In 1812, the Boston Gazette put out a damning critique of then governor Elbridge Gerry’s plan to redraw the state Senate districts. Included in Gerry’s plans were 12 newly drawn districts that resembled a salamander — one of those mythological creatures that terrorized the Greeks of old. The Gazette aptly called the monstrosity the “Gerrymander”, and the creature has continued to plague American politics to this day.
Today, only five states have nonpartisan committees appointed to making redistricitng fair. For the rest, how to divvy up congressional districts is left to whatever party controls the state legislature and the governorship. And, in a political climate where Republicans control 33 governorships and 32 state legislatures, the consequences are dire. Just this year, the Supreme Court refused to take up a GOP-led appeal over Pennsylvania’s new congressional map. A lower court had ruled that the map be redrawn after a 2011 effort by Republicans put Democrats at 13–5 disadvantage in a state where they’ve won four out of five of the last presidential elections.
To many, the threat of gerrymandering looms large. It’s a fundamental loophole in how American democracy works — one that’s startlingly absent in European equivalents. And in an era where voter suppression laws are on the rise, marginalized voices and even those not in power have the right to feel anxious. After all, it’s only through voting new officials into office that districting laws can change. But it’s exactly those unfair districting practices which have made voting so ineffective in combating any real reform. Perhaps this fact alone is why even 250 years later, the Gerrymander still isn’t extinct.
As the threat of gerrymandered districts looms in the 2018 midterms we must stand up for fair maps by electing more democrats who will fight to make sure the wieght of each vote is the same in every district accorss the county. Help us make this vision for america as reality by joining our RunTogether program.