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What is Gerrymandering?
Good morning. Marcus Michles here with another installment of our video blog from Michles & Booth. I’m in the Pensacola office today.
I want to talk about something that you might have glanced at might be vaguely familiar with, but its known as gerrymandering, and we’ve had some pretty serious political movement in this state lately. Justice Lewis has ruled that the division of districts in voting districts was unconstitutionally non-compliant with a referendum voted on by an overwhelming majority of Florida citizens that the voting districts be drawn more fairly.
Now what does that mean? You ask the state legislature to divide the state into sections with voting blocks, and hopefully, they do it in a fair and reasonable manner, and I’m going to talk to you about that a minute, but I want to tell you that a lot of times people look at lawyers, and they look at the law, and they think “man, that’s another language. That’s something I’m not ever going to understand. Ya’ll got a lot of fancy words for stuff.”
The reality is that the law is supposed to make sense, and it’s supposed to make sense for every citizen, not just people that have gone to school a lot. I mean the Army sent me to law school to learn a lot of fancy terms and a lot of fancy words, but I’ve got one word for what this “gerrymandering” thing really boils down to, and that one word is this… cheating!
Now that’s not a fancy word, and that’s not Latin. What it is is it’s a very simple thing that all of us can understand. If you don’t make the rules to a game or the rules to a contest, you need to abide by those rules, and if you don’t abide by those rules, what you’re doing is cheating. So what you got is you’ve got a state (I’m going to show you this in a second) that’s got citizen voters all around the state, and you’re going to divide that into a manageable sectioning so that you’ve got groups of individuals in areas and boundaries so you can collect votes, and you can vote for candidates, and you can have representatives for those areas. Everybody understands that I think, but what you may not realize is that for years and years and years and years and years the majority wants to draw those lines in a way that allows them to remain the majority.
Now I’m going to try hard to avoid labels. We’re not going to talk about republicans. We’re not going to talk about democrats. We’re just going to talk about x’s and o’s. Look, it doesn’t matter what your politics are…cheating is cheating. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re in the majority or you’re in the minority.
Cheating is still cheating, and Justice Lewis said it best. He was quoting the first president of the United States, George Washington about warning us about politicians. When George Washington left the presidency, he said:
“Listen, be careful, because unscrupulous men are going to conspire to fix these elections and to manipulate these elections in a way that does a great disservice to our democracy”.
How it works…
So here’s the concept. You can see that I’ve drawn the state of Florida. Pretty mediocre drawing, but the idea is that you’re going to chop it into voting districts. Right? And you may do it in any number of different ways, but it’s going to kind of make some sense and then you’re going to have representatives that represent different voting districts, and its going to make sense. It’s not going to be symmetrical, and it’s not going to be a grid, because you’ve got natural geographic boundaries. You’ve got rivers and roads and district lines and stuff, and so it doesn’t look like a right angle. Everything’s not cubed and boxed, but this is a general idea of how you would divide it up.
Now let’s say you’ve got one of those blocks, and it’s got 4 o’s and 6 x’s. Okay, those are voters. You can label them democrats, republican. It doesn’t matter really from a gerrymandering standpoint. You’ve got an area like this. Now let’s say that you’re an “x”, and you’ve been told you’re going to divide this into two voting districts. Well, when it was one voting district, the “x” had the majority. Right? It was 6- 4.
So most votes, the x’s are going to win. Right? But you’ve got to divide that into two districts. Let’s say, but if you’re the x’s, you want to keep it in a way that you maintain the majority.
Now if you drew it down the middle, like if you drew it like this into two, well the x’s would have a 4-1 advantage on one side, but they would have a 3-2 disadvantage on the other side, and you have one “o” district and one “x” district. Well, if you’re the x’s, and you get to draw the line, you wouldn’t do that. Right?…if you wanted to maintain your majority.
You could divide it any way you want it to until recently, and so if you did that, you’re going to divide this in a way that allows you to maintain a majority in both districts. You just drew the lines so now you’ve got a 4-3 majority. It’s an “x” majority in that district and a 2-1 majority in this district, and voila! By simply drawing the line in a creative way, you created districts where you maintain the advantage in the majority in both of those districts, and you can do that up here. You just draw the lines in a way, and you keep collecting your votes. In fact, Justice Lewis said you know it’s ridiculous there’s a district that runs near Jacksonville, and it’s shaped like that. And he’s saying that doesn’t make any sense.
It’s certainly not drawn to be fair. It’s drawn to gerrymander…to cheat.
Now, the idea is that Florida citizens should be equally represented; that their vote should all count, and Justice Lewis threw out the division of the legislature and said you’ve got to go back, and you’ve got to do this.
Stop the cheating…
Why all the fuss about gerrymandering? Well, if you’re in the majority, you feel like you’ve got the right ideas. Yeah? And if you’re in the minority, you feel like you’ve got the right ideas, too. But if you divide these districts, and you manipulate and gerrymander these districts, not only are you not following the constitution of Florida, but you’re cheating. Okay? That’s what you doing; you’re cheating.
We don’t teach our kids to do it. We don’t teach our friends and our family to do it. We certainly don’t want to encourage our politicians to do it, and that’s the fuss about gerrymandering.
Give us a call if you’ve got questions or comments. Go to our blog and read what we’ve written about it. The idea is that every citizen’s vote matters the same extent, and these lines need to be drawn in a fair manner. Everybody should understand that and agree about that, and this is how you cheat.
Give us a call. Until next time, I’m Marcus Michles here at Michles & Booth, and I’ll see you next week.