OPINION - Editorial

OPINION | EDITORIAL: District judging

When the pols pick the people

The increasingly controversial (and for most people boring) issue of legislative map redistricting is in the news again.

This time, as usual, it stems from an Arkansas lawsuit. This particular suit alleges the “plan violates the U.S. Constitution and dilutes the power of Black voters.” The plaintiffs brought it because areas of Pulaski County “with high concentrations of Black residents” were carved out of the 2nd Congressional District and put into into the 3rd and 4th. 

The suit, brought by the Christian Ministerial Alliance and a handful of Pulaski County voters with assistance from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and others, considers the plan to be a “backlash against the emerging power of Black voters in Little Rock in Pulaski County.” It’s not the first lawsuit that has been brought along similar lines against the 2021 redistricting plan, and we aren’t sure who will prevail, or who should. But we would point out that former Gov. Asa Hutchinson refused to sign the plan because, as he said at the time, it “does raise concerns.” As usual, kudos to him for putting principle above partisanship.

It’s also not the first controversial plan in the United States. Evidence of this is that Republicans are gaining super-majorities (usually 67 percent of seats in a state house or senate) in states where Democrats are being elected to statewide offices.

It’s certainly a stretch to believe a state like Wisconsin, which recently elected a decidedly left-leaning state Supreme Court justice over a decidedly right-leaning opponent (by an 11 percent margin) could possibly fill a state House or Senate with a 67 percent majority from the other party.

Similarly, in North Carolina, Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper beat a Republican incumbent in 2016 and was re-elected in 2020 with 51.5 percent of the vote in that deep purple state. Donald Trump carried the state in 2016, but lost it in 2020. Yet Republicans hold super-majorities in both houses.

Both are presidential “swing states” that could go either way in 2024, and there is simply no other explanation for how either party could hold super-majorities in either except for the enduring practice of gerrymandering.

This has been practiced as long as legislative districts have existed. Both parties are guilty of it and take advantage of it. As Mr. Dooley told us, politics ain’t beanbag. (And America doesn’t hold a monopoly on it. Heck, even Australia does it. But, just like we improved rugby by turning it into football, America has perfected it.) All it takes is a map, a pencil with an eraser, and a trove of demographic/marketing data. With today’s ability to gather information on voters based on things as innocent as purchasing or viewing habits, gerrymandering has never been easier.

It’s emblematic of a broken system that leads to laws catering to the most extreme elements because, instead of leaders being applauded for working across the aisle, they’re punished.

It hasn’t been widely discussed before because it’s a layer of the onion the average Joe simply doesn’t want to peel back, and there are yet more layers. However, if you’re still reading this, congratulations on being above average, Joe.

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