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Plan to Eliminate Gerrymandering and Voter Supression
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Cesar Toscano

Feb 07, 2024

Since its coinage in 1812, gerrymandering has been widely used in American history for candidates from both sides of the aisle. In the last 30 years, it has been used aggressively to suppress voters. In a time of polarization and distrust in voters, both parties should work to make voting as accessible and fair as possible.

The Big Picture 


As the 2024 primaries have started and the general election looms, Americans still see the effects of accusations of fixed elections. In hotly contested states, some states chose to pass legislation to provide security for voters, but it can be critiqued as limiting voters. As found in a Mildred survey, the majority of voters in the 2020 election believed their vote didn't matter. In a country in which citizens’ distrust and disbelief in their voting power is running rampant, it is puzzling that there are more laws being passed that will reduce a citizen’s affect on the voting. Complexities are compounded by a two-century old method to manipulate votes.


Every 10 years, states conduct a population census. This paves the way for legislation that can redraw the political map for future elections. The problem is state legislators can redraw maps to create advantage for one party regardless of whether it is not fair or accurate to the population. This is called gerrymandering and has been a problem since before it was coined in 1812. 

 

Operative Definitions  

1. Census- Every 10 years on a year that ends with a zero, population is counted from national to a district level. Varying categorizing factors are noted and counted as well such as gender, race and age.   
2. Redistricting- After a census, states and local governments redraw the map based on the changes in population. It is intended to create an accurate representation of voters in each district.
3. Gerrymandering- A tactic to reduce and undermine voter’s right by redrawing the map to support one politician or party. 
4. Packing- One method of gerrymandering, it puts all voters with similar political leaning into one or two districts, providing sure victories in those districts but limiting them in every other district. 
5. Cracking-The other method but instead of putting similar voters into one category, it splits them into too many districts thereby eliminating their voting power. 
6. Freedom to vote Act- A proposed act focused on making voting more accessible, helps combat gerrymandering and voter suppression. 
7. Independent Redistricting Commissions (IRC)-Seperate from government officials, these groups independently redraw the map without bias and are informed from stats and census. 
8. Voting Rights Act of 1965- A landmark law outlawing discriminatory laws against voters based on race, gender and age.
9. Rucho v. Common Cause- A Supreme Court case that decided that the federal court does not have the ability to decide whether gerrymandering is a question they can answer.

 
Important Facts and Stats

In unfairly drawn congressional districts, on average 59 seats shifted in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 2012, 2014 and 2016 elections.

Four-Point Plan

1. The first step would be overturning Rucho v. Common Cause, allowing for a productive discussion about gerrymandering. This is a vital first step as it provides a foundation to making gerrymandering illegal. Discussions and debate could provide further problem solving. Overturning the case would allow for not only illegalization of gerrymandering but would also provide further systems in place to combat governmental interference in the long-term state of the nation.   
 2. Eliminate government interference in the redistricting process and replace it with IRC. If the argument for Rucho v. Common Cause is that the federal government or courts cannot provide an opinion on Gerrymandering, then decisions should be formed from a non-partisan independent group such as IRC. At the federal and state level, governments should also strive to make further measures that could provide possible penalties and consequences for parties and candidates that violate these rules. 
3. Require state-led public elections referendums in general and primary elections on how the voting districts should be constructed as a confirmation of whether the IRC is providing accurate maps. The use of referendums would provide an accurate picture of how the majority of citizens feel. For IRC, the votes could be categorized by districts as an additional stat to analyze whether districts are satisfied with their distribution.
4. Enact the Freedom to Vote Act to ensure voter rights are prioritized over government official bias in current and future elections. Voter suppression would be restricted, allowing for more accurate votes and challenging unconstitutional bills that have restricted voters. 


Why is this important 


Gerrymandering and restrictive voter laws prevent potential voters from voting. People of color are especially targeted and affected by gerrymandering as it affects their chosen electorates’ chance of being elected and consequently undermining their value of their vote. It should be noted that this is a partisan issue that affects both parties. Both parties have used this tactic to unjustly acquire votes. From 1964 to 1992, gerrymandering was used to keep the status quo of democrats controlling the house and the republicans controlling the presidency with the exception of president Carter in 1968. 

This unfair method has already created more polarization between Americans and will continue to add to it. In the last 30 years, gerrymandering has only become more turbulent and aggressive. Especially after it becomes more apparent that voter suppression laws have become commonplace.  Supporters argue it provides security and stability but, in a time of polarization, suppression of rights provides uncertainty and demeans Americans’ self-independence and right to vote.  


This plan is driven by a focus on providing rights to voters and making sure everyone’s vote matters. Security is important but to place extreme restrictions on voters is harmful to democracy. By creating a more fair map, voters will be likely more accepting of voting and less precarious of their voting power.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources


Daniel I. Weiner                                                                                                                                                      Andrew Garber, et al. “What the Freedom to Vote Act Would Do.” Brennan Center for Justice, 17 July 2023, www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/freedom-vote-act.

Director, Sam Hananel                          Senior, et al. “The Impact of Partisan Gerrymandering.” Center for American Progress, 5 Feb. 2024, www.americanprogress.org/article/impact-partisan-gerrymandering/.

Kirschenbaum, Julia, and Michael Li. “Gerrymandering Explained.” Brennan Center for Justice, 24 July 2023, www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/gerrymandering-explained.

“Rucho v. Common Cause,” www.oyez.org/cases/2018/18-422. Accessed 7 Feb. 2024.

“Rucho v. Common Cause.” Common Cause, 9 Sept. 2022, www.commoncause.org/redistricting-litigation/common-cause-v-rucho/. 

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