This republic was created Entirely to serve YOU and your interests.
Some have forgotten.
We have not.
~ Founder, Voters for a Voice
What Is Gerrymandering?
You've probably heard this term tossed around the news a lot lately. The only thing less sexy that the name "gerrymandering" is the practice, itself. Take a look at our short video for a quick synopsis of how gerrymandering works in a nutshell.
And read below for some quick facts!
How Does It Happen?
EACH STATE IS SPLIT INTO VOTING DISTRICTS. These districts serve the purpose of electing members to representative bodies, including the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures. For the U.S. House, representatives are apportioned between states based on the states' population, as determined by the census conducted every 10 years. Each representative represents 1 district. Each district must contain roughly the same population as every other district in that state.
THE LEGISLATIVE MAJORITY CONTROLS REDISTRICTING. Even for states with commissions or bodies created to oversee redistricting, most states still require approval by the legislature. As such, the party holding the legislative majority typically controls the redistricting process.
PARTISAN ADVANTAGE - BECAUSE WHY NOT? The party controlling redistricting will draw the new districts to favor its party over another party because until now, there has been nothing prohibiting this. Give a politician an opportunity to achieve political advantage over an opposing party, and what do you think will happen?
CRACKING. So how exactly does the partisan gerrymandering take place? 2 primary strategies are called "cracking" and "packing". Cracking refers to splitting an area with a concentrated group of minority party voters into multiple districts that each bring in enough majority party voters to turn a single district easily winnable by the minority party into multiple districts easily winnable by the majority party. For a great example, look no further than the deeply blue city of Asheville, NC, shown at left sliced into 2 safe red districts in 2016.
PACKING. Packing, somewhat the opposite of cracking, is a tool that dilutes the influence of minority party voters by packing those voters into districts that they will win by landslides. The majority party will then create districts it will win by much smaller margins, thus more effectively spreading its voting base to capture the most seats.
What's So Bad, Though?
I'm glad you asked! In short, partisan gerrymandering is so bad for a few reasons:
- DISPROPORTIONATE REPRESENTATION - Partisan gerrymandering creates states with grossly disproportionate representation. In 2012, a Republican gerrymander in North Carolina allowed 49% of the voters (voting for Republicans) to capture 69% (9 of 13) of the seats - achieving a legislative supermajority with only a minority of the vote. Similarly, in 2012, Maryland Democrats won 88% of the U.S. House seats with only 62% of the popular vote. Is it fair for a minority of voters in a state to be awarded a majority of the state's representatives??
- INCREASED PARTISANSHIP - Partisan gerrymandering creates districts that follow predictable patterns. The majority is winning its districts by safe margins and losing the districts it planned to lose by landslides. Because all districts are much less competitive, lawmakers have much less incentive to reach across the aisle and compromise. If you want to know why it seems like nothing gets done in Washington these days, look no further than partisan gerrymandering.
- LOWER TURNOUT & LESS ACCOUNTABILITY - Less competitive elections are bad for EVERYONE. It depresses voter turnout (why vote in an election that is all but decided?) and makes representatives less accountable to their constituents. With partisan gerrymandering, politicians win and YOU LOSE.
What Is The Solution??
At Voters for a Voice, we are focused on real, attainable solutions to partisan gerrymandering. There are some proposed solutions that may have certain more desirable attributes than the solution we have chosen (e.g., a ranked-choice voting model), but we believe those solutions represent such significant shifts from our current model that their passage is simply not feasible in the current legislative environment. We believe it's important that the chosen solution is:
- NON-PARTISAN in nature. To have a realistic chance at passing redistricting reform, this reform must be inherently non-partisan. We believe any perception of partisanship surrounding the matter of gerrymandering itself is only situational in nature. When you boil it down, this issue is about protecting the voices of EVERY American citizen. In matters of redistricting, the victors of today are the losers of tomorrow.
- NATIONAL in scope. Not only is a national approach more efficient, it's the only way we will be able to realize reform in every state. States with the most egregious gerrymandering are controlled by a legislature often maintaining control because of the gerrymandering. These legislatures are of course not inclined to self-reform, as that may cost them their legislative majority. Citizens' primary recourse at that point is through referendums; however many states inhibit or completely prevent their citizens from enacting laws through referendum or ballot initiative. Citizens of such states have little option other than hoping for a national solution.
- PREVENTATIVE in nature. Much attention has been given to proposed solutions working their way through the courts at the moment, which focus on evaluating whether partisan gerrymandering has occurred through measurements like the efficiency gap method. However, such solutions are reactionary in nature - meaning they require gerrymandering to occur, be used in an election, then for a lawsuit to be filed, work its way through the courts, and eventually arrive at a decision. In the meantime, the beneficiaries of gerrymandering are sitting in office parring unpopular legislation. When maps are overturned, do they immediately lose their seats? Is the legislation they passed overturned? No and No. We need a preventative solution that changes the framework by which we redistrict to prevent partisan gerrymandering from occurring in the first place.
After researching every bill that has been proposed during the 115th Session of Congress and a myriad of state solutions, we have chosen the REDISTRICTING REFORM ACT OF 2017, introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren (CA-19). In short, this bill would establish a citizens' redistricting commission for each state, very similar to the model currently in place in California. For more about how this redistricting model works and why we think it's so great, check out our page on the R&R Act!
What Are We Doing??
We are currently diving headfirst into our End Gerrymandering campaign, and we need your help! Check out our campaign page to learn all about what we are doing to fight for YOUR voice in this republic that was created, quite literally, to serve YOU. Some may have forgotten, but we have not.