Professor’s Presentation Sheds Light on Gerrymandering

Professor’s Presentation Sheds Light on Gerrymandering

(Sam Gurwin, April 26, 2018)

Birmingham, MI- We may remember a snake-like diagram from middle school that illustrated “Gerrymandering.” The sketch reminds most of history, this idea that in the past corruption dictated voting districts.  This political practice was named after Governor Elbridge Gerry, the Massachusetts Governor of old who kept districts drawn to his favor. A Newspaper thought the State Districts looked like a Salamander. So this name of Gerrymandering was created and stuck.

But the Gerrymandering or the “deliberate process of redrawing lines in favor of a certain political party” remains an “endemic in American politics” to this day, said Professor Kevin Deegan-Krause in a presentation at the Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham.

In his presentation, Professor Krause, an expert in European Government, broke down the reasons and why this form of government exists in the US.

“I’m really passionate these days that this is a problem (Gerrymandering) and that we need to do something about” he said.

Four points can help people understand the issue.

LINES ARE POWER. Gerrymandering is about drawing lines. Those lines can be manipulated for any number of outcomes.

Our system is based on “winner-takes-all” system. To lessen the power of an area, moving the lines is called “CRACKING”. Another way of control by a political party is drawing the map and putting voters that oppose the party in a concentrated district. This is called “PACKING”.

It leaves the remainder of the districts with the advantage of the concentrated opposition voters out of the way.  For example, if there are four areas that are 50/50, the lines can be drawn to put most of the opposition in one district, so those drawing the lines can take 3 or the 4 seats.

“KIDNAPPING” is another technique, where the lines are drawn to pit officials against each other who were once in different district.  Changing a district-area just to make sure an “up-and-coming” candidate is out of an area he or she can make change is also a form of kidnapping.

LINES ARE OUT OF CONTROL. The founding fathers never thought to put a safeguard in for Gerrymandering. With technology the lines can be fine-tuned “The data is there to know how you are going to vote,” Krause said. Software exists to perfect this line-drawing. The Constitutions says every 10 years redistricting has to happen but a lot of States are lax in the laws catching up with technology.

THAT’S A BAD THING. Elections with predetermined outcomes not only rig the system, but it perpetuates the idea that people’s votes do not matter. In districts that are stacked, that supposition is not unrealistic. Regardless of what political party one prefers, the idea that democracy should be fair is one that most Americans agree with.

IT CAN CHANGE Change at the Supreme Court Level is slowly happening. The public in Michigan can put forth an Amendment to make a change. Voters Not Politicians is a campaign that has been gathering signatures to put the matter of redistricting reform on the ballot. If approved for the ballot, the public will vote on if a Citizens Commission should be created to draw the district lines.

For more information on the ballot effort, visit https://www.votersnotpoliticians.com/

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