The basic concept of a Democracy is one vote per person, with every vote counting equally. According to the Constitution, “We The People,” and not the states, created this nation. Yet in the 2012 Election the states by the electoral vote determined the President and the states through gerrymandering determined the representation in the House of Representatives. The Republicans got the majority of representatives even though the Democrats received one million one hundred thousand more Congressional votes. Somehow the intent of the Constitution seems to have been subverted.
The government is the servant of the people carrying out the majority will with protections for the minorities. This is how this country is supposed to function. If it does not then the system has been corrupted and must be cleansed. In the 2012 Election the majority will was compromised and to a certain extent thwarted.
Even though the Democratic Party received over a million more votes in the House Election the Republicans got the majority of Representatives there. How was this possible?
In England during the 18th and 19th Centuries, as the voting franchise was gradually extended to all males, there were, with the Enclosure Movement and the Industrial Revolution, a mass movement of people from the rural areas to the urban centers. No adjustments were made to balance the votes and what developed were “rotten boroughs;” areas where the number of voters necessary to elect a member of the House of Commons was well under one hundred voters, in some cases under twenty, while in the urban factory towns it could be in the multi-thousands. And anyone could run in any district in the country. There was also open voting; the secret ballot did not exist until 1872. The “rotten boroughs” were not done away with until the middle of the 19th Century.
In the United States the system that developed was called “Gerrymandering.” The term Gerrymander was used for the first time in the Boston Gazette on March 26, 1812. It came from the name of the then-Governor, Elbridge Gerry who had signed a bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his Democratic Party. One of the contorted districts in the Boston area was said to resemble the shape of a salamander. The term was a combination of the governor’s last name and the word salamander. In 1812 the Massachusetts Senate remained firmly in Democratic hands while the House and Governorship went to the Federalist Party.
Besides achieving desired electoral result for a particular party, gerrymandering has been used to help or hinder a particular demographic, such as a political, ethnic, racial, linguistic, religious, or class group.
In the 2012 Election a number of states elected Republican majorities on all levels of their government. In the United States there is a census every ten years for the purpose of redistricting the voting districts on both the state and Federal level. The political party in power usually draws the new districting map. By carefully drawing the lines they can break up ethnic or racial groups, set up districts with definite party majorities, or emphasis any group they want. There are no rules in drawing the shape of these districts and they can take any shape possible, hence gerrymandering. In addition many of these states made voting much more difficult, if not almost impossible, in districts that favored the opposition party.
In 2012 the district lines drawn up allowed the Republican controlled states to win control of the House of Representatives with far less than fifty percent of the votes cast for members of the House. It took a lot of maneuvering and strange shaped voting districts to do this.
Isn’t it time for the Federal Government or the courts to set up a system that creates these districts on a non-partisan basis with simple shapes strictly according to the population? If the government cannot do this then it may take a Constitutional Amendment to achieve this goal.
A Democracy is supposed to be a government representing the will of the majority.
Our goal should be to make this in the best way possible. The British eventually got rid of their “rotten boroughs.” Are we ever going to get rid of gerrymandering?