*****Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and is for educational purposes only. This does not create an attorney-client privilege.
If you pay attention to news and discussions surrounding election time, you have probably heard someone make reference to gerrymandering. So what exactly is this? Gerrymandering is a term that refers to when the boundaries of legislative districts are drawn in such a way as to shift political power.
You might wonder how it is that the Republican party is so strong and gains so much momentum. Isn't it surprising that even though many of the party's ideals and priorities disadvantage poor and working class folks, they still manage to win elections? Taking out the factor of social issues, when you consider the split of who is likely to identify as republican and who isn't, poor people of color are much less likely to vote red. Yet despite generally representing a more privileged minority, the Republican party still gains traction. Now, I wouldn't argue that the sole reason for this is gerrymandering, but I would assert that it is a very effective way of disenfranchising voters. It may not stop them from voting per say, but it certainly minimizes the weight of those voices.
Gerrymandering is essentially the “divide and conquer” strategy. The governing party is able to solidify their hold by drawing the boundaries of legislative districts in a way called cracking and stacking. The whole strategy is to win the most seats or electoral votes as possible for that party.
Let me explain further. The governing party will have something called a packed district; this is a district that is already large and already has a majority, in that region, that vote for the ruling party or a given party. That party can practice a gerrymandering technique where they “pack” that district with as many opposing votes as possible, while limiting that amount so as to not threaten the lead of the majority. Because we do not have a direct democracy, but instead make decisions based off the majority votes of different districts, this is a vey potent technique.
By “packing” districts with opposing votes, while making sure they still have enough to win, they are simultaneously “cracking” districts that may have voted in opposition. Say for example you have one district that is very large and a super majority already votes red. If there is a neighboring district that has a lot of people who vote blue, you can very effectively disempower them by taking those votes and applying them in that very red district. Because that packed district is so strong, those added blue votes are not going to change the outcome of a red win. But, by taking them away from the other district where their vote was more critical ad a blue victory had been possible, the red party is able to hurt their chances where they would have won if things had been fair.
This practice is not at all uncommon. Many complain that individual votes dont really matter, and the reality is that the ruling class and Republican party in particular tries to make that statement true. Without gerrymandering, and district being drawn in a straight forward way based on regional characteristics and common sense divisions, the democratic party`s voice would be more fairly represented. But if you take the pockets of blue voters in red states, and make sure those groups are split in such a way that they cannot combine their collective voice, they will not be able to gain traction, even if there are a lot of people.
This issue essentially boils down to the problem of our non-direct democracy. Because our democracy is representative, instead of just based on the popular vote, we give those representatives the power to determine how to weigh our vote. We have seen how this has resulted in us electing presidents who did not even win the popular vote, yet they won the electoral vote, because that majority was split so that they could not combine their collective voice.
Gerrymandering is just one example of how the American legislative system and government in general is stacked against the majority and the common man. Those that argue that the system is fair enjoy touting the principles of democracy and the American Dream, but the reality is that gerrymandering is just one way we are systemically kept from collectivizing.