GERRYMANDERING is a term most of us were taught in high school which describes a method of drawing political party maps in such a way that allows the party in power to stay in power.
Both sides of the aisle are guilty of this practice, and because of that, the end game is to simply win for the party and use gerrymandering as a power tool. It is merely the “dessert” of victory.
Redistricting must pass some criteria such as the Equal Population Requirement. This is based on the US Constitution which says congressional districts should have an equal population “as nearly as is practicable.”
Even a 1% spread in numbers could be conceived as unconstitutional. On the state level, the standards are a little more flexible with a threshold under 10% of a population difference.
Another consideration is Section 2 and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Plans must be submitted to the Department of Justice or the US District Court for the District of Columbia to make sure the voting rights of minorities are not diminished by redistricting efforts.
The third criteria where the most creative drawing lines occur is the rule that the lines must be contiguous.
I saw the process in motion for a candidate in Atlanta. A computer generated a map on to a screen, and points were drawn in a district. Any point could be pushed or pulled to another location.
In real time it showed how simply moving one of the points by blocks, streets or even buildings would change the number of Republican and Democratic registered voters for that candidate.
Using the program in this way, you could carve out a politically strong district to maintain power. In the wrong hands, this could be a way to control results.
In 2017, former Attorney General Eric Holden Jr. accused Georgia of violating the Voter Rights Act to minimalize the electoral voting power of African-American voters.
Locally, the Highlands area of Savannah off of Benton Boulevard is an example of gerrymandering on steroids. Driving through the area you might assume you are in one political area as it is very “cookie-cutter,” but just turning one street to another, you run through multiple municipalities and districts.
It really feels more like an extension of Pooler, but don’t say that to the politicos that legislate over that way.
This leads to the question, is it good for communities to be separated in such a way? How can common problems be solved when it takes three different governing bodies’ participation to make it happen? It is a political nightmare.
It’s s no wonder the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia states on their webpage: Ensuring fair redistricting is the League’s number one goal.
Included under this bold statement are the call for an Independent Special Commission that reflects the diversity of the unit of government. They believe there should also be a timeline for steps leading to a plan with full disclosure, the ability to withstand legal scrutiny and a procedure that exemplifies fairness. The process should not provide protection for incumbents or show partiality for any political party.
As we enter the very divisive political season of 2020, the citizens of this area should carefully consider the issues surrounding redistricting.
Because it is going to be a census year, the numbers and demographics of the Coastal Empire will change dramatically. The seismic shifts that occurred in the City of Savannah elections and in Pooler are just a small picture of what lies ahead.
In a perfect world, any new lines being drawn will have to follow the law, but hopefully the citizens within the new boundaries will feel the power shift from the dimly lit back rooms of Atlanta to the decision making in the ballot box.
Any future victories then will be based on good public policy and the will of the people, not the power plays of political pundits. Our forefathers would expect nothing less.