Justice portrays herself as a bronze statue brandishing scales.
She determines the weight of guilt with her hands. Fortunately, her eyes are covered with a blindfold. Thus, Justice holds no bias, but the populace does.
Equal representation holds the human condition of bias in check. However, equal representation cannot exist in a democracy hell-bent on gerrymandering.
This is not a new issue, as gerrymandering has existed within the United States since its inception. Nevertheless, the term was coined during 1812. The then governor of Massachusetts, Governor Elbridge Gerry, passed a law redistricting the state in favor of the Democratic-Republicans Party. In response, the Federalist editors at the Boston Gazette, coined the term “gerrymander” as a portmanteau of the last name of the governor and the shape of one of the new congressional districts (a salamander). This political commentary was accompanied by the following cartoon:
In its worst form, gerrymandering takes the people’s vote and makes it worthless. This is not only destructive to the election process but also to the essence of democracy. For when a single person is unduly disenfranchised then the government becomes tyrannical. A government that does not allow the will of the people to determine its action becomes tyrannical. In many ways, the United States, a beacon of democratic rule the world over, is the quintessential example of gerrymandering. For this the question must be asked: how many of our elected government officials would be in office if gerrymandering was extinct?
If we take a look back on United States Supreme Court cases, it is evident that gerrymandering is, without a shadow of a doubt, unlawful.
Take Baker v. Carr for example.
This landmark SCOTUS case helped set the precedent for “one man, one vote.” Moreover, it set the precedent that federal courts have the duty to intervene on the people’s behalf when their state legislature impedes on their right to representation in their government.
Nevertheless, some of the dissenters of the Baker v. Carr case believe that the Supreme Court acted outside its jurisdiction by making political redistricting a part of its duties. The critics argue that the Supreme Court reacted in a power-hungry move. In a less contentious case, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that an independent redistricting commission has the right to draw the political districts of the state as long as the commission is put into place by the people of the state at the ballot box. Let’s take a closer look at the case:
At the turn of the 21st century, Arizonans initiated the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) via referendum ballot in the form of Proposition 106. The Commission ordered for two Democrats, two Republicans, and one Independent. Furthermore, the Proposition altered the state constitution by depriving the legislature of redistricting power. The power transferred to the newly-founded AIRC due to the will of the people. However, the government never denies itself power without contention. In 2012, the Republican-majority-legislature accused the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission of unconstitutionality. They concluded that the Commission contravened the Elections Clause of the United States Constitution. The Clause states, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof…”. The legislature brought their case before a district court arguing over the usage of the world legislature within the confines of the Elections Clause. Unfortunately for Arizona’s government, the court ruled in favor of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, stating that the Proposition fully aligned with constitutional boundaries. Arizona’s legislature appealed their case to the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the Court ruled by a 5-4 majority that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission followed the Constitution flawlessly.
Thus, it is important that the voting-age populace of the united States realizes that they have the power to change their congressional districts by a referendum. The struggle however lies within getting the topic on the ballot.
In current events, the gerrymandering question has been brought to Penn State’s own backyard. Since the Republican legislature of the state and the Democratic governor could not compromise on a map, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stepped in and created a more competitive map.
It seems that gerrymandering may persist into the foreseeable future.
After all, those in power do not relinquish their power voluntarily.