By Sarah Whitman
Gerrymandering. You may or may not have heard this term before. You may have heard it and nodded along thinking you would google it later and then never did because you have more important things to do (same). Well, here I am to explain what gerrymandering is in the simplest and least boring way possible. And I’ll also tell you why it matters!
Every 10 years there is a census. The government asks for your information to get an accurate population count, understand demographics, blah, blah, blah. You may also know this as the time when your Great Uncle Jim gets too drunk at the Christmas party and starts complaining about how the government is following him. After the census, the government (usually the state legislature) redraws the district lines in order to evenly divide the population between the districts, both State and Congressional. They divide it perfectly evenly and everyone has their voice heard and there is world peace, right? Wrong!
The state legislature is made up of elected officials, which means it is an inherently biased and partisan group of people. Each party wants to have the most power and control possible, so when they redraw the districts, they don’t always draw them correctly. Let’s break this down:
In State X, there are two parties: Party 1 and Party 2. Party 1 is 60% of the population and Party 2 is 40%. Sometimes when the legislature redraws the districts they lump all of Party 1 in only a few districts and sprinkle the rest of them through the others. This way Party 1 can easily gain control in Districts 1-3, but has almost no say in Districts 4-10, which are then controlled by Party 2. So, even though Party 1 makes up the majority of the population and Party 2 makes up the minority Party 2 controls more districts. It’s pretty messed up.
The consequences of gerrymandering aren’t super noticeable but can have a huge impact on policies and individual people. If Party 2 (the minority of the population) has the majority power, they are going to make decisions that aren’t the most popular within the state. That’s unfair. Further, if all of Party 1 is lumped into only a few districts, they feel like their voices aren’t being heard, even though they have the majority opinion. This can lead to constituents becoming disillusioned with politics and not participating. But that just leads to even more gerrymandering!!
When we don’t pay attention and hold our elected officials accountable, they just do what they want. In order to combat this, they have to know we care. This means sending emails and letters, calling, and showing up to say “hey, this is what we care about and you need to listen.” After all, we do pay their salary. I mean, imagine what you would try to get away with if your boss stopped paying attention to you but kept paying you...yeah, same.
So here’s what to do. Text ACT GERRYMANDER to 52886 to send an email to your state legislature and remind them that they need to redistrict fairly. No nonsense in 2020. Everyone deserves to be represented fairly. There is #PowerThroughPeople.