PoliticalScience: Gerrymandering in the United States
PoliticalScience: Gerrymandering in the United States
Forthe past decade, Republicans have held majority seats in the U.S.Congress. Recently, there are 435 members among them 247 Republicansand 188 Democrats (Office of the Clerk, 2015). In an attempt torepresent African Americans’ interests, the Congress, through theVoting Rights Act of 1965, restructure congressional districts everyten years such that districts with majority African Americans arecreated. This act of restructuring congressional districts to give acertain group a voting advantage is referred to as gerrymandering.This paper will discuss the history of gerrymandering in the U.S.
Forcenturies, African Americans and other minorities have been deniedequal rights accorded to them by the U.S. constitution. Some of theserights include the right to vote. Their voting powers have beendiluted by gerrymandering geared towards minimizing the number ofAfrican Americans in particular congressional districts. Many reformshave been passed to ensure equal voting rights, among them the VotingRights Act of 1965. Nonetheless, change is yet to be seen given thelopsided Republican representation in the U.S. House ofRepresentatives. This research aims at establishing the reasons whypositive racial gerrymandering is one of the root causes of thelopsided representation.
Thepaper will use secondary sources to compile information ongerrymandering in the U.S. These sources will include books,journals, newspaper articles and government websites and databases.
Gerrymanderingis a practice in the U.S. that aims at manipulating congressionaldistrict boundaries to give a political party a voting advantage overanother political party (Wang, 2013). Gerrymandering can take severalforms. A ruling party may try to limit the number of districtsbelonging to the opposition so that they lack a voting majority. Attimes, these boundaries are designed to divide ethnic, racial orreligious votes. Gerrymandering creates districts that are dominatedby a single party (Wang, 2013).
ElbridgeGerry founded of the term ‘gerrymander’ between 1810 and 1812.During this time, Gerry served as a Massachusetts governor. Herestructured his congressional district to benefit Republicans. Thisrestructured district formed the shape of a salamander, and peoplerenamed it after Governor Gerry, ‘Gerry-mander’ (McCarty, Poole &Rosenthal, 2009).
Sincethen, the Congress and the Supreme Court have addressedgerrymandering. In fact, in 1842, Congress passed the ReapportionmentAct that made the districts to be adjacent and condensed. TheSupreme Court decided that congressional districts should berepresentative of the population and should have sensible borders in1962 (Chen & Rodden, 2013). This ruling followed a lawsuit in1960 that involved Gomillionv. Lightfoot. Inthis suit, the then Alabama legislature restructured Tuskegeeintentionally to remove 396 African American Voters. The districtretained only 4 African American voters and the resulting boundaryformed a twenty eight sided figure. According to the Supreme Court,the restructuring of Tuskegee discriminated against AfricanAmericans, which was a violation of freedom of equality accorded tothem by the 14thAmendment. Further, in 1985, the Supreme Court ruled thatgerrymandering is unconstitutional (McCarty, Poole & Rosenthal,2009).
Despitebeing termed unconstitutional, gerrymandering is a common practice inthe U.S. In fact, every ten years after the national Census, a teamof professionals restructures the city council, congressionaldistricts and the state legislature to be representative of theincreasing population. The team of professionals redrawing theseboundaries consists of politicians and legislatures who create thedistricts for political advantage (Ingraham, 2014).
Gerrymanderingis disadvantageous because it encourages manipulation of election andallows sitting politicians to help their supporters and hurtpolitical enemies. Through these systems, politicians also choosetheir voters even before the voters have a chance to choose them. Itis also used to further political agenda since it is geared towardsreducing competition that could hurt the interests of sittingleaders. Gerrymandering is therefore unethical because it inhibitsfair voting and fair representation.
Negativeracial gerrymandering refers to a practice geared towards drawingboundaries that prevent minority groups from electing their minoritycandidate. This practice dates back to the 20thcentury and has been used to reduce the voting impact of minorityvoters. However, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed, andnegative racial gerrymandering was prohibited (Wong, 2015). In fact,the Voting Rights Act has since encouraged redistricting aimed atincreasing minority voters in a congressional district (Killian,2015).
Inthe 102ndcongress, the Georgia House of delegation consisted of 1 Republicanand 9 Democrats, among them was only one African American. Over 25percent of the Georgia’s population is made up of AfricanAmericans, but in order to be in line with the Voting Rights Act, 2more black-majority districts had to be restructured following the1990 census. By 1995, there were only three democratic Congressmenfrom the black majority districts and the rest were white Republicans(Bernstein, 1996).
Infact, Georgia was not the only district where Democratic seatsdeclined following the creation of black majority districts. Alabama,Florida, Mississippi, South and North Carolina, and Arkansas equallysaw a reduction in Democratic vote and ever since reconstruction,Republicans have held a majority of Southern seats in the Congress(Bernstein, 1996). This is because reconstruction concentratedAfrican Americans in fewer districts, a move that also resulted inloss of White Democrats.
Nevertheless,the purpose of the racial gerrymandering has been successful, becausesince its creation, each black-majority district has elected a blackCongressman. However, concerns have risen over the segregationpromoted by creating black-majority districts. This has created thestereotype that African Americans share the same beliefs, andpolitical agenda, which will further increase racial discriminationand reduce white Democratic votes (Bernstein, 1996). Killian (2015)even confirmed that racial gerrymandering is neither good forminority voters or democracy because it puts minorities in fewerdistricts, hence contributing to the lopsided Republicanrepresentation in the House of Representatives.
Gerrymanderingis the process of restructuring congressional districts to give aparticular party a voting advantage. The U.S. Constitution permitsgerrymandering based on the Voting Rights Act that aims at creatingdistricts with majority African American voters. While this hascreated equality in voting, gerrymandering has concentrated AfricanAmericans in fewer districts, which has contributed to the lopsidedRepublican representation in the House of Representatives.
Theassimilation theory seeks to describe the process through whichminority groups integrated into the American social, cultural andpolitical culture. Based on the U.S. constitution, all citizens,whether White or Minority are accorded equal treatment and equalvoting rights. For many years, minority groups have failed to electtheir candidates due to the dominance of Whites in congressionaldistricts. In order to ensure equal representation of minorityrights, the U.S. congress introduced gerrymandering wherecongressional districts are restructured to consist of majorityAfrican Americans. This enabled the group vote equally just like thedominant Whites, a culture they were assimilated into.
Bernstein,M., (1996). Racial Gerrymandering. PublicInterest. (122)Pp 59-69
Chen,J., & Rodden, J., (2013). Unintentional Gerrymandering: PoliticalGeography and Electoral Bias in Legislatures. QuarterlyJournal of Political Science. 8(3)Pp 239-269
Ingraham,C., (2014). American’s Most Gerrymandered Congressional Districts.TheWashington Post. Retrievedfromhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2014/05/15/americas-most-gerrymandered-congressional-districts/
Killian,L., (2015). Racial Gerrymandering – As Bad as the Other Kind. TheWall Street Journal. Retrievedfromhttp://www.blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/06/11/racial-gerrymandering-as-bad-as-the-other-kind/
McCarty,N., Poole, K., & Rosenthal, H., (2009). Does Gerrymandering CausePolarization. AmericanJournal of Political Science. 53(3)Pp 666-680. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2009.00393.x
Officeof the Clerk, (2015). Congressional Profile. Officeof the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrievedfrom http://www.clerk.house.gov/member_info/cong.aspx
Wang,S., (2012). The Great Gerrymander of 2012. TheNew York Times. Retrievedfromhttp://www.mobile.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/opinion/sunday/the-great-gerrymander-of-2012.html?pagewanted=all&refer=