When you cast a vote for a representative in Congress, it doesn’t apply directly to the candidate you voted for. Instead, your vote gets grouped together with other votes in your district. Candidates are selected based on the number of districts they win, not the number of votes. Think of it like the Electoral College, but for Congressmen instead of the President.
To demonstrate, let’s take a fictional area, called Corruptionville, with 50% Democrat voters, and 50% Republican voters. There are four seats in Congress up for grabs. One would assume the districts would be drawn as such:
This would create a situation in which there were two Congressmen are Democrats, and two are Republican.
Gerrymandering is when these districts are drawn in a shape that favors one party over another. Say one year, Republicans in Corruptionville draw the district lines. If they were gerrymandering, it might look like this:
This would result in three Congressmen who are Republicans, and just one who’s a Democrat. This is an oversimplification of what actually happens, but it explains the gist: Democrats are packed into one district, and Republicans are spread out in a way that gives them more votes.
Why specifically use Republicans as the example for gerrymandering? Because they do it the most1,2. They won 72 percent of the seats with 53 percent of the votes in the 17 states they drew the district lines for2. For a party that touts America-first, this is one of the most un-American things one can do. Americans being taxed without proper representation was one of the biggest reasons behind the Revolutionary War. Gerrymandering denies us proper representation. Gerrymandering disenfranchises millions of voters3.
Several states have enacted laws that put the power of drawing district lines into non-partisan, third-party organizations. We need all states to follow suit. Allowing your representatives to draw district lines is the equivalent of allowing your representatives to choose their voters, rather than the voters choosing their representative. It’s that powerful.
How can you stop it? You can talk your representative’s ears off (see contact info for your representatives below). You can sign this petition. Also, you could mobilize.
There have already been several legal battles over gerrymandering, and the successful ones struck it down when it was obvious it was disproportionately affecting black voters. In other words, it’s easier for the courts to consider gerrymandering illegal when it’s shown that it was done for discriminatory reasons, rather than for political reasons.
Why is this important? It’s important because it shows that if your district contains a high percent of minorities, while nearby districts do not, and it does not show a political advantage, then the only possible explanation is that the district lines were drawn to discriminate against minority voters. How can you accomplish this? Change your voter’s registration to the Republican party.
That’s right. If you are a minority, and your state has more Republican representatives than Republican voters, this applies to you. Mobilize your community to all register as Republicans and sue your state over its district lines. An investigation will show that the only data point that sticks out is race, not political parties.
If you are a Republican in a state with more Democratic representatives than Democratic voters, then you’ll have to settle for signing the petition, since there likely won’t be any discrimination against minorities in your districts.
If this seems infeasible, remember how powerful the #MeToo movement was (and is). Trump has shown us how powerful Twitter can be when used for politics, but #MeToo has shown us how we can use it to put the control back in our court.