a higher number of strong Republican districts than Democratic. Therefore, the GOP received a larger representation in the House than Democrats.
The 2012 election left a Republican majority in the House that should not have been there, according to the fact that Democrats won the popular vote. Gerrymandering paved the way to unfair success, as it has done for centuries.
What’s Happening Now:
In June, the League of Women Voters and about twenty other voters filed a lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania, claiming the gerrymandering was a violation of the state’s constitution. On November 9th, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court made the decision to hear the case.
Potentially, the eventual court decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court could help determine the fate of Pennsylvania’s gerrymandering in the 2018 mid-term Congressional elections.
This could also set off a chain reaction of lawsuits, encouraging other groups and voters around the country to challenge the constitutionality of gerrymandering in their states. A huge change in redistricting has the potential to take place because of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to hear the arguments for this case.
The preferred result of the Supreme Court’s hearing involves the blocking of gerrymandering for future elections, and the reconfiguring of district lines according to the state’s Constitution, before the 2018 elections. Hopefully, the salamander will someday be completely absent from the political playing field.