Hampshire Life editor’s note: The scourge of gerrymandering

  • Michigan residents rally a few years ago for a measure that would create a citizen commission to draw voting districts. The measure passed with 61 percent of the vote in 2018. Alexa Martin photo

Published: 2/14/2020 10:29:06 AM
Modified: 2/14/2020 10:28:54 AM

Dear readers,

Of all the many political crises we face in this country, gerrymandering may be the one that makes me the most cynical. Looking at the daily crush of bad policies that get supported at the highest levels of government, it is so clear how many of them could be solved if politicians actually had to face the voters. Currently, that’s not what happens. In the vast majority of places, politicians draw the lines, choosing the voters who will vote for them rather than the voters choosing their candidates. With the modern tools of data science, voting districts can be drawn with laser precision to produce desired outcomes, and that’s why they are so oddly shaped.

Few have done more to bring attention to this phenomenon than the subject of this week’s cover story: Valley resident David Daley, who wrote the book — “Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count” — on the subject. But as Daley told writer Steve Pfarrer, simply going out on the speaking circuit and talking about the problem was not helping in the way he hoped. “I felt like I had a black cloud over my head,” he told Pfarrer. “I’d go into these rooms, full of people determined to get involved in changing things and giving back, and sometimes by the end of talk, I could feel the air going out of the room. And I said to myself, ‘This is not helpful.’ ”

That realization brought him to his latest project, a new book called “Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy,” which comes out next month and focuses on activism around making the system more fair. Daley embedded with groups in red states including Idaho, Utah and North Dakota, and purple ones like Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Gerrymandering is not limited to Republicans, and leaders in our own blue state are guilty of drawing the lines to benefit incumbents. It’s likely among the reasons our state Legislature has such a low turnover year to year despite often limited results. But nationally, Republicans have been by far the greater beneficiaries of the practice. Daley’s book will hopefully be an inspiration for voters in states of all manners of political persuasion. As he points out, this should not be a partisan issue, but one that unites voters in demanding a system that works for them.

— Dave Eisenstadter

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