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Gerrymandering in Texas

Ehsan Kapadia, Staffer

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Students are often reminded to appreciate our “fair” voting process. Supposedly, every citizen has an equal vote, worth no more or less than a friend living 15 minutes away. Unfortunately, congressional redistricting makes the reality of voting significantly more complex and corrupt. Every ten years, states are required to “redraw” congressional districts to reflect population changes. These maps are drawn by state legislators and governors, both of which have political associations and agendas. These officials can rezone congressional districts to benefit their political parties in two different ways: 1.) Officials can concentrate the majority of their opposition neighborhoods into few districts, 2.) They can dilute majority-opposition neighborhoods into majority supporters so that rather than the opposition winning a district, the number of opposing citizens is offset by the number of supporters. Most cases with the defendant being accused of gerrymandering result in the defendant winning, due to the difficulty of proving the intent of lawmakers.

Due to the ease and lack of accountability that comes with gerrymandering, examples of the practice can be found in nearly every state, especially so in Texas. One of the easiest ways to understand the presence of gerrymandering is to take notice of the shape of individual districts. One of the most awkward shapes is the 33rd congressional district. Districts that are fairly zoned have a compact, somewhat rectangular appearance. However, the 33rd district resembles a map of the world more than a regular shape. The 33rd district includes the eastern half of Fort Worth, a portion of northeast Arlington, north Grand Prairie, and most of Irving. According to the San Francisco chronicle, the shape of the 33rd district is more squiggly (irregular) than 98.6 percent of districts in the United States.

Despite the dramatic effect gerrymandering has on elections, the topic remains largely undiscussed by adults and students alike. After asking 20 students whether they were familiar with gerrymandering, only one was familiar with the practice. Due to the legal complexity of the issue, raising awareness is the only way to combat gerrymandering. Organizations such as the Princeton Gerrymandering Project are providing “nonpartisan analysis to understand and eliminate partisan gerrymandering.” The project is led by Princeton Professor Samuel Wang,, Will Adler, Ben Williams and Rick Ober. The project accepts donations on their website (gerrymandering.princeton.edu). If gerrymandering politicians are not held accountable by citizens, they will continue to rig elections for their own interests.

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Gerrymandering in Texas