MY TURN: Both sides need to stop gerrymandering

Editor’s Note:  We so enjoyed this practical column about the unfair way political district lines are drawn that we thought we’d share it with you.  And yes, the author is the editor’s dad.

By Elliott Brack, special to Charleston Currents  |  Gerrymandering is nothing less than a majority government being unfair to the minority of its citizens in a particular area.

It is also an obvious case of bullying by the majority government. If it happened on the playground, people would yell, holler and stop it.

Yet it’s happened repeatedly in our halls of government, and no major challenge has risen to outlaw this practice. Why can’t our legislators understand this unfairness, and move to outlaw it?

It’s something that both our American political parties have practiced for years, trying to ensure that power remains in the hands of the at-that-time majority government. Once the party in power changes, the incoming majority party routinely continues this unfair practice, content to wait without change so that they can eventually have this advantage again.

It’s so like a tennis match, the power volleying back and forth over the years between the parties.

So far the U.S. Supreme Court has failed to outlaw this onerous practice. Yet a case before the Supreme Court this term may set a precedent that outlaws the unfairness of gerrymandering. We certainly hope so.

A Wisconsin case which may come before the Court is in a most obviously gerrymandered state. One party in that state won only 48.6 percent of the vote yet commanded 60 of the 99 seats in the Wisconsin Assembly.

If unfairness in drawing voting districts lines was stricken down, our country would have a better system of governing. And government would then reflect the will of the majority, while at the same time being responsible to the minority.

Some states have moved to eliminate this unfairness. Instead of allowing those who benefit to configure the system, these states have started independent commissions to determine where voting district lines will be. California, Arizona, Idaho and Washington have independent commissions to draw voting districts.

Gerrymandering is so rampant that it can easily be seen in the very shape of voting districts. When you see voting districts lines that squiggles this way and that, in awkward configuration, that almost always means gerrymandering.

Constantly changing districts by such squiggles creates confusion among the voters. They do not easily understand the voting districts, and often get disillusioned, which can lead to simply not voting.  One North Carolina district, for instance, essentially followed a narrow section of Interstate 85 in gerrymandering that state. Legislators do not care: It gives them the majority they want.

Eliminating gerrymandering will mean there will be less “safe” districts for either party.

This in itself will encourage more good candidates to seek office, with a real chance of being elected, instead of being frozen out which gerrymandering insures.

After all, what our paid officials should be seeking is fairness to all, regardless of party. That would make for more faith in our government, and a stronger, united nation. Who argues with that?

Everyone should champion good government. Elimination of gerrymandering is a first step toward better government.  Push your legislators to work toward establishing an independent commission in Georgia [and South Carolina] to draw district lines in congressional and Statehouse elections!

Veteran Georgia journalist Elliott Brack, a former associate publisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, writes two columns a week for


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