I’ve just done something that is a little out of character for me, which is to write a letter to someone in authority. The funny thing is that I spend a few minutes video chatting with my dear old mother in England every day, and whenever she has a bee in her bonnet about some shenanigans her local council is getting up to, I always tell her to “write a letter,” so now the pen is on the other foot, as it were.
One thing that really sticks in my craw is the practice of gerrymandering, which — as I noted in in my blog Gerrymandering is a Stain on our Democracy — is the dark art of establishing a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries. For example, the graphic to the right depicts a few of the different ways in which 50 precincts can be apportioned into five districts, each containing 10 precincts.
Of course, gerrymandering isn’t new — it’s been implemented by both the Democrats and the Republicans for many years, but it seems to be growing more egregious as time goes by (see The 12 Worst House Districts: Experts Label Gerrymandering’s Dirty Dozen).
Sad to relate, we should all be poised to be presented with some of the most gross, ghastly, and grievous gerrymandering we’ve ever seen in the coming years. This is because district lines are redrawn every decade following completion of the United States census, which means this process will commence shortly after the results of the 2020 census are made available.
It’s not like this is an insurmountable problem. We now have access to incredibly powerful computers, mathematicians have developed multiple algorithms that are applicable to this type of conundrum, and we have exceptionally clever data scientists who love nothing better than tackling this sort of situation.
One issue is that the individual states determine their own redistricting methods, which can therefore vary from state to state (sometimes the methods that are employed vary within a state). In turn, this means that redistricting isn’t something that can be enforced by the Federal Government.
My idea, which I just communicated in a letter to President Biden, is to try to persuade Congress to set up a Department of Redistricting that is dedicated to supporting the states in their redistricting efforts, but only when such help is requested.
Such a service should be funded by the Federal Government and provided at no charge to the states, thereby making it easy to adopt. Those states that did avail themselves of the service could subsequently boast that their redistricting efforts were “Certified and Endorsed by the Department of Redistricting.” By comparison, states that refused to take advantage of the service could be labeled as such and — if the people were educated as to what this means and why it is important — those states could expect to be asked some pointed questions by any citizens who fall under their jurisdiction.
What do you think? Am I living a pipedream? Does such a department already exist (if so, why isn’t it more effective)? Do you have any thoughts you’d care to share?