Gerrymandering: Elections and United States

While being on Facebook and participating in the political process of the Presidential campaign, I discovered that the election process is not a cut and dry one. The Republican Party was clearly honest in their approach of gerrymandering and bragging as they gerrymandered congressional districts in blue states. They wanted to control how state legislative and congressional district boundaries would be drawn, so they set about to control the redistricting process. Therefore, even thou a majority of Americans voted for Democrats in the Presidential election… the Republicans ended up controlling the house.

They not only gerrymandered but, changed voting rules in the states and districts they controlled, and the ones they didn’t control they challenged the voting rules in court. [Gerrymandering- what can be done about it? First we should define just what gerrymandering is. “Gerrymandering is redistricting; which is the process of drawing United States electoral district boundaries, often in response to population changes determined by the results of the decennial census”. “To gerrymander is to divide an area into election districts giving one political party a majority in many districts.

The word gerrymander is a portmanteau from the name of Elbridge Gerry and salamander. Gerry was the governor of Massachusetts when he signed a bill in 1812 to redraw the district boundaries to favor the Democrats and weaken the Federalists, who had better numbers at the voting booth. The shape of the district he formed was likened in appearance to a salamander, and political cartoonists emphasized that appearance to denigrate the Democrats. Gerry did not sponsor the bill in question and was said to have signed it reluctantly, but his name has gone into history as that of a villain.

The word gerrymander is first found in 1812 (History)”. “In his satirical volume The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce (1911) defines politics as the “strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles; [t]he conduct of public affairs for private advantage. ” Nowhere is this definition more applicable than in the act of delimiting legislative districts, often seen as an opportunity for clever politicos to use insider knowledge in ways that manipulate future electoral outcomes (Cox 2006).

Bullock (2010) goes so far as to call redistricting “the most political activity in America. ” “Redistricting in the United States is the act of modifying legislative boundaries in response to changing population conditions. The process is informed by the decennial census and designed to make districts equal in population and more reflective of intercensal demographic shifts. In most administrative units the responsibility of redrawing the lines is granted to the legislature itself (Tolson 2010; Bullock 2010; Cox 2006).

Thus there are a number of reasons to expect some form of politically anticompetitive behavior, as self-interested legislators rationally endeavor to protect their incumbency and minimize political threats (McDonald 2004). Jurisdictions in the United States are granted considerable discretion in choosing the method by which they redraw their political boundaries following a decennial census. Two common methods are allowing legislatures to redistrict or creating a citizen commission to perform the task.

Yet each of these processes frequently results in gridlock and/or political gerrymandering (Holden 2010). ] The recent proposals by some lawmakers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere to apportion electoral votes in presidential elections based on congressional district rather than being awarded in the current winner-take all fashion by popular vote is outrageously undemocratic and would ignore the will of the voters in these states.

In light of redistricting, which has created legislative districts in which one political party is overwhelmingly favored; creating a proportional system based on the results by congressional district would be fundamentally unfair — especially a system pushed specifically to help one political party. Proposals for proportional apportionment of electoral votes based on percentage of the vote are also severely problematic.

While allowing the national popular vote to determine the president as a wholesale alternative to the Electoral College system would be an idea at least worth debating, “splitting” electoral votes only in certain states — in this case, states in which voting majorities tend to support Democratic presidential candidates — would unfairly slant the playing field toward the other major party’s advantage. It’s a naked power grab, and an exploitation of electoral victories which should allow winners to serve their terms but not rig the system for the foreseeable future.

Not dissimilar to attempts to suppress voting rights and ballot access in certain communities, these reforms are unacceptable and would do tremendous harm to American democracy. [In light of the long histories of racial violence, discrimination, and organized protest by racial and ethnic minority groups in both the U. S. and across established democracies, it is increasingly imperative to examine how minority groups achieve democratic inclusion, particularly greater voice in the regular channels of the democratic process.

The growing literature on minority group politics focuses chiefly at the level of the “grassroots. ” Previous research asks how racial and ethnic minorities achieve a critical mass, win numerical representation, and realize their policy goals (Browning 1984; Gurin 1989; Hero 1992; 1998; Tate 1994; Leighley 2001). ” “Race relations in the U. S. and U. K. have been quite different, and remain unique, even as Great Britain has witnessed since World War II increasing racial diversity. Representing only one percent in 1961, by the 1991 Census approximately five percent of the U. K.

population was “non-White,” and this proportion is currently estimated to have grown to 10 percent. The largest minority groups in Britain are Afro-Caribbean, African, Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi (Saggar 2000). The U. K. ’s expanding diversity has been accompanied by new restrictions on immigration, racially-motivated violence against minority residents, and race riots. Despite their strikingly different racial histories, including the long enslavement of Blacks in the U. S. , minorities in both countries has organized politically to press for greater political rights.

