Democrats are suddenly concerned about gerrymandering when Republicans do it

Democrats are suddenly concerned about gerrymandering when Republicans do it
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

We go through the same circus every ten years following the decennial census. As populations shift, the congressional district lines have to be redrawn, particularly in states that wind up gaining or losing seats in Congress. And as soon as that process begins, the finger-wagging starts, with the party in the minority at the state level accusing the majority of gerrymandering the maps to secure their own power. Both parties do this and it becomes tiresome after a while, but there’s a new spin on the process shaping up in Georgia. Democrats there have enlisted school children to carry the torch in this fight and some of them are now being described as aspiring political superstars. (NBC News)

At 13 years old, DJ Horton can’t vote or even drive a car, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a prominent voice in Georgia’s redistricting process.

The middle school student and aspiring politician from Gwinnett County testified at two redistricting hearings hosted by the state Legislature this year. This month, Rep. Derrick Jackson, a Democrat from Tyrone, Georgia, quoted him during floor remarks about the maps; Horton was also invited by his state senator earlier this month to speak at a committee hearing about proposed state Legislature maps.

“On behalf of future young Georgia voters across this state, I am asking you — in fact, I am begging you — to reconsider the redistricting maps that have been drawn,” he said at that hearing. “This is not a right or left issue; this is a right or wrong issue.”

NBC News is clearly trying to paint young Master Horton as some sort of rising Georgia political influencer, but there’s little indication that all of the attention he’s drawing will result in much of an impact on the process. The maps in Georgia are not only already drawn but have been approved by the state legislature. And not all that much is really changing.

I’ve been writing about gerrymandering for a long time and my opinion on it hasn’t changed. Gerrymandering is the main reason we have so many uncompetitive House races every election cycle and it stinks no matter which party is doing it. There are solutions available, but nobody ever seems to want to explore them. Computer algorithms have been written that can take census data and starting at some convenient spot on a state’s border, begin blocking off and drawing compact, contiguous districts (where that’s physically possible) without showing favor to anyone.

The problem is that the redistricting rules in each state are determined by whichever party holds power at the state level. And that means they are the ones who hold the redistricting pen in their hand and are therefore the least likely to want to institute reform.

Despite the activists in Georgia claiming that this is not a partisan issue, NBC News inadvertently makes it clear that this is far from the truth. Most of the members of GYJC (the group behind this push) are openly described as progressives, many of who first met each other phone-banking for Joe Biden’s campaign in 2020. I have no doubt that they would like to see the lines redrawn, but only if it means taking some House seats away from the GOP.

There’s always something of a debate over which states gerrymander the maps the worst, but Maryland and North Caroliner are two of the top contenders. Maryland still has some districts that would have given Hermann Rorschach nightmares. But you’ll notice that you never heard the Democrats complaining about those maps, did you? Of course not. And we can say the same for several of the red states where Republicans have conveniently carved up the state in a way that maximizes their odds of success.

In the end, it really doesn’t appear that anything is about to change very much on a national scale when it comes to the redistricting process. The only advice available to those who are complaining is that if you want to take control of drawing the maps, win more local and state elections. It may be a sad conclusion to reach, but it’s really the only way to get ahead in that game.

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