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What is Gerrymandering and What Did the Supreme Court Say About It?

By Cameron Gonzales 
Cameron Gonzales

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of partisan gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the process of manipulating district lines for partisan gain on the basis of race, income, or culture. Its main function is to allow the party in power to choose its future voters (rather than allowing its voters to choose their representatives) in order to stay in power. Redistricting happens every 10-years, and the power to re-draw lines are given to the legislators that belong to the party in power and are on the redistricting committee. There are two ways that legislators can gerrymander, cracking and packing. When legislators pack, they literally “pack” all the voters of one party into one oddly-shaped district that sometimes spans a sliver of the state from one side to the other. They do this to make sure that the party is only guaranteed a few seats, leaving other districts free from any opposition. Cracking, on the other hand, splits up the voting blocks of the opposing party and puts them into districts that are composed of a majority of the party in power. They do this to assure that the opposing party will always be outnumbered, and therefore can never win. Essentially, it is a tool of the majority to drown out the voices of the minority, allowing those in power to choose their voting block, instead of allowing for voters to choose their representatives.

Both parties participate in gerrymandering, and the most recent Supreme Court decision involved two cases that used partisan gerrymandering. One was on the behalf of Democrats, and the other was on the behalf of Republicans. The case out of Maryland (Lamone v. Benisek) was brought to the court by Republican voters, who claimed that Democrats redistricted in a way that lowered the chances of the popular Republican incumbent winning the race. Their reasoning for the lawsuit was that their voting power was reduced and that the redistricting violated their First Amendment rights. This case involved only one seat being lost, making the North Carolina case much different. In Rucho v. Common Cause, a three-judge panel ruled that Republican legislators re-drew district lines intended to hurt the chances of Democrats winning almost any electoral seats, thereby violating the Constitution.

In North Carolina, they revealed they used a “partisan advantage” standard. The state is allotted 13 representatives, and of those 13, ten are Republican seats. This is despite the fact that the state is solidly purple (half vote Republican, half vote Democrat) and that the Republican party only won 53% of the state vote. A representative congressional makeup would, therefore, give them a maximum of seven seats, three less than they currently hold. When a lead Republican of the General Assembly redistricting committee explained his “partisan advantage” standard, he explained,

I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats, so I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country… I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats. – David Lewis (,)

Partisan gerrymandering on behalf of either party is wrong. The recent Supreme Court ruling sets a bad precedent, allowing for whoever comes into power next to dilute the power and voices of those they disagree with. This could have political implications for decades of voters to come, giving whichever party holds the power the ability to eradicate the voices of those that do not. The conservative majority explained their ruling in favor of partisan gerrymandering by stating they did not think the federal court should have a say in re-districting that could have massive political consequences. For all of us the question is simple, if every person was meant to have an equal voice if the government is supposed to be representative of the views of everyone, is it ok to give those in power of the legislature the ability to limit the rights and voices of the people?

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