The Lines Between Us

Sinziana Stanciu, ‘20

January 2019

Gerrymandering is an obscure word. To the average person, it may not mean much but it affects every single one of us. As people that are part of a larger collective society, the lines that divide our nation are significant to how we lead our lives. More so, the lines that divide our states are important too. But how are these lines that are so vital to our function decided on?

People in various parts of states tend to vote toward one political party when they get their ballots on election day, and this is known by politicians. Moreover, the party that is in control likes to stay in control of their states, how do they ensure this happens? The drawing of lines to create districts. The election of members to the U.S. House of Representatives is determined by these district lines, and it makes the elections more and more predictable. Hence, one state may look like the voters are mostly Democrats from their Representatives however, they could actually be Republican if the population itself is examined. The ability to draw district lines in this way has been utilized by both Republicans and Democrats, and this issue has now been brought to the Supreme Court. In two different cases, one from Maryland and one from North Carolina the constitutionality of Gerrymandering is considered.

The greater question of Gerrymandering’s constitutionality is not completely new. Just last year, there was another Supreme Court case, Gill v. Whitford (2018), where the justices came to the conclusion that the districts can not be drawn based on race but otherwise, states should decide. Essentially the court attempted to distance itself from making a definitive decision on this issue only to have it come up again in 2019. The partisan issue of Gerrymandering is definitely troubling, however, it doesn’t seem like a decision the court wants to make any time soon.

This injustice to the greater promise of democracy has gone on too long. There needs to be a significant change in how districts are drawn in order to represent the populations more accurately and not skew the results of a political party. Both parties have been guilty of this and recently it has been even more extreme as more and more data is collected. The basis of drawing districts should be based purely on population and census data. This would ensure the most representation at a fair amount and wouldn't differentiate between socioeconomic status or party. It would also mean that a state’s opinion as a whole is adequately displayed through the people they elect to be in office. Now, the question is how would we do this? The answer is simple, computer programming. For a few years, Brian Olsen has created a computer program that generates the ideal, population-based districts, and this is seen in a compact model (The Washington Post). This opportunity to solve one of the most severe issues in our political system can be solved through the simplicity of a computer program based on census data. Rather than having one political party control the future of a state and the policies that it has, there needs to be an accurate representation of the states as a whole. Therefore, I believe that Gerrymandering should be deemed unconstitutional and there should be an effective way to decide districts, such as the program developed by Olsen, in order to achieve a fairer union.