The campaign for Black political empowerment took off in the 1970s in the U. S. as the civil rights movement formally ended (Smith 1981; Tate 1994). British minorities engaged in a similar campaign for greater inclusion in the 1970s in the U. K. , a campaign that has since gained additional momentum. Although significantly more muted than campaigns in the U. S. , Britain stands out in comparison with other continental European nations for its relatively higher level of ethnically-based mobilization (Nelson 2000; Saggar 2000).

Broad similarities make the U. S.and Britain ripe for comparison on this issue. The two nations share common Western values, historical political trajectories, and levels of socioeconomic development. Politically, both hold elections under single-member district systems where the winner of the plurality of votes takes office. In both cases, these electoral rules have yielded two-party systems, although in the British case the persistence of a third party makes it a “two-and-one-half-party system. ” The legal system in the U. S. certainly contributed importantly to Blacks’ political gains.

The civil rights movement led Democratic Party leaders to make new laws and policies that advanced Blacks politically. Yet, these actions were not independent of the external environment, and indeed, one could argue that they only came about because of the great political pressures the civil rights movement and the threat of litigation created. The affirmative racial gerrymandering that Democrat party officials engaged in either in response to litigation or the threat thereof in part explains how Black Americans made significantly greater strides in winning elective office than minorities in the U.K.

Have been able to. In 1965 the Voting Rights Act was passed by a nearly all-White Congress (there were five Black members in Congress out of 535 members at that time) because of President Johnson’s leadership as his response to the civil rights movement. The judiciary ruled that election systems that are shown to discriminate against minorities are unconstitutional only when minorities can show that they were purposefully created with a racial animus against them.

Voting rights activists responded to a more liberal judicial environment by pressing for the modification of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 1982 (Grofman, Handley, and Niemi 1992; Pinderhughes 1995). The modification expressly prohibited voting procedures that afforded minorities “fewer opportunities. (Grofman, 1992; Davidson and Grofman 1994). Democrats in Congress were most likely reluctant to amend the Voting Rights Act but nevertheless went along fearing further intra-racial strife and litigation within the party.

Republicans also went along with the amendment in 1982 because of the electoral benefits to their party in drawing new minority-majority congressional districts. In their effort to gain representation in mainstream party politics, minorities in Britain also utilized litigation. Minority litigants brought suit against political parties, claiming barriers to the election of minorities included unclear, ad hoc selection rules, and inherent ethnic biases in the selection criteria.

The litigants argued that because minorities, in aggregate, lack the resources and connections of the traditional party nominee, they are at a disadvantage in the process. In Ishaq v McDonagh, an employment tribunal ruled Labour’s selection procedures discriminatory. Likewise, in Sawyer v Ashan a tribunal ruled that Race Relations Act, designed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of nationality, applies to candidate selection. Notably, the British cases have not been nearly as extensive in the United States, and the British claims have been framed in terms of equal opportunity employment, rather than political rights.

” Minorities in the U. S. , however, possess a strong base of constituents on the basis of race and ethnicity than do women on the basis of their gender (Tate 1997). Thus, in contrast to women, minority candidates, while lacking greatly in personal wealth, have political advantages over women in having this ready-to-mobilize constituency. Moreover, the power nomination in the hands of party gatekeepers means that these activists have the power to discriminate against minority candidates.

In a study of Conservative Party selectors in the early 1980s, Bochel and Denver (1983) found evidence that selectors perceived minority candidates as an electoral handicap for their party. Furthermore, the Conservative Party has publicly recognized discrimination within the electorate and has sent special instruction to selectors to minimize bias in the selection process. The greater strides made by minorities in the U. S. lend support to the superiority of the open primary system in gaining numerical representation.

However, pressure on parties to nominate more women took the form of adopting gender quotas in several European democracies (Caul 2001). Quotas for minorities is presently politically infeasible, and thus, opening up the nominating pressure to control by the electorate is the most likely way minorities are to win greater numerical representation in government. The two-party system that emerges under majoritarian electoral systems, which characterizes both the American and British party systems, is another factor that impedes minority political incorporation.

