Gerrymandering probably won’t be mentioned by most candidates in next year’s elections. It should be. It may be the biggest threat to America’s democracy.
After each decennial U.S. census, political districts are redrawn to balance the populations within them. The Trump administration is proposing to change the 2020 census by including a question about citizenship.
Demographers have argued, now and in the past, that the question would damage the accuracy of the count by scaring noncitizens into avoiding being counted. Both major political parties are pretty sure which will benefit from such an undercount.
The officials that gerrymandered voters elect in 2020 will use those census figures to set the physical boundaries of districts going forward. That will set the political tone and reality of the next 10 years.
After a Republican sweep of state legislatures in 2010, districts were purposely redrawn into historically weird shapes to favor the ruling party. Even so, the decade since has witnessed increasing minority success in lawmaking, judicial appointments and agency policymaking.
Most Americans believe climate change is real, human-caused and an immediate threat. They are not climate science deniers or fossil-fuel proponents. They favor a renewable energy future.
Most Americans favor a woman’s right to make her own health-care decisions. Roe v. Wade not only has a majority of support but has been established law for four decades.
Nonetheless, a full third of states have mandated restrictions on abortion services since 2010, including the most severe ones. Air and water quality rules have been gutted. Public lands have been turned over to fossil-fuel and resource-extraction interests.
Gerrymandering voting districts guarantees that incumbent dissenters in the majority party will face a primary challenge. Thus, the Republican Party can continue to move further to the extremes as compromises with Democrats becomes a thing of the past.
The process of gerrymandering has produced extreme officials and partisan wars that are proving toxic to the body politic. Voters do not witness debates on civic issues or the qualities of elected officials. Trust between the two sides is increasingly hard to find.
Every candidate in 2020 should be asked about gerrymandering. Every single one should promise to remove politics from redistricting, as has been done in several states.
If Americans want a healthy democracy, they have to vote like process matters.