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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: It's time for Democrats to get serious about gerrymandering.

A UNC student votes inside one of the polling sites, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, in Chapel Hill on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Imagine you’re in an old western duel. You don’t think duels should be a thing, but in order to stop them going forward, you need to survive that duel. 

What the Democrats are doing by giving up gerrymandering in the states they control is like taking the bullets out of your gun. It won’t end the duel. It will end with you shot and the other guy taking your stuff and laughing at your defeat. 

Gerrymandering isn't a good thing, but it is necessary for its own demise.

That's the take. You can stop reading now, but if you do, please don’t yell at me on Twitter. I will start crying. 

Still reading? Cool, love you.

First, what is gerrymandering? To that, I suggest you take a political science class. But, in short, it's when map makers (normally state legislators) draw legislative districting maps so that their party gets an advantage.

There are a lot of fun ways to do it, and having new technology and voting data means both parties have gotten incredibly good at it. In North Carolina, the map that the GOP almost passed created three blue districts, 10 red districts and one toss-up district, which they accomplished by splitting every major urban area in the state – other than Asheville and Durham – into multiple districts. 

To reiterate, this wasn’t a proposed map, it was the confirmed map. It was state law until the North Carolina Supreme Court struck it down in a party-line vote — a map that gave the roughly 36 percent of voters that are registered as Democrats, at best, 20 percent of the representation.

Democrats gerrymander, too. They tried to get a nightmarish map passed in New York that would have given them a 22-to-4 seat advantage, and they passed a really impressive map in Illinois. 

However, Democrats are also trying to get rid of gerrymandering. It's part of the Freedom to Vote Act introduced by Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN), and multiple states have replaced partisan redistricting by legislatures with redistricting commissions. 

Eliminating these commissions would have given Democrats sole control of drawing 159 districts. For reference, the GOP went into the districting cycle with control of 187 districts. Instead, because of state laws, Democrats went into the cycle controlling just 75.

Because of this, the only reason the GOP wasn’t able to straight up draw themselves the five seats they needed for a congressional majority was because of courts that struck down gerrymander attempts in North Carolina and Ohio and the Texas GOP that chose to make districts they already control safer for incumbents instead of aggressively drawing Democrats out of seats. 

The Democratic party cannot rely on the GOP to end gerrymandering in the states they control. Former N.C. Rep. David Lewis admitted as much in 2016 when he said, “I propose we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats,” he said, “because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”

So if you really want to end gerrymandering you need to do it federally, and to do it federally you need control of the House of Representatives. 

Since 2000, Democrats have had control of the House for only eight years, despite winning the popular vote in all but one presidential election in that same time. A large part of the reason why it took eight years for them to retake the House after 2010 was because, when they lost control of 20 state legislative chambers that year, the GOP engineered maps to draw themselves into a majority that required the chaos of the Trump presidency to break.

So here's the proposal: get rid of the independent commissions, draw the GOP into a minority and kill the filibuster (don’t get me started on the Senate). Pass the Freedom to Vote Act and end gerrymandering all at once. 

Or take the high ground, show up to the knife fight with a white flag and say hello to Speaker Kevin McCarthy. 

The fact that I’m arguing for this shows how laughable the concept of American “democracy” is. So if you don’t like this idea, maybe we just set fire to the Constitution and start from the beginning. 

Regardless of midterm election results, Democratic officials in states across the country can still put down the white flag and pick up a map. You know, for democracy.


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