As Paul Frymer (1999) argues, in a two-party system, minority voters lack alternatives to and are therefore made captives of the more liberal party precisely because the parties on the Right (i. e. , the Republican Party) do not want their votes. As a consequence, the Labour and Democratic parties do not necessarily have to reward minority voters for their loyalty by offering them more seats. The two-party system does not mean that minority voters are entirely ignored by party leaders. Presidential candidates in the U. S.

On the left and right must publicly embrace minority voters because of their expansion in the national electorate. This is vividly demonstrated at recent presidential nominating conventions, and in the conscious efforts of recent presidents to ensure minority representation in their administrations. ] So, it is evident that the American people have to take necessary steps, on the platforms of all political parties, to further stop this erosion of our voting process; especially, in predominately minority communities across America.

Republicans certainly have been given a dim outlook as to their continued existence and they are pulling out any trick they can… such as changing the electoral rules to make it easier for a Republican candidate to win the presidency despite them losing the popular vote. The Republicans controlled the redistricting process after the 2010 census in a lot more states than the Democrats; as a result, they gained an unfair advantage in the battle for control of the House of Representatives, because… even thou the Democratic candidates outpolled them the Republicans kept control of the House.

It has now become clear that in order to stop this further erosion of our civil, voting and freedom rights we have to expand upon our getting out the vote efforts by: 1. Making sure all minorities and the elderly are registered to vote 2. Changing the laws that once a felon has served his time that their full rights of citizenship are restored, including voting. 3. Educating felons in certain states that do restore voting right; however, don’t tell them that they have to re-register to vote. 4.

Establishing a grass-roots initiative across America to assure that every American registered… has a chance to vote, unencumbered by roadblocks thrown in the way. 5. Expanding every option available, absentee ballots, voting early, voting by mail, provisional ballots and making sure that the polls are manned and opened the same amount of hours nationwide… even opening additional stations for precincts with heavy voter turnout. 6. Making the voting laws a mandate by the Federal government and not subject to individual interpretation by the states. 7. Allowing citizens to update their registration, and register to vote online or at the polls.

In addition to all that I have cited in this report, I think one stands out… and that is the voter ID laws that are being used to suppress votes in minority and elderly communities across the nation… college, welfare, state, military, driver’s license, any I D that has your picture, address and age should be valid. We need to establish blanket laws governing our voting rights with immediate consequences for violation, I, for one, would favor life in prison for ordinary citizens and death for elected official… the later would include corporations and individuals who contribute large sums of money (lobbyist).

We would also repeal all Citizens United initiatives and the ruling giving them personhood; on, to a fairer, and more equitable United States. Works Cited Browning, Robert P. , Dale Rogers Marshall, and David H. Tabb. 1984. Protest is Not Enough. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press Caul, Miki L. 1999. “Women’s Representation in Parliament: The Role of Political Parties”. Party Politics 5(1): 79-98. Caul-Kittilson, Miki. 2001. Challenging the Organization, Changing the Rules: Women, Parties, and Change in Western Europe, 1975 to 1997. Unpublished dissertation thesis. University of California Irvine Christiano, Thomas.

1996. The Rule of the Many: Fundamental Issues in Democratic Theory. Boulder: Westview Press. Davis, et al. v. Bandemer, et al. 478 US 109 (1986) Friedman, John N. , and Richard T. Holden. 2008. Optimal Gerrymandering: Sometimes Pack, but Never Crack. American Economic Review 98 (1):113-144. Frymer, Paul. 1999l Uneasy Alliances: Race and Party Competition in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Grofman, Bernard, Lisa Handley, and Richard G. Niemi. 1992. Minority Representation and the Quest for Voting Equality. New York: Cambridge University Press. Holden, Stephen (14 October 2010).

“Gerrymandering (2009), The Dark Art of Drawing Political Lines”. New York Times Moves Reviews (New York Times). Retrieved 31 August 2011. Hout, Eliora van der, and Anthony J. McGann. 2009. Proportional Representation within the Limits of Liberalism Alone. British Journal of Political Science 39:735-54. McGann, Anthony J. , Department of Political Science, University of California, Irvin, 6/12/12 Pitkin, Hanna Fenichel. 1967. The Concept of Representation. Berkeley: University of California Press. Richard Vieth, et al. v. Robert C. Jubelirer, President of the Pennsylvania Senate, et al. 541 US 267 (2004).