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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Fix the fixed voting system

The 2016 election is right around the corner. Many politically-savvy people are looking at the 2014 midterms as a barometer for the political climate in the year to come.

In 2014, the tide of Congress shifted from Democrat to Republican. The House, already under Republican control, gained 13 Republican seats. The Senate went much the same way. In the 113th Congress, Democrats had control of the Senate, but in the 2014 midterm, they lost nine seats.

All told, Congressional Democrats lost 22 seats to Republicans in the 2014 midterm election.

Though some of the issue is disapproval of President Barack Obama’s job, a large factor in the shocking increase for Republicans in the Congress was gerrymandering. There’s no other way to explain the fact that Republicans needed only 45 percent of the vote in 2014 in order to secure a majority in the House — the branch of our government that is supposed to be the most representative.

In 2000, Al Gore lost the presidency despite winning the popular vote by 500,000 people. Most people know this. It was the cause of a lot of uproar. And yet, the lopsided votes in Congress every year — only 49 percent of Americans cast their vote for a Republican Congressman in 2012 but Republicans secured a 33-seat majority in the House — attracts comparatively little attention.

Article 1 Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution requires the United States to redistrict every 10 years after a census process has taken place. Like most of the Constitution, this processes is vague and left to the states to decide.

Barbara Norrander, a professor in the School of Government and Public Policy, describes gerrymandering as “drawing Congressional district lines to advantage one group over another.” Gerrymandering happens because the process to reapportion members of the House is highly politicized.

Republicans had been thinking about gerrymandering after the 2010 census for years, as described by PBS NewsHour. Since most states, excluding Arizona, have procedures where state lines are drawing by state representatives, the Republican Party spent years of effort and money to gain control in the states. This strategy allowed for Republicans to control the House of Representatives until the next Census in 2020.

Gerrymandering has some harsh realities in the U.S.

First of all, increases in the amount of districts that are gerrymandered creates a more polarized Congress. Arizona, South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Georgia and Louisiana are just a few states with highly gerrymandered districts.

The Republicans aren’t the only culprits. Democrats saw an increased turnout in North Carolina’s Congressional District 12. This district is obviously gerrymandered and runs down Interstate 85 with a width of only a mile or two.

Both parties are at fault.

Arizona is one of under 10 states that has an independent commission to redraw district lines.

“It perhaps made a few more competitive districts in Arizona,” Norrander said, commenting on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. “It has five things it has to do in drawing lines, and drawing for competitiveness is one.”

More states should have an independent commission. In Arizona, it created Congressional District 2. District 2 encompasses the eastern part of Tucson and Pima County. Anyone who watched the election in 2014 knows that District 2 was an extremely competitive race between Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Ron Barber.

In states with independent redistricting commissions, competitive elections are more common. This means there is more of a likelihood that your voice will count. That’s what politics in the U.S. should be. A Republican in North Carolina Congressional District 12 has no voice, the same way a Democrat in Ohio’s 8th District is powerless.

As members of states, we have to take the power of Congress out of the hands of future members of Congress. It’s a conflict of interest. Rather, people should do redistricting with no substantial skin in the game. Independent redistricting could change Congress and create a more bipartisan national legislature, something we could all use.

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Maddy Bynes is a junior studying political science and history. Follow her on Twitter.

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