Gerrymandering our votes awayIf there is one practice that has become prevalent in our government in the modern era that I find utterly repugnant, it is the practice of excessive electoral gerrymandering. Both parties employ the practice if we look at it from a national point of view-in States where the Republicans dominate government, legislative districts are drawn to exaggerate the Republican vote, and in States where Democrats hold sway, districts are drawn to exaggerate the Democratic vote.
It is one thing for the majority party to use their status to gain a bit more of an advantage electorally, but it is quite another for the majority party to use their majority status to gain an excessive advantage and minimalize the voting voice of their opponents. The excessive gerrymandering of districts is a form of disenfranchisement that wreaks of politics in some anti-social backwater.
If you are a Republican in Tennessee, our State's legislative districts have been drawn up to minimize your representation to the maximum degree possible.
If we closely examine our State's electoral constituencies, we see that in heavily Republican East Tennessee, the districts are drawn in a bizarre manner that is designed to minimize the Statewide effect of Republican victories there. The First Congressional District seems to shrink a bit with every census, while Jefferson County, an extremely "red" county indeed, conveniently sits on the edge of every both its State House and State Senate districts, and its Congressional influence is completely muted. It is cut in two by the First and Third districts, nevermind that being in the Third makes no geographic sense at all.
If you are a Republican in Middle or West Tennessee, you are really screwed-the districts are drawn to insure that Democrats can carry them which gets bizarre geographic anomolies like this, as well as these two drawn to better insure a Democratic victory, while Republican districts like the Eighth are drawn in such a way as to minimalize the impact of Republican votes. Sure, Marsha Blackburn wins, but Republican voters in the collar counties around Nashville are split between the Eighth, the Seventh, and the Fifth District, minimizing their voting power in the other two. Then there is the Ninth District, deliberately drawn so that no Republican can ever win there.
Gerrymandering has been used in the past to deprive African-Americans and other minorities of voting power, and has been used in other parts of the world to prevent certain groups from achieving real political power as shown here. In Tennessee in 2007, it is being used to try and stave off a conservative rise to Statewide power. The Democrats know that if our districts were drawn in a way that makes more sense geographically, they would lose control. If they still control State government in 2010, look for them to use even more strange gerrymandering tactics to try and remain in power.
When I interviewed Jason Mumpower, he said that a Republican majority would draw our legislative constituencies in a more fair and equitable manner. I hope that proves to be true, and that if the GOP does get an outright majority, Mumpower resists the urge to use the district-drawing power as a means of revenge against the Democrats. If the Republicans do the same, then we will have acted in a way no different from the Democrats who have used every sly and despicable tactic in the book to stay in power for so long. Advantage, sure-but just say no to vote-splitting and disenfranchisement.
Labels: Tennessee politics