November 11, 2010

More on gerrymandering

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 08:41

Zombie explains the weird and distorted results of gerrymandering:

Not every state redraws its district lines according to gerrymandering principles. Some have independent supposedly bipartisan commissions to do the job. But most states, alas, leave it up to power-hungry politicians. Republican, Democratic, it doesn’t matter: given half a chance they will gerrymander the hell out of their constituents. And there’s not a damn thing we can do about it, because the system is self-perpetuating: the politicians we elect through these gerrymandered districts (and that includes state-level gerrymandered districts) are the ones making the rules, and they’re not likely to give up their grip on the controls.

Adding to the craziness: There are federal rules in place to ensure that ethnic minorities don’t get completely disenfranchised by racial gerrymandering, so states often have to also incorporate race into the mix, going to extreme lengths to create districts populated mostly by this-or-that racial group — federally mandated “packing.”

What makes things complicated is that not every state is consistently under the control of the same party census after census. So while the Republicans in a given state may have gerrymandered the district boundaries after the 1980 census, the Democrats may have had a majority after the 1990 census and counter-gerrymandered the existing districts; in 2000 a divided legislature may have argued over and re-re-counter-gerrymandered those districts, and so on. The end result is often what we see today: ludicrous, labyrinthine district boundaries that are the detritus of decades of back-and-forth gerrymandering attempts.

Although this is a generally informative article, a bit of careful juxtapositioning is required:

End of the article: “Is this the end of real democracy?”

Start of the article: “Gerrymandering is not a new phenomenon. It’s been around since the very beginnings of our nation, so long that one could fairly say that the United States has been built on the principle of gerrymandering. The very first congressional districts were somewhat gerrymandered, and it’s been downhill ever since. The phenomenon was finally noticed and properly named in 1812

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