Opinion

Gerrymandering causes legislative stagnation

The most common complaint that I hear about the current political climate is that it is too stagnant or too polarized. This is a fair complaint.

From the constant filibustering in the Senate to the endless list of bills that die well before they get to a floor vote, not much of anything is getting done in Congress. It is easy to blame the stagnation on the politicians themselves or the culture of partisan bickering on the Hill. However, I’d like to suggest that the inaction has nothing to do with Congress itself, and much more to do with the election laws of the state legislatures.

Every decade, after the census, state legislatures are given the opportunity to redraw the congressional district maps in order to reflect the changing demographics of their states. It sounds fairly innocent on paper, but in practice, it’s what’s causing the paradoxical lack of legislating by our legislature.

In 2010, Republicans controlled a majority of state legislatures when it came time to redistrict. They drew district lines in a way that would make it nearly impossible for Democrats to control the House until the next census.

This became painfully real for Democrats in the 2012 elections. In the fallout, then Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein pointed out, “Democrats got 54,301,095 [House] votes while Republicans got 53,822,442. That’s a close election – 48.8%-48.5% – but it’s still a popular vote win for the Democrats.”

In terms of seats won, however, there were 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats, all thanks to redistricting. In a climate like this, where districts are so obviously meant to favor one party, politicians can only be challenged by a more extremist candidate within their own party. This leads to the extreme polarization and stagnation.

What we need to do is create nonpartisan primaries, which force candidates to the middle, and dismantle the system of gerrymandering.

However, this is much more easily said than done. No party wants to relinquish the control that they have in the legislatures at the risk of losing its next election. Until there is a cultural shift and politicians confront the fact that they are meant to represent the people rather than their own interests, change is unlikely to come.

There is some hope, though.

This cultural shift may be happening already. People are complaining about stagnation in Congress. Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is writing a book that calls for an amendment to the Constitution to end gerrymandering. The state of Iowa decided to have nonpartisan district drawing. We just have to reengage and elect the people that will get it done, and if they don’t, hold them accountable.

Annie Cappetta is a freshman majoring in political science and ecosystem science and policy.

January 25, 2015

Reporters

Annie Cappetta


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • Error

The unopened Christmas gift that University of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz recently spoke ...

Joseph Yearby declared early for the NFL draft. Gus Edwards transferred to Rutgers. Trayone Gray is ...

The University of Miami is in conversations about playing the University of Alabama to kick off the ...

He’s all grown up. Yet University of Miami defensive end Scott Patchan is only 20. Two reconstructiv ...

Michael Rumph, former Cane cornerback and current cornerbacks coach, has mentioned, along with every ...

University of Miami students and researchers are blogging during a month-long expedition in the Gulf ...

María de Lourdes Dieck-Assad, a world-renowned economist and former ambassador, fills a new role for ...

Through the U Dreamers Grant, DACA students find essential support as they pursue their college degr ...

UM students talk about their internships up north in a city that never sleeps. ...

Former University of Miami Dean of Students William W. ‘Bill’ Sandler, Jr. passed away on August 6 a ...

RSS Error: A feed could not be found at http://www.hurricanesports.com/. A feed with an invalid mime type may fall victim to this error, or SimplePie was unable to auto-discover it.. Use force_feed() if you are certain this URL is a real feed.

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.