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News/Politics, The Liberal Complaint

It’s Time to Take Rediscticting Out of Politicians’ Hands

GerrymanderRotateSmall

A political cartoon that appeared in 1812 when the term “gerrymander” was first used to describe the politically-motivated redistricting by Governor Elbridge Gerry.

There are a lot of problems in our political system.  The two-party system we have created has driven us to a point of intense conflict.  This conflict has led to a standstill in our government evidenced by the worst two congressional sessions in our history (assuming this session remains unchanged).  The reason that the same people keep this power, and don’t fear losing their control, is that they are in charge of drawing the lines that determine who votes them into office.  We must take the power to re-district away from the people who benefit from the changes.

Gerrymandering is a term originally coined in 1812 by the Boston Gazette.  It is how we describe the use of one’s political office to re-district in a way that benefits a specific political party.  Over the years, gerrymandering has changed from a newsworthy practice to be condemned by the media into something that is accepted.  In fact, it is almost expected that a party will re-district in favor of their party when they take control.

Recently, the Republican State Leadership Committee released a report detailing how they are using this as a strategy to help them gain more control in Congress.  The report, titled REDMAP, details the plan to use gerrymandering to increase control in Congress.

The rationale was straightforward:  Controlling the redistricting process in these states would have the greatest impact on determining how both state legislative and congressional district boundaries would be drawn.  Drawing new district lines in states with the most redistricting activity presented the opportunity to solidify conservative policymaking at the state level and maintain a Republican stronghold in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade.

It should disgust the people of our country that the political parties are bragging about how smart they are to use gerrymandering as a tool to increase power.  We have allowed these people an amount of control over our lives that is unacceptable.

Fortunately, we have the ability to change this ugly trend in U.S. politics.  The people of California did this in 2010.  As an article in Bloomberg described, the voters in California stripped lawmakers of their ability to control the redistricting process.  Instead, districts are drawn by a panel of independent citizens.  The panel, which did not allow lawmakers, public officials,their immediate family members, legislative aides, lobbyists, party staffers, and political donors who gave more than $2,000 in any year of the previous decade to be included, drew new districts based on roughly equal populations with compact, regular shapes.  The new districts resulted in a turnover for the state’s delegation of 26 percent.  Compared to the national average of 15 percent turnover that has plagued our country in the last 50 years, this would be a welcomed change.

All states should follow this example and take the power to pervert our political system through gerrymandering away from these politicians.  If they can’t win their seats through their own merits, they have no business representing their district in Congress. We must take the power of the people back.

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