Gerrymandering? Really?

by Morgan Copeland, Census and Redistricting Fellow

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that partisan gerrymandering is allowed within the confines of the Constitution. 

Gerrymandering, the practice of drawing obscure lines within congressional districts, to manipulate the political playground in favor of one party over another, has been a prominent political tool utilized to further dismantle the legitimacy of our electoral system. 

This practice is especially detrimental towards people of color in this country. Our voices have always fallen on deaf ears and this ruling will only exacerbate that fact. The votes of marginalized communities, such as black people, people of color, the formally incarcerated, young people, and immigrants and refugees, are needed to reform our governmental institutions, which have not and do not currently represent these same communities. Moreover, our votes will not mean anything if we are subject to partisan gerrymandering in our communities. 

Supreme Court Justices had the opportunity, on Thursday, June 27th, to outline and implement comprehensive legal framework that would police how state officials can redraw maps used to determine districts in our local and national elections. They chose not to within the context of two federal court cases: In Rucho v. Common Cause (North Carolina) and Benisek v. Lamone (Maryland).  Justices ruled 5 to 4 that federal courts cannot limit partisan gerrymandering. Essentially, politicians can effectively continue to change maps without any checks and balances set forth by the federal courts. 

Ultimately, any politician now has the authority and power to shift district lines to increase their chances of winning an election, serving their personal interests for political gain with little regard for the individuals in those districts that will be affected by the unintended and/or intended consequences of their proposed legislation. 

Also, too many politicians are unconcerned with the problems of all the people in their districts; so though votes are being cast, not all voices are being heard and accounted for. Not enough consideration is being lent to the multi-generational affects of injustices that people of color have had to endure.  Now, the chance of fairness being common law is farther away than before.

As an organization with a strong analysis around inequitable public spending, we are putting resources behind educating frontline and marginalized communities about the importance of the upcoming 2020 Census and 2021 Redistricting process. The communities we work with, such as residents living in Burke County, Georgia, that need more resources to ensure Nuclear Harm Reduction in their communities, and residents of Neighborhood Planning Unit V (NPU-V), which is home to zip codes with some of the nation’s highest energy burden.  The two main problems we address are firstly, in rural, southern communities like Burke County, GA, there is lack of resources to help identify problems and connections between radiological environmental contamination and public health so that people have the quantitative data to supplement their lived experiences so they can better advocate for the safety and quality of life of their communities.  Secondly, communities lack resources to help people advocate for themselves and their communities in order to: (a) address inadequate political representation, (b) overhaul inequitable decision making processes, (c) overcome white supremacy, and (d) transform a culture that over-invests in violence and war into one of peace and sustainability.  These communities already lack resources and gerrymandering ensures that these communities and those similar will continue to struggle with a just and equitable transition and future.

Many politicians appear to become more emboldened each time the federal government co-signs their perceived supremacy disguised as their having a heart for the people, answering the call to support our democracy. Partisan gerrymandering completely invalidates any presence of democracy. 

The voices of citizens are not being heard through their votes. The needs an desires of the people are instead being decided by the politicians who intentionally create precinct maps that embody their individual wants and desires. 

Our political system is dysfunctional because it has been designed not to work for everyone. 

This is why we fight. We must stand up for ourselves, look these individuals in the eye, hold them accountable, and demand justice and fairness for all. Nothing about this is fair, and if we remain complacent, we will never be heard.

For more information about Redistricting and Gerrymandering, please email Jewel Howard, WeCount! Coordinator, at Jewel@GeorgiaWAND.org .