Gerrymandering

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Isha Raj, Journalist

With the election ending the topic of gerrymandering might have come up once or twice. Gerrymandering is a political topic that originated around hundreds of years ago. It was used, and sometimes still used, to win elections unfairly. It is a fairly complex topic, but with the right explanation it can be very interesting.

 

Well what is gerrymandering? Well gerrymandering is when politicians manipulate voting district boundaries to favor one party over another. They basically redraw the legislative district lines in order to help their friends and hurt their enemies. In most states, state legislators and the governor control the once-a-decade line-drawing process. When one party controls the state House, the state Senate and the governor’s mansion, they usually do everything in their power to draw lines that favor them and put their opponents in a disadvantage. Gerrymandering was obviously unfair, which is why it was made illegal.

 

Johnson. Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900, was a United States Supreme Court case in 1995. It was about “affirmative gerrymandering/racial gerrymandering”, where racial minority-majority electoral districts are created during redistricting to increase minority Congressional representation. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion for the Court. Ruling against the district, the Court declared the district unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Which states that no state shall make or enforce which shall shorten the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.The court noted that in some instances, “a reapportionment plan may be so highly irregular and bizarre in shape that it rationally cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to segregate voters based on race.”

 

Who created gerrymandering? Well some historians believe that Patrick Henry is said to have drawn a Virginia House district for the first congressional election, in 1789, to ensure the defeat of his rival, James Madison. Bet the name came from Elbridge Gerry, another politician from the Revolutionary War. When Elbridge was governor of Massachusetts in 1812, he signed a bill that allowed his party to draw State Senate districts that were meant to favor its candidates over the rival Federalists. Latera Boston editorial cartoonist drew it with a head and claws and labeled it the “gerry-mander.”  Elbridge Gerry later served as James Madison’s Vice President. 

 

Gerrymandering is a complex topic, but an interesting one nonetheless. It shows how people used to manipulate elections, and how different the election was back when it was invented and how it is now. Gerrymandering is just one of the many ways people can manipulate an election. It is important to learn and understand the electoral process, so when you vote you have a better understanding of the election.

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