To Gerrymander Or Not To Gerrymander
The Supreme Court is currently examining the drawing of district lines in states such as North Carolina and Wisconsin to determine if they were created with divisive racial motivation. This case will be hard to determine, since both parties have been invested in either the creation or dissolution of certain districts in many states. The problem of gerrymandering lies in a fundamental flaw in the democratic process: politicians are the ones who have the power to draw and redraw districts in states that are highly contested.
Gerrymandering in states such as North Carolina and Wisconsin is a huge issue. As these states become more defined along party lines, some like North Carolina are emerging as key swing states in national elections. Maps of districts are constantly amended and redrawn as each party calls foul trying to gain a majority advantage over the opposition.
In North Carolina, the 12th district, is a classic example of gerrymandering. Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post in 2014 writes, “The district was originally drawn by Democrats. But when the GOP redrew the state in 2010, they found it convenient to leave the 12th mostly untouched.” Since the surrounding towns and counties gained Republican voters, it was easier to leave the 12th untouched to reduce the power that the district had in swaying the total number of representatives in the N.C. General Assembly.
The Supreme Court will attempt to rule on how to make the popular votes of states more directly match the representation voters receive in their state’s legislatures. In Wisconsin in 2012, Democrats won 53 percent of the total popular vote but only received 39 percent representation in the State’s legislative assembly. The Supreme Court is prepared to rule on how to make districting more equitable in cases such as this.
One method that has been proposed to reduce the effect of political gerrymandering is to hand over the reigns of district-drawing power from politicians to computer programmers, who can use data from the U.S. Census Bureau. If non-partisan programmers and cartographers handled the districting process there would be reduced motivation for gaining political advantage and more common sense in relation to geography and constituency.
Another solution would be to make larger districts with more proportional numbers of votes to once again reduce the potential for candidates to campaign only in certain districts. The heart of the gerrymandering conundrum is a fundamental difference in how politicians agree citizens should be represented. That difference centers on whether citizens receive direct representation through a popular vote in a state or district or electoral representation similar to the electoral college at the national level. In national elections, a president can lose the popular vote but still become president through securing the necessary number of electoral votes.
While both of these solutions seem sensible, it is unlikely that either will be tried or that we will be able to completely remove politics from redistricting without the removal of politicians from the process. However, a third option exists for limiting the impact that gerrymandering has on the legislative assemblies of swing states.
The best solution is to shrink the state. By reducing the power and impact that elected officials have at their disposal, it will matter less how districts are drawn. Local representatives should be closely bound to the issues and needs of their constituents but limited in the power they have over their daily lives. By combining these two principles, the impact of special interest groups, identity politics and gerrymandering would begin to disappear.
Gerrymandering is a classic case of the unintended consequences of giving more power than necessary to the state. If we seek to reduce the state’s involvement in our lives, we can free the American people from being herded into groups for political advantage. Reducing politicians’ power is the only way to ensure that fair representation focuses on issues that fall within a limited scope of the state power such as protections from police forces, fire departments and the court system.
Upholding principles of limited government was paramount for our founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson reiterated this in 1816, “The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property and in their management.” We must seek to limit government where we can and restore representative rights to citizens wherever possible to ensure the protection of our freedoms.
John Bianchi is a marketing professional and the Chapter Leader for America’s Future Foundation in Raleigh, N.C. You can keep up to date with his articles on Medium here.
Views expressed in op-eds are not the views of The Daily Caller.