According to a CNN Wire Service article, “A recent study from the Brennan Center found that gerrymandering has resulted in 16 or 17 additional Republican seats in Congress, or about two-thirds sic of the 24 seats Democrats would need to take over the House” (Douglas par.
9), meaning overall that Democrats across the United States are undoubtedly underrepresented not only in voting for their representatives but also in Congress and the Senate. The reason for this underrepresentation is that the Republican party in many states takes advantage of gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is a way of manipulating district boundaries to give one party an advantage over the other. District lines are redrawn every ten years after the national United States census, and representatives are supposed to redraw fair district lines according to the results of the national census. But more often than not, representatives gerrymander to gain the upper hand over the other party.
The New York Times article identifies two main ways to gerrymander: The first method is called packing, which is the act of condensing the other party’s voters into one district so that the party can reduce the other party’s voting power in every other district; the second method is called cracking, which is the act of spreading the other party’s voters thinly across all the districts so that the party can reduce the other party’s voting power in every district (Cohen, Bui par. 7). Both these methods of gerrymandering create a tremendous amount of wasted votes, votes that do not help to elect a candidate.
For this reason, gerrymandering is an unconstitutional exploit in the United States of America’s electoral system and should be remedied by a national independent commission drawing district lines, not state representatives, or by the Supreme Court of the United States implementing a seven-percent efficiency gap law.The United States should enforce an independent commission which balances the bias that politicians inherently have. As an article in Los Angeles Times explains, “If change in the redistricting process comes, it will most likely be from the bottom up, from efforts like those in California, where voters took the line drawing away from politicians and handed the process to a commission that, at least in theory, was a neutral arbiter” (Barabak Par. 21).
It has been said that the use of gerrymandering “is not the voters choosing their legislatures; it is the legislatures choosing their voters.” So, California’s plan is to take away the power that legislatures hold and put that power back into the hands of the majority vote. According to an article in New York Times, “California’s commission was established in 2008 by a ballot initiative. It is made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and four members not affiliated with either party. Among the commission members are a lawyer, the owner of an insurance business, an engineer, a former director of the United States Census Bureau, professors and urban planners” (Fuller, Wines Par.
10). This quote shows how California is setting an example of what types of people would comprise a relatively unbiased committee. The committee is not only made of people that are well educated on the topic of gerrymandering but also made of people that are foreign to the corruption of gerrymandering. The New York Times article also shows in a map of the United States of America that, Washington, Idaho, California, and Arizona are the states to use an independent commission (Fuller, Wines par. 3).
The use of an independent commission, which is made or people that have no relation to state legislatures, is picking up momentum and has proven to create more competitive districts. It is now being used in 4 out of 50 states.On top of an independent commission, the United States of America should implement an efficiency gap margin that is legally enforced to reduce the number of wasted votes. An article for CNN Wire Service states, “Called the ‘efficiency gap,’ the standard looks at the number of ‘wasted votes’ — those not contributing to a winning candidate’s election — for each political party in a statewide map. In essence, the standard, created by a law professor and a political science professor, provides a numerical way to test the partisan disadvantage in a redistricting plan” (Douglas par. 12). The efficiency gap law would use this new standard to regulate how many wasted votes there are in a district. The law would set that standard at a maximum of seven percent.
The CNN Wire Service article also said, “If the court agrees with the plaintiffs and the lower court, then there will finally be a meaningful way to fight back against the worst abuses in partisan gerrymandering. Adopting a test for courts to strike down partisan gerrymanders would go a long way to ensuring that fair elections, not unfair election rules, decide who wins” (Douglas par. 15). In this statement, the CNN Wire Service article states that if the court officials become against the unconstitutional stripping of power from the people of America, then the nation can progress onto enforcing the fair election of officials.
Some politicians argue that since both Democrats and Republicans have gerrymandered to better their agenda and party, it is perfectly legal and does not violate the Constitution. Other politicians agree that gerrymandering does tamper the election, but they argue that the proposed alternatives have many and should not be forced. However, even though both an independent commission and an efficiency gap law do have some downfalls, they still are more positive, overall, than state legislators drawing district lines. As an article in The Christian Science Monitor says, “There is nothing illegal about engaging in political gerrymandering. It does not violate the US Constitution.
Indeed, most state lawmakers in other states – both Democrats and Republicans – use their political power to try to redraw state and federal election districts in ways that benefit their own party and their own incumbent officials” (Richey par. 11). In this statement, The Christian Science Monitor makes the argument that since both parties gerrymander, it is okay. But, even if both parties gerrymander the same amount, gerrymandering still takes away the power to vote for representatives from the people and puts the power in the hands of the self-interested representatives.
As the New York Times shows in a map of the United States of America, Twelve states in favor of the Republicans would violate the efficiency gap law if set to seven percent, and one state in favor of the Democrats that would violate the seven percent efficiency gap law (Cohen, Bui par. 1). According to the said diagram, Republicans clearly are using gerrymandering to their advantage because more Republicans than Democrats use gerrymandering to their advantage; therefore, the use of gerrymandering is not equal which is why the argument that both parties use gerrymandering is invalid. The New York Times article also states:”The efficiency gap has real limitations…. The efficiency gap is not the entirety of the plaintiff’s proposed legal test. The standard of motive would probably prevent fair, nonpartisan maps from being struck down.
The opportunity to show that geography, not gerrymandering, was responsible for the bias would most likely protect those states as well. And the courts could consider other measures, as the federal courts did in the Wisconsin case” (par. 43).
The argument that “geography, not gerrymandering” could be the culprit of a high-efficiency gap percentage is a valid argument. That argument is why there is a margin of up to seven percent to account for geography and other factors and is also why the efficiency gap should not be enforced alone but in unison with the independent commission. A New York Times also said, Even though California created six new competitive districts, an independent commission did not affect California’s Democratic hold (Fuller, Wines par. 13). The point of an independent commission is not to change a state from blue to red or vice versa.
The point of an independent commission is to allow the people to choose their representatives. The majority of California is Democratic, so it would be hypocritical to make every district in California either competitive or a Republican district. Overall, the national independent commission and seven-percent efficiency gap law’s positives far outweigh the negatives.
Gerrymandering is unconstitutional and puts many representatives in Congress and the Senate against the will of the people of the United States. The next national census is in 2020, and it is imperative to act now. To stop gerrymandering, a national independent commission should draw district lines, not state representatives, and the Supreme Court of the United States should implement a seven-percent efficiency gap law. Even though these changes will be difficult to implement, fairly electing representatives is a fight worth fighting.