For those that aren’t familiar, gerrymandering is the process by which Congressional Districts are “drawn” to favor one party. In about three-quarters of states, districts are carved up from scratch by state legislatures, approved by a majority, then made official by the governor. This inherently political process of creating districts comes with inherent conflicts of interests. Thus, gerrymandered districts exist across the nation.
Historically, Democrats have worked to ensure as many Democrat-leaning districts are created as possible and Republicans have worked to ensure as many Republican-leaning districts are created as possible. While gerrymandering is never fair, both parties tried to make their gerrymanders subtle enough so as to not be struck down by the courts.
But everything changed under President Barack Obama. The Republican Party was overtaken by the Tea Party movement, ushering in a new wave of extremists in the 2010 midterms. Since Republicans took control of state legislatures in the “whitelash” to President Obama, they had control over the 2011 redistricting process, which happens every ten years. Republicans gerrymandered like never before, essentially locking themselves into power for at least a decade.
But on Tuesday, for the first time in United States history, a federal judge ruled that a politically and racially motivated gerrymandered congressional map was unconstitutional. This is in large part due to a formula recently developed that can measure and prove the political toll that these districts have on the electorate. Here is just one example, showing North Carolina’s 1st and 12th Congressional Districts. Yes, every one of those red slivers are “in-district,” while the white is not.
To any lover of democracy and activist working to pursue free and fair elections, this is an outcome to be celebrated. With politically motivated gerrymandering being ruled unconstitutional for the first time in United States history – following a racially-motivated gerrymandering case being ruled unconstitutional – the future for independent redistricting looks bright.
With that said, the Trump administration and the GOP care little for democracy and will do anything they can to hold onto power. Case in point? The 2020 Census. The once-a-decade census data will be used to create and draw the next set of districts. Trump’s pick to the run the census, Thomas Brunell, is one of the men who masterminded the racially gerrymandering in North Carolina that was struck down in 2017. Brunell has explicitly advocated for racial gerrymandering, claiming that “competitive elections are bad for America.” Just one more reason why it’s 2018 or bust.
If we don’t get Democrats elected to Congress, state legislatures, and governorships, we may not be able to save our country from permanent Republican rule, even if they (yet again) lose the popular vote.