Should partisan gerrymandering be illegal? | The Tylt

Should partisan gerrymandering be illegal?

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that the state's GOP-drawn congressional districts were unconstitutional. Many believe gerrymandering—or the manipulation of congressional boundaries to advantage one party over another—is a form of voter suppression and is responsible for our hyper-partisan politics. But others caution that the anti-gerrymandering campaign may actually hurt minority voters, who have used redistricting to more accurately represent their constituencies. What do you think?

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled the state's congressional map was unconstitutional because it "clearly, plainly, and palpably" disadvantages Democratic voters. The court ordered the GOP-controlled legislature must draw a new map immediately, which many believe will have huge implications for the 2018 midterm elections.

Pennsylvania’s map has widely been considered an extreme example of gerrymandering, ranking among the most skewed maps by multiple measures. Republicans have consistently won the same 13 of 18 House seats since it was drawn in 2011, even as votes cast in the state were evenly split between the parties.

So what is gerrymandering? Gerrymandering is the practice of manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency to favor one party over the other.

In the U.S., this is most commonly seen in congressional districts, where the state's controlling party can use tactics to either "crack" or "pack" like-minded voters. "Cracking" attempts to dilute the power of like-minded voters by splitting them up into multiple districts, while "packing" groups like-minded voters together in one district in order to limit their power in other districts.

Watch this explainer video from The Washington Post below:

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Many believe the recent ruling has major implications nationwide for the future of partisan gerrymandered districts. The U.S. Supreme Court is already considering a gerrymandering case from Wisconsin, which could mean the end of gerrymandering across the country. While courts have typically stayed away from partisan gerrymandering cases, many believe the tides are now turning.

Although districts are sometimes struck down for gerrymandering on the basis of race, courts have been reluctant to declare gerrymanders unconstitutional on partisan bounds because such rulings thrust the judiciary into the middle of partisan battles. Since legislatures are, in most states, entitled to draw the lines, it’s always been assumed that they will draw lines that give their own party an edge. The question is whether they can go too far.

While both parties have been guilty of drawing district lines to advantage their constituencies, some GOP-drawn congressional maps have gone too far in recent years. If gerrymandering is struck down in the Supreme Court in the same say it was in Pennsylvania, it is Democrats who will gain the most.

The Pennsylvania case shares several key characteristics with the Wisconsin and North Carolina cases. All three seek outcomes that would help Democrats and hurt Republicans. 
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Former President Barack Obama has made partisan gerrymandering the central cause of his post-presidency. Last year, Organize for Action partnered with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, chaired by former Attorney General Eric Holder.

“OFA volunteers and supporters will provide the grassroots organizing capacity and mobilization that we’ll need to win state-level elections and move other initiatives forward ahead of the 2021 redistricting process, making sure that states are in the best position to draw fair maps,” Obama wrote in an email sent to the OFA’s list, which he called “Our Next Fight.”

Obama and Holder argue Democrats should put as many resources as possible into ensuring the 2021 congressional map is drawn fairly and doesn't advantage Republicans in the way the previous map did.

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But critics argue Democrats only care about gerrymandering when it hurts them. Democrats have also drawn congressional districts to favor their voters in states where they control the state legislature, so why do we only care when Republicans do the same?

It’s not hard to notice that in many minds, drawing district lines to maximize partisan advantage only became a threat to democracy once Republicans started doing it.

Jim Geraghty of the National Review points to Obama's former district in Illinois which, prior to 2000, leaned Republican. 

Obama’s former district had been drawn by Republicans after the 1990 census. But, after 2000, Illinois Democrats won the right to redistrict the state. Partisan redistricting remains common in American politics, and, while it outrages a losing party, it has so far survived every legal challenge. In the new century, mapping technology has become so precise and the available demographic data so rich that politicians are able to choose the kinds of voter they want to represent, right down to individual homes.
If you weren’t bothered by Democratic redistricting, you cannot be upset by Republican redistricting!
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And some argue gerrymandering has actually helped minority voters achieve accurate representation in Congress.

Alabama Democrats told the court in a brief they were concerned that ending partisan gerrymandering would “undermine … the ability of African Americans in Alabama to continue the effective exercise of their newly won ability to participate in the political process.”

While many Democrats recognize the problems with gerrymandering, African Americans have managed to use the system to their advantage by creating predominantly African American districts and therefore sending representatives to Congress who actually represent the interests of their community.

But Michael Li and Laura Royden of Vox argue that minority voting power can still exist without partisan gerrymandering and Republicans have actually been using gerrymandering to slice and dice minority voters.

The maps of this decade reveal that Republicans have been using the same kind of slicing and dicing of minority voters once practiced by white Democrats to engineer a lopsided advantage for their interests. The creation of more majority-minority districts helped eliminate artificial pro-white-Democratic bias in the 1990s. In the same way, majority-minority districts might combat pro-Republican bias in states like Texas today.
There is simply no conflict between preventing outrageous partisan abuses during redistricting and ensuring fair treatment for minority communities. We can do both—and we should.
FINAL RESULTS
Politics
Should partisan gerrymandering be illegal?
A festive crown for the winner
#FairMapsNow
#LetStatesDecide