Republicans Engage in ‘Jim Crow-Mandering’

Shane O'Connell, Staff Writer

Dennis Brunn and Jill Murray of the Unitarian Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania cheer a speaker while holding a sign during a voter ID rally September 13, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held a hearing on Pennsylvania's state Supreme Court justices on whether a law requiring photo identification from each voter should take effect for the Nov. 6 presidential election. (William Thomas Cain/MCT)
Gerrymandering robs the people of their voice.  Scheming politicians reshape congressional districts and swindle their way into positions normally declared out of reach.

“In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile.”-Hunter S. Thompson

California has 53 congressional districts.  This means that, every two years, we elect 53 representatives to brave the corrupted farm and greasy, fiendish hogs that is the House of Representatives and the Congressmen and women who root there.

And every cycle, no matter the ‘fresh starts’ and ‘new beginnings’ repeatedly promised to voters along the campaign trail, the people supposedly represented in those halls continue to be methodically chewed to bits through endless backhanded legislation; splintered bodies cast aside and left exposed to the cold as the snarling pig horde stampedes on, homicidal eyes frantically scanning the fertile horizon for its favorite prey: the ever-present hopeful heart and youthful dream.

It would seem that if these politicians must be elected by us to hold public office we, the people, would be to blame for the putty cretins we put into K Street’s waiting palms.  However, due to a shady and manipulative political process called gerrymandering, a practice both Democrats and Republicans regularly employ, elections can be twisted to fit the whims of those in power and silence the voice of the voter.

Gerrymandering, for those unaware, is defined as the process of dividing up and redrawing districts to give your political party an advantage.  It’s nearly as old as the United States itself, the term having been coined in 1812 by the Boston Gazette in response to the then-governor Elbridge Gerry’s strange reinterpretation of state senate district lines in Massachusetts.  

The main ways of doing this are two strategies known as Packing a District and Cracking a District.  Packing piles most of one party’s voters into only a few districts so the other party cruises to frequent, easy victories throughout the state.  Cracking does the opposite, breaking up large voting blocs into smaller ones so as to balance the scales.  

Partisan gerrymandering is, unfortunately, a part of American politics but districts reshaped according to race and/or social status is a transgression we cannot allow.  Recent events suggest, however, that many states in this country are not only turning a blind eye to the rotten process of disenfranchising poor and minority voters, but are unapologetically perpetrating it by creating “majority-minority” districts.  

Cases in Alabama, Virginia, and other Republican strongholds revealed that electoral lines have been redrawn to create massive single blocs of minorities, surreptitiously using a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 essentially granting Republicans “safe seats” in the surrounding districts. These “safe seats” skew the voter composition in a country that, in the 2012 congressional election, casted 1.4 million more Democratic votes than Republican.  Despite that vote count, conniving gerrymandering allowed the latter party to scheme hopeless knaves into 33 rightfully Democratic seats in the House.  

To fight gerrymandering some states have created independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions that rob political parties of the power to warp district lines in their favor and gifts it back to the people, restoring a core principle of a Democratic Republic, namely, “that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”

Instead of following states like Arizona through the wall towards gerrymandering reform nationwide, Wisconsin, Mississippi, and many other conservative states are fortifying another political blockade by passing modern Jim Crow voter ID laws that unfairly target poor and minority voters.  

The cunning legislative attacks levied against Democrats and minorities across the South and Midwest erase any doubt that reform to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is an imperative pursuit to restore power back to where it belongs – out of the bursting billfold of the few and into the working hands of the many.