Gerrymandering, Its Effect, the Voting Rights Act and the Efficiency Gap

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Gerrymandering is a problem amongst both minority voters and just voters in general because America is supposed to be a place of freedom and free representation and Gerrymandering negates these rights given to its citizens.

To start, Gerrymandering is a political “cheat” where politicians will draw congressional district lines in a manner that suits them or their political party, diluting or even completely ripping away the voting power of others. Gerrymandering can come in different forms such as Partisan Gerrymandering which is a form that takes away or benefits a political party voting power to either allow them more seats or to take away from what they should fairly get from there amount. It can also come in the form of minority discriminating Gerrymandering, which is a form that takes away from the voting power of voting minorities. According to the website of the Minnesota Senate, “Partisan (or political) gerrymandering is the drawing of electoral district lines in a manner that discriminates against a political party.” The Republican-drawn district map of North Carolina is an example of this problem now. It is heavily Republican favored with 10 red districts and only 3 blue ones. Along with that, the map looks highly misshapen with the 1st and 4th districts, both being Democratic, stretching in all directions and cutting through districts while the Republican districts being fairly regularly shaped. Shown in a graph on a Princeton website is how the average amount of seats won have changed throughout the Redistricting Cycles. In the 1972-1980 cycle, Republicans won only a seat more than Democrats on average with about a 5.5:6 ratio. In the 1982-1990 cycle, the ratio was even smaller for Democrat to Republican seats with a 4:4.2 ratio at most and in the next 1992-2000 cycle, the amount was about even. The 2002-2010 and 2012-2016 cycles were much different however with a Blue to Red ratio of 2:6 average first and then a 3:14 ratio in those next years. It is clear that the problem is truly at its worst because we have so many politicians who are missing the morality to see that diluting voting rights is wrong and it is great that Gerrymandering is now coming into the spotlight.

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The severity of Gerrymandering is destructive, hypocritical, and vital in needing to be fixed because it contradicts the Constitution and takes away our rights. Firstly, packing is a way the Gerrymandering can occur. Packing consists of grouping voters together who vote for the same party or candidate so they have fewer districts in their favor. According to the website, “‘packing’: pushing as many… voters as possible in a few super concentrated districts, and draining the populations voting power from anywhere else.” A prime example of packing is North Carolina’s 12th congressional district. It is a long, thinner district that runs along Interstate 85 so it can capture a large majority of African Americans, stated in a video of Stephen Benz’s course on In addition, cracking is another cause. This form of Gerrymandering consists of splitting consists of splitting up groups who vote for a common party or candidate between districts to lessen their voting power over all.“ ‘cracking’: splintering minority populations into small pieces across several districts so that a big group ends up with very little chance to impact any single election. The more liberal, urban, areas of Columbus, Ohio are split into the 15th, 12th, and 7th districts, where they are outnumbered by the largely conservative suburbs that lied beyond. The impact that the causes that have led to Gerrymandering shows that voters of the same race, living space, or party are discriminated against using forms of Gerrymandering.

The effects of Gerrymandering are damaging and discriminating and can become monumentally destructive due to the fact that it takes away from the rights that people have fought for thousands of years. The largest effect of Gerrymandering is how it dilutes the influence of votes of citizens of different wealth, races, and parties. An example of this is North Carolina’s 1st Congressional district. Much like its 12th district, it heavily packs the African American population, being that it surrounds the highest African American population density, which is equal to and greater than 50%. Furthermore, Gerrymandering a lot of the time requires weirdly shaped districts which goes against the Voting Rights Act and makes it difficult to make fair, well-shaped districts. An oddly shaped district can consist of districts such an Illinois’s 4th district, which has an odd earmuff shape that packs in two mainly Hispanic areas. Without a doubt, Gerrymandering is a large, unconstitutional problem that requires immediate and large amounts of attention to be solved. The Voting Rights Act (Bubble Map) The Voting Rights Act of 1965 provides protection to the rights of minority voters all over the United States. President Lyndon Johnson signed The Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965, in Washington D.C. Unlike other laws, The Voting Rights Act provides strict laws to directly help the minority voting groups. Can you imagine working to become a citizen of the US and an active member of society then being stripped of your rights to vote for your leaders because of where you come from and because you can’t do anything about it? In 1889, the territory of Dakota joined the union as North and South Dakota. This action was orchestrated by Republicans to have more states in their parties favor. As according to News Max, “Coming on the heels of ‘Bloody Sunday’ in which peaceful protesters marching in Selma, Alabama, were attacked by state troopers. Congress knew that it must act swiftly. Former United States President Lyndon B. Johnson called on Congress a week later to pass new legislation to ‘guarantee every American’s right to vote’ according to The New York Times.” This essentially means that former president Lyndon Johnson wanted to act in a manner that showed he had no relation to the attacks and he was angered about what had occurred and he wanted to, “guarantee every American’s right to vote”. The Voting Rights act truly is a solution to allow minorities to keep their right to input on their choice of leaders. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has protected the rights of all kinds of voters for more than 53 years. Section 2 of the act applies to all voters in all parts of the US. It finds if district lines pack or crack voters using the Gingles Conditions. These conditions consist of three parts, the first testing if minorities are dispersed to lessen their control of districts. The second finds if the immigrant population votes as a bloc, or votes for the same political candidate. The third and final condition finds if the rest of the population votes as a bloc for a different candidate, which therefore gets rid of the voting influence of the minority bloc. According to the website, “Section 2 does not guarantee proportionality but if a minority group with 20% of a state’s eligible population could already elect 20% of the state’s districts, courts will be more hesitant to find any violation.” The gist of this is that Section 2 cannot make sure that there is an even amount of people per district but if an eligible population gets a matching amount of percentage of people elected, there is less of a chance a violation will be found. Section 5 of the act worked differently in 2010 than it does now but the main point is that government “bailed in” states or jurisdictions can’t make changes to their districts without Department of Justice preclearance, or without their permission. As stated by the previously mentioned website, “In any ‘covered jurisdiction’, the government may not implement any change to any voting procedure including a redistricting plan – without first submitting them to the Department of Justice or a federal court. This is known as preclearance.” The main points of this quote are that covered jurisdictions cannot make changes to their lines without them being precleared first by the Department of Justice or a federal court. Overall The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is an effective way to combat minority discriminating Gerrymandering.

