"When you draw the lines, you make the rules."
--- Karl Rove
I was always a good student.
I learned and understood the basic tenets of American government. You know . . . we the people; separation of church and state; checks and balances. I was well-versed in all the biggest hits of Schoolhouse Rock. I lived through the Watergate hearings. I listen to NPR. I get it. I know how things are supposed to work.
I must have totally fallen asleep at the wheel. Because I really didn't get this gerrymandering thing.
But I'm getting it now.
And it's something we ALL should "get." Because what happens with gerrymandering (drawing those voting district lines in a manipulative way) is, basically, this: Politicians draw the lines . . . to benefit themselves. Gerrymandering gives polititicians the power to choose their voters --- instead of giving voters the power to choose their politicians.
Redistricting - the process of drawing electoral district boundaries - should be a non-partisan process. And in 12 states,* it is -- with independent or non-partisan commissions determining the boundaries. In 5 more states,** redistricting is proposed by independent commissions, but approved by the state legislature. Four states - Wyoming, Delaware, South Dakota, and North Dakota have low populations and only one electoral district.
In the remaining 28 states . . . the state legislatures have the authority to determine electoral districts. And that opens the gate for gerrymandering -- the deliberate manipulation of political boundaries for electoral advantage.
Partisan domination of state legislatures and improved technology to design contiguous districts that pack opponents into as few districts as possible have led to district maps which are skewed towards one party. Consequently, many states including Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas have succeeded in reducing or effectively eliminating competition for most House seats in those states.
So. If it feels like your elected officials aren't really paying attention to what you have to say, it's probably because gerrymandering is protecting them -- so they DON'T have to listen to what you have to say.
This . . . makes me a crazy person! This . . . is one of the reasons I decided to join the League of Women Voters. This . . . makes me want to Do Something.
Here in Michigan, where we have a huge gerrymandering problem, there is an active campaign to bring fairness, impartiality, and transparency back to the electoral districting process. I've signed up to attend a "virtual town hall" meeting tomorrow night sponsored by Voters Not Politicians. Their goal is to bring the power back to the people of Michigan through a citizen led ballot initiative. With the help of other grassroots organizations, Voters Not Politician's vision is to establish an Independent Citizen Redistricting Commission through a state constitutional amendment.
I'm going to learn what I can do to help.
And - if you happen to live in Michigan and want to join the town hall tomorrow night (Wednesday, March 22), here's more information on how to sign up. (And if you can't make it tomorrow night, check the schedule here -- because there are going to be more events - both virtual and IRL.)
Take action! Do Something!
Learn about the electoral districting process in your state -- and if you don't like what you learn, get involved in redistricting reform!
(Power to the people.)
Here are some great articles on redistricting and gerrymandering to wet your appetite:
From the Washington Post - This is the best explanation of gerrymandering you will ever see
* Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington
** Maine, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia