About as far back as anyone can remember, every time the census is completed there always seems to be a good number of people deeply concerned about gerrymandering. Most folks know that gerrymandering is a term used to describe the manipulation of election districts to give a political party an unfair advantage over its opposition, yet few know how the term came into common usage.
According to historians, credit for the term can be attributed to the 1812 Boston Gazette that published an editorial cartoon lampooning Vice President Elbridge Gerry, formerly Governor of Massachusetts, who once drew a district so deliberately distorted for partisan gain that it represented a mythological salamander! So, a political cartoonist squeezed the two together and it became known colloquially as the “Gerry-Mander”, or gerrymander.
As part of our representative democracy, redistricting, or reapportionment occurs after the U.S. Census to adjust for the growth or decline in an area’s population. Unfortunately, in many states like Alabama, the process of reapportionment is controlled by the majority party and political gerrymandering occurs regularly.
Two techniques are often employed in gerrymandering: One scheme is referred to as “cracking” which is used to dilute votes based on demographics. The other is called “packing” which concentrates the opposing party’s voting power in one district in order to reduce their voting power in other districts. Another sleazy trick in gerrymandering is to simply draw the district in a way that puts the opposing party’s candidate into another district, called “kidnapping”.
Since 1812, gerrymandering has occurred on both sides of the political aisle. The Curse of The Gerrymander is that it’s almost irresistible for the majority party not to manipulate districts to their own partisan advantage to maintain political power, simply because a flawed process allows them. Over the years in Alabama, we’ve seen some gerrymandered districts that would put Gerry’s salamander to shame. In fact, numerous federal court cases have demonstrated that when partisan politics influence reapportionment, that there is a scant chance of any genuine effort to ensure equitable and fair representation.
This is why every fair-minded American is strongly opposed to gerrymandering and believes that reapportionment should be a non-partisan and independent process. The citizens of Alabama deserve districts that are drawn fairly and not deliberately skewed to give one party an undue advantage over the other. Gerrymandering is antithetical to our democratic values and remains nothing more than an unethical and cynical ploy to silence political opposition.
The truth is that our election process and our voting rights are currently under attack by those who believe that it’s acceptable to put their thumbs on the scale to win elections through gerrymandering and voter suppression. It’s wrong, it’s certainly not fair, and it needs to stop immediately.
One of the defining moments in our nation’s history was when President George Washington stepped down to facilitate the peaceful transition of power to a newly elected president. Right now, we face another defining moment as some seek to falsely claim that our last election was “stolen” as a flimsy justification to ignore the will of the people and manipulate the system to their political advantage. We must put an end to the Curse of The Gerrymander and The Big Lie regarding the integrity of our last national election.
To be clear, Alabama Democrats are deeply committed to making voting easier, more accessible, and safer. Like all Alabamians, we know that fair elections depend on fairly drawn districts. It’s time to permanently end the unethical practice of gerrymandering by taking politics out of the equation. Together, we can eliminate gerrymandering and ensure that our elections remain fair, accurate, and untarnished by partisanship.
Our democracy depends on it.