The Voting Rights Act is known for protecting the voting rights of minorities. It is important because it allows people to exercise their right to vote for their leaders and representatives. The Voting Rights Act still protects the rights of minority voters all over the United States. It does so by outlawing all forms of Gerrymandering, whether it is just competitive or downright discriminating. “… prohibition against discrimination in voting applies nationwide to any voting standard, practice, or procedure that results in the denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. Section 2 is permanent and has no expiration date…” This act allows minority voters to have say on voting matters that they have right to have input on. Truly, can this law really protect the say voters have in the USA? Yes, it can because it is a law that can cause severe repercussions for politicians who abuse their power and avoid the rules of our constitution.The Efficiency Gap (Bubble Map) The Efficiency Gap uses math to find partisan Gerrymandering and can be used anywhere in the United States. The Efficiency Gap was proposed in 2015 in an article for the University of Chicago Law review by UCHL law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos and research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of CA Research Eric McGhee. This system is not like most other Gerrymandering prevention systems in that it specifically focuses on partisan Gerrymandering. How do you think it would feel like to have people who have little to no relation to you abuse their power like a tyrant to make the influence of your vote obsolete? The Efficiency Gap is the first of its kind, being the only thorough method to measure partisan Gerrymandering. The solution holds a lot of merits when it comes to finding and beating partisan Gerrymandering.

The Efficiency Gap was a proposed form of Gerrymandering shown in a 70-page article consisting of 16 parts. As mentioned previously, this solution works by using a series of equations. It finds wasted votes of parties and compares them to the number of seats won. As written on the Caliper website, “Gerrymandering is when political district boundaries are drawn to benefit one group over another, thus creating an imbalance in the value of votes cast for each side. The Efficiency Gap is a way of quantifying this effect by counting the number of wasted votes for each party and identifying large imbalances towards either side.” This, in a sense, means that Gerrymandering is the drawing of district boundaries in such a way that helps one group get ahead, which in turn makes an imbalance in each vote’s worth and The Efficiency gap is used to find these imbalances by counting wasted votes. The aforementioned equations have three step which consists of first, find the number of wasted votes, which include all votes for the losing party and all votes for the winning party that did not change the outcome of the vote. The second step is to find the net difference which is calculated for the two parties. Say if Party A got 125 votes and Party B got 75, the net difference would be 50 (125-75=50). Step three is to find the actual Efficiency Gap, which is found by dividing the net wasted votes by the total cast votes, in this case that would be 50 divided by 200, which would be .25 or a 25% Efficiency Gap, showing that Party A won 25% more seats than is fair with its amount of voters. The definition of a wasted vote according to Policy Map is, “Wasted votes are considered any votes cast for the losing party, but also any votes cast for the winning party that constitutes more than a simple majority.” This would mean wasted votes consist of votes for the losing party and any winning party votes cast that did not affect the party’s win. Conclusively, due to all the things it is able to find, this solution contains much potential for a definite solution to partisan Gerrymandering.

The equations used for The Efficiency Gap are known for being the first set was to test for partisan Gerrymandering in congressional districts. The Efficiency Gap has yet to be set into but if it is found to be useful in the Gill v. Whitford case, a case on partisan Gerrymandering in Wisconsin’s new map after the 2010 census, then it could impact voters and politicians in the USA greatly. It could do so for voters by allowing their votes to have influence and could impact politicians by giving them a fair chance or stop them from cheating the system. Can The Efficiency Gap really solve partisan Gerrymandering in America? Yes, it has the ability to because unlike being a law that can be danced around or avoided, it is a set of equations that can be performed by most people and can’t be avoided.

The Voting Rights Act and the Efficiency Gap contain multiple similarities and differences between them when it comes to finding and preventing Gerrymandering along with helping find a solution to the Gerrymandered districts. First and foremost, they both are used to stop the Gerrymandering of congressional districts. Though they both do stop Gerrymandering, they do it in separate ways. While the Voting Rights Act prevents Gerrymandering, the Efficiency Gap finds Gerrymandering in districts after they have been put into place because it relies on number produced from the voting process. Along with those facts, the Voting Rights Act is a law set into place by the United States. On the other hand, the Efficiency Gap is a mathematical equation to find Gerrymandering. These solutions can be very useful when it comes to preventing and finding Gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is a problem that is faced by all states of the USA that can sway elections and violate the constitution. Both solutions are usually used to find a specific type of Gerrymandering. With the Efficiency Gap, partisan Gerrymandering is what is looked for usually, partisan meaning that it has to do with political parties, such as Democrats and Republicans, which is stated by The Washington Post, “A new way to test for partisan gerrymandering is… the efficiency gap.¨ Whereas the Voting Rights Act is mostly used to stop minority discrimination Gerrymandering. Both of these are large problems in the political world. Neither of these systems has a negative impact on the voting system because, though they may change district lines, it is only for the better. Finally, both methods look for the previously mentioned cracking and packing methods of Gerrymandering. Indeed, both methods have great benefits. According to Politifact, “…the measure passed by a 333-85 margin, with 78 percent of Democrats backing it (221 yeas and 61 nays) and 82 percent of Republicans backing it (112 ayes to 24 nays).¨ On one hand, The Voting Right Act was voted in on August 6, 1965, whereas on the other hand, The Efficiency Gap was created in 2015. These two systems came into play due to completely different people. First of all, The Voting Rights Act was signed into law by a single person, Lyndon Johnson, however, The Efficiency Gap was created by two people, Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee. Similarly, both types of Gerrymandering solutions look for the two types of Gerrymandering, cracking and packing. In conclusion, both of these solutions contain similarities and differences that can work together and end the terrible political practice that is Gerrymandering. Argument Towards Successful Solution Voters of specific groups are being stripped of their right to a fair vote and a solution is needed to address this problem, preferably The Efficiency Gap. Unlike other solutions, this one is a set of steps and equations performable by even a second grader or most people with a calculator and cannot be avoided by higher ranked government officials look to get their party ahead. Gerrymandering can affect anyone living in the United States because incorrect and unfair voting procedures can cause unwanted people to be elected, which in turn allows laws to be put into place that are not beneficial or can even be harmful. First, The Efficiency Gap can help in stopping Gerrymandering by finding out if a district has been Gerrymandered and how much so. It takes the difference between two parties votes and divides it by the total wasted votes which finds what percentage of seats that have not have been won were won by a certain group if any at all. In addition, The Efficiency Gap can find both the cracking and packing methods of Gerrymandering. It uses both the excess winning votes and all the losing votes which finds both methods and proves if one or both have been used. As stated in a section about Gerrymandering on Policymap, “By focusing on unused votes, the efficiency gap method is able to capture both cracking and packing gerrymandering methods, because both techniques try to increase the number of unused votes for the opposing political party while minimizing their own party or candidate’s unused votes.” Undeniably, this solution retains much merit even though it has not been used to much officially. While it is true that The Efficiency Gap can help prevent Gerrymandering across the United States, some may argue The Voting Rights Act of 1965 can help better fight the epidemic of Gerrymandering. The Voting Rights Act takes effect whether the denial of immigrant voting power is intentionally caused or not and if the amount of seats the group should have won is not met compared to the amount of their population, courts will be very likely to find violations. Although The Voting Rights Act has many great aspects, The Efficiency Gap can be more effective in finding Gerrymandering for the simple fact that it is not a law that can be avoided and bent by government officials. It is clear both solutions, or any solution for that matter, can be helpful in fighting this political plague, but the biggest thing to remember is that the problem of Gerrymandering stretches across the U.S. and can heavily affect the lives of many, meaning that this problem needs to be greatly addressed.

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