Gerrymandering is a national security concern
Gerrymandering is a term that has been in the news a lot lately, especially since the recent Common Cause v. Lewis ruling, which struck down state legislative districts. But what does it mean and why does an everyday citizen need to care?
Gerrymandering is the drawing of political districts, like congressional or state house districts, to give unfair advantage to one group (like a political party or a racial group) over another. Both Democrats and Republicans have practiced gerrymandering over the years; but it has huge negative impacts on our republic.
The reason you care is because if you happen to belong to the disadvantaged group in a district, then your vote will likely not influence the outcome of an election. Which means that your views and opinions become irrelevant in the minds of elected officials.
Now that we live in an age of mass information and rampant data harvesting, it is possible to create gerrymandered districts so precise we can predict the outcome of any election by party before names are even placed on the ballot. Free elections are replaced with an illusion of democracy; rather than voters choosing their elected officials elected officials are choosing their voters.
If the voter cannot choose his or her elected official, then they cannot hold that official accountable. The elected official becomes beholden only to the political party, special interest groups, high-networth donors, and political action committees capable of providing the data, knowledge, and money needed to pick their voters.
The result is a U.S. Congress with a 21% approval rating and a 91% reelection rate in 2018. This is the equivalent of getting only two out of ten questions right on a quiz and still walking away with an A. Students would not be motivated to study or pay attention to their teachers under that grading scale, and likewise, elected officials are not motivated to pay attention to you because gerrymandering has given them that kind of grading scale.
Diminished voter power leads to hyper-partisanship. If the general election is a foregone conclusion due to gerrymandering, that means that the real fight is in the primary. When that happens, candidates with more right or left-leaning views tend to get elected.
These hyper-partisans have very little reason to work with their counterparts on the other side because they are in a safe seat, so long as they stay loyal to the party. This extremism bleeds into other political offices that may not be directly gerrymandered as it reinforces party loyalty above all else.
When party loyalty guarantees job security, elected officials refuse to hold colleagues in other positions accountable and will characterize any attempt to do so by the other party as an “unfounded political attack.”
The merits or supporting evidence of an idea become irrelevant when party loyalty is all that matters. The merits of James Comey’s testimony before Congress and the evidence presented in the Mueller Report regarding the possible obstruction of justice committed by the president becomes irrelevant in a hyper-partisan environment.
Now a whistle-blower report alerts the public that the president has attempted to coerce a foreign power into interfering in HIS election on HIS behalf. These crimes should not be viewed through a partisan lens but should be evaluated on their merits with the security of the nation in mind.
Common Cause v. Lewis is a landmark case because it bans gerrymandering in the North Carolina state legislature. Each decade, the Census is taken to determine shifts in population. In North Carolina political districts are drawn by the State Legislature. With the 2020 census a few months away, the hope is that a less gerrymandered state legislature will result in a less gerrymandered delegation to the U.S. House and more equal representation.
The algorithms and voluminous information in the voter files across the country will allow lawmakers to redraw districts with such precision that majority leaders can dilute voter’s influence to an all-time low. This is not surgical precision; surgery is messy and painful. This is precision used to make impossibly smart weaponry with the latest technology. And that weapon is pointed right at the heart of our democracy.
Nathan Click is state leader for Stand Up Republic North Carolina. The national Stand Up Republic is a nonprofit and government accountability organization founded by Republicans Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn.
Originally published in The Fay Observer.