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Policy Summary

On September 12, 2017, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling that temporarily prevented implementation of a federal district court ruling that found state electoral districts in Texas were illegally drawn to suppress minority voters. This ruling comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2017 decision to agree to hear a case from Wisconsin, Whitford v. Gill. That case is similar to the case from Texas in that voters are challenging the way a state draws its electoral districts because of the way certain groups of voters are favored over other groups of voters in order to give one party (in both states, the Republican Party) an unfair and even unconstitutional advantage over the other political party. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Analysis

Gerrymandering is an American political tactic that dates back nearly 200 years. The premise is simple – to draw state electoral districts and congressional districts in such as a way as to ensure that a candidate of a particular political party will have a very good chance of winning. Districts are constitutionally required to be roughly equal in terms of population, and they usually are, but the unusual shapes of certain districts – with elongated arms and hooks that curve around illogically  – are often intentionally drawn that way so as to favor Republican or Democratic candidates.

The current problem, as illustrated by the Texas and Wisconsin cases, is that the drawing of electoral districts are being manipulated and not representative of how the electorate is voting in the state. For example, in Wisconsin Republican legislators re-drew the state electoral map after they came to power in 2010. When the 2012 election came around Republicans in Wisconsin won 49 percent of all votes cast statewide in congressional elections but ended up winning 63 percent of the congressional seats. In this map of recent trends, the states of Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin show more Democratic votes than Republican overall but less Democratic congressional seats. Why are states that have more Democratic voters sending fewer Democrats and more Republicans to Congress? The answer lies in which political party is currently in power and how they choose to draw the electoral maps of their state. The hope is that the Supreme Court will take the Whitford v. Gill case and articulate a framework to determine when “gerrymandering” crosses the line and becomes unconstitutional. Each and every vote should count and should be reflective of what the electorate wants instead of allowing the process to be manipulated by legislative leaders in order to suppress votes from minority communities and keep their party in power. LEARN MORE, LEARN MORE

Engagement Resources

This brief was compiled by Rod Maggay. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact rod@usresistnews.org.


 

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