Gerrymandering is a problem in American politics that many political theorists and political commentators have long discussed, but rarely is any significant effort made to stop it. Although it has an extensive history in American democracy, there are solutions which can improve America’s system of voting.
The history of gerrymandering began in 1812 when Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry passed a bill which redrew the voting districts in favor of his Democratic Republican party. One of the newly redistricted zones resembled a salamander, and thus the term for this type of corruption became forever known in American politics as gerrymandering.
There are three major forms of gerrymandering: cracking, packing and homogenization. Cracking is when the majority party redraws the districts so that the minority party’s voters are spread thinly across the various sectors. Likewise, packing is when the majority party places all of the minority party’s voters into a single district. Finally, homogenization is when the majority party spreads its voter base across the different districts to maintain a guaranteed majority everywhere.
Many American voters may be under the assumption that the voting districts are drawn between cities and counties, which is how it should be. It would even be better if the voting districts had been drawn arbitrarily. Unfortunately, neither of these methods were used in the creation of our current system. The problem is that the borders of these congressional districts have not been drawn arbitrarily, but, instead the districts which elect state politicians such as senators, assemblymen and members of the House of Representatives have been strategically mapped out by the political party in power in the state legislature to favor their own party.
This is a clear manipulation of the democratic process. It undermines American democracy, therefore a more finite system should be put in place, one that is not susceptible to manipulation and corruption. The constant redistribution of voting districts is not only unfair to the voters who want a free and fair functioning democracy, but it is clearly prejudiced against minority parties. These opposition parties, no matter how hard a campaign they run, will lose districts in upcoming elections as their support base is split, outnumbered or huddled together during redistricting.
The clear solution is that these districts should be drawn around counties. Each county should vote as its own district. In the same way that states function and vote unilaterally, counties should function in the same manner. Counties already pass their own laws and elect their own local politicians. It would not be a major change in functionality to redraw the statewide voting districts around them as well. This is the best solution to fixing the corruption of gerrymandering in the American political system.
One of the arguments in favor of gerrymandering, or district redrawing, is that it can be used to redraw districts in favor of minorities. For example, in a largely African American area, if the district is drawn within these boundaries it can give these minority groups political power by giving them the opportunity to elect representatives and have power over their own voting districts.
However, this argument falls under the same issues as gerrymandering because it could be viewed as a form of packing. By claiming that it gives minorities voting power or the opportunity to elect their own representatives, it also pigeonholes them into a single district. Rather than having voting power amongst a number of districts, now a minority community would only be confined,controlled and be made unable from affecting a wide range of voting districts and the elections of local officials within those districts.
Gerrymandering is a significant problem in American politics. It corrupts the political system and it gives the people in power the ability to keep themselves in their elevated positions. The people cannot abide by this, as the best part about America is its commitment to progress and always looking toward improving civil liberties and economic opportunities. No change or great political reform is possible if the majority parties are gifted with the authority to pass legislation that gives them the right to manipulate elections in their favor. The truth is that for conditions to improve and society to make gradual generational change, there always has to be opportunities for new leaders to rise up. Under a system of gerrymandering, this is incredibly difficult.