A win for democracy

Gerrymandering in the Keystone State

A year following Trump’s inauguration, politicians and citizens alike have been stressing the great importance of the 2018 midterm elections. While Republicans hold the majority in both houses of Congress, the majority is narrow: Democrats in the House need to flip 24 seats and need to earn just two Senate seats to gain control. That being said, it is in the hands of the people to determine the makeup of Congress in 2019 by voting, the most fair and democratic of practices. Right?

Voting seems like a very simple process. If the majority of a district comes together to support and vote for a certain candidate, that candidate gets elected. Unfortunately, in much of the United States — and right here in Pennsylvania — this process has been severely undermined.

The current Pennsylvania congressional district map is quite a display of abstract art. While many citizens would assume each district is of equal size and shape, the districts here are snakelike, narrow and make the strangest of curves. Just northwest of Philadelphia, District Six moves in an arc shape, splitting up residents of Berks, Chester and Montgomery Counties. Meanwhile, District Seven, also west of Philadelphia, forms an elaborate, narrow shape that divides five different counties.

On Monday, Jan. 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck the map down as “clearly, plainly and palpably” unconstitutional with regards to the Pennsylvania’s constitution, requiring the state legislature to draw a new map and earn approval from Governor Tom Wolf before Feb. 15. If the state fails to meet this deadline, the court itself will redraw the districts. While this court order is a clear victory for Democrats in both the state and the nation, it is important to realize that the map-redrawing itself is of great value to the very definition of democracy.

Many districts have been affected by a process known as gerrymandering — in the cases of Districts Six and Seven, Democratic-majority towns have been divided by Republican Party members and placed along with more right-leaning blocs. Dividing the residents of cities such as Lancaster or Harrisburg results in GOP-majority districts. The problem? The Republican who then obviously wins that district is not truly representing their constituent’s interests.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, many Republicans are voicing dissent, and with good reason. The erasing of the current districts poses the threat of losing currently-Republican seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. While Republicans have every right to express their frustration, this disgusting process is not unique to their party. Both Maryland’s Third district, spiralling around Baltimore and Texas’ Thirty-third district, between the nearby cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, have been gerrymandered in favor of the Democrats.

The redrawing of districts in Pennsylvania happens to give the Democratic Party more representation but will also benefit democracy itself. The public needs to recognize gerrymandering as a truly bipartisan issue regardless of how far to the left or right a district leans. The very definition of democracy is that the constituents elect their representatives. Gerrymandering allows for just the opposite to take place: candidates choose their electors. A change is desperately needed, and this court case is a positive step in the right direction.