What is at stake when it comes to how political district lines are drawn? The answer is simple: your voice our democracy.
The process that occurs in our states every 10 years following the national census is the foundation for how our government operates. At the most basic level, redistricting ensures that the constitutional principle of “one person, one vote.”
Ultimately, the redistricting process determines:
- How your community is defined
- Who you have the opportunity to vote for
- What kinds of policies and issues get debated
- What happens to your tax dollars
- How the complex set of challenges we face are handled (or not)
With so much at stake, you might think that we have a say in how this powerful process is carried out. But we don’t. The redistricting process is marked by secrecy, self-dealing and backroom logrolling among elected officials. Legislators who stand to benefit from the status quo have every incentive to leave the issue in the dark.
How do political parties manipulate districts or gerrymander?
Whichever party controls redistricting (Republican or Democrat) seeks to maximize the number of seats it can win. It does this by creating a large number of seats that are reasonably safe for the majority party and a smaller number of districts extremely safe for the minority party. The process results in most legislative districts being solidly held by one party and uncompetitive in the general election. This means that many voters do not have a meaningful choice at the polls. For example, a Republican who lives in a solidly Democratic district may vote for Republicans at every opportunity, but his solidly Democratic neighbors will outweigh his vote in each election. In addition, the ultimate distribution of seats in the state legislature may not reflect the overall popular vote totals in legislative elections.
Other real problems this can lead to:
- Politicians choosing their voters
- Eliminating incumbents
- Eliminating challengers
- Diluting minority votes
- Splitting communities
What can we do?
Demand an accountable, transparent redistricting process.
Require our elected officials to create an environment where communities have the opportunity to choose their elected officials, where communities can select the person they believe will be the most responsive to their needs and concerns. It’s all about the ability to hold those we elect accountable.