The Non-Abstract Effects Of Gerrymandering

It’s hard not to be bitter in the wake of the Supreme Court’s intellectually dishonest refusal to protect the legitimacy of democratic governance.

For one thing, over the past couple of years, as I have delved more deeply into the research, I’ve discovered that gerrymandering–aka partisan redistricting–does more than skew election results. A lot more.

I’ve previously pointed out that here in Indiana, where partisan redistricting has carved up metropolitan areas and subordinated urban populations to rural ones, gerrymandering has given us distribution formulas favoring rural areas over cities when divvying up dollars for roads and schools, among other inequities.

And a recent article in The Guardian has connected gerrymandering to the recent spate of radical abortion laws.

Fifty-four thousand votes out of nearly 4 million. That’s what separated Stacey Abrams from Brian Kemp in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial election, a sign of how closely contested this once reliably red, southern state has become.

Earlier this month, however, Georgia’s legislature responded to the state’s closely divided political climate not with thoughtful compromise but by passing one of the most restrictive abortion bansin the United States.

An April poll by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that 70% of Georgians support the landmark Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion. The new state ban is opposedby 48% of Georgians and supported by only 43%. So why would the legislature enact such an extreme measure?

For that matter, why would Ohio, Alabama, Missouri and other states establish similar “fetal heartbeat” laws that are far more restrictive than their constituents support?

One important answer is gerrymandering: redistricting voting districts to give the party in power an edge – making it almost impossible for the other side to win a majority of seats, even with a majority of votes. Sophisticated geo-mapping software and voluminous voter data turned this ancient art into a hi-tech science when the US redistricted after the 2010 census.

Give credit where it’s due: the GOP has been far more adept at using these new tools than the Democrats (probably because Republicans recognize that they are increasingly a minority party and must cheat if they are going to win).

As the Guardian reports, gerrymandering has allowed the GOP to control state legislatures with supermajorities even when voters prefer Democratic candidates by hundreds of thousands of votes. Gerrymandering thus nullifies elections and insulates lawmakers from democratic accountability.

Despite lacking any mandate for an extreme agenda in a closely divided nation, Republican lawmakers have pushed through new voting restrictions, anti-labor laws, the emergency manager bill that led to poisoned water in Flint, Michigan, and now, these strict abortion bans. Electorally, there’s little that Democrats can do to stop it.

The article outlined evidence of extreme gerrymandering in several states where legislatures have passed laws not supported by voters.

In Ohio, the article pointed to “zero evidence” that voters hold extreme opinions on abortion, and noted that polls show more voters opposed to that state’s new “heartbeat” bill than supportive of it. A University of Chicago study showed that barely half the total vote in Ohio gave Republicans more than 63% of the seats– simply because the maps were “surgically designed” to ensure that few seats would be competitive.

There’s a lot more data, and I encourage you to click through and read the entire article. But (as I have repeated endlessly) the bottom line is simple: the only way to overcome the unfair advantage Republicans have built for themselves is massive turnout. As I posted yesterday, unusually high turnout in the 2018 elections was enough in many districts to overcome built-in advantages as high as 5-8 points.

We need to remind discouraged voters that gerrymandering is based upon prior voting behavior. If people who rarely or never vote show up at the polls, a significant number of supposedly safe seats can change hands.

It has never been more important to get out the vote. America’s future–and that of our children and grandchildren–depends upon it.


  1. The Gerrymandering concept isn’t new. In Dallas, during the ’80s, the battle for 1 man, 1 vote had to do with AT LARGE DISTRICTS, which allowed for white control.

    So Dallas became the TEST SITE of the battle for 1 man, 1 vote. The racial oligarchy in Dallas had maintained control by the use of the 4 at large districts, which were arranged (gerrymandered) for white control. Dallas was approximately 50/50. There was a very large Black and Hispanic populace. So the battle was between the white oligarchy which controlled the old configuration of 10-4-1 against 14-1 which represented the new configuration for 1 man, 1 vote. The 1 represented the vote for the mayor.

    We won the battle for 14-1, but not without a fight. The Dallas oligarchy used every “dirty trick” imaginable. Fortunately, at that time, we had the Courts on our side. That’s not the case now.

    See That report sealed the victory.

    The U.S. is not a democracy. In order to succeed politically, you must be able to counter the moves of the oligarchy, otherwise known as the DEVIANT ELITE. If not, you cannot WIN.

  2. What motivates the totally disinterested? That’s the question we have to answer to get people to the polls.

  3. The right to vote in the U.S. is not that simple. See “Governance by Decree: Impact of the Voting Rights Act in Dallas” by Ruth Morgan (University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 2004).

  4. Marv writes, “The U.S. is not a democracy.”

    It’s an oligarchy ruled by the few with enough money to buy the political class. The role of the GOP is to keep the Oligarchy in power, and the role of the DNC is to keep the progressives from rising to power.

    That’s the game we play. So far, the massive turnout Peggy asked for is coming for progressives, not centrist Democrats which do nothing but assure the Oligarchs will remain in power.

    Indiana, a very red state, voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary over the DNC pick. The youth, who we beg to vote, did just that and then we complained that they didn’t support her majesty in the primary or general elections.

    The younger voting bloc self identifies as a socialist or democratic socialist. If the DNC thinks a centrist like Joe Biden will attract these voters who now equal the Boomers, they are delusional.

    Of course, they’re not delusional — they are doing precisely what the Oligarchs want.

    Times are changing…

  5. I’m a boomer. Back in 2016, I hung out at a popular kava bar where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a millennial. I begged them to vote. The number of people who declined saying, “The system is rigged, so why bother?” was astonishing.

    I explained, repeatedly, that the fact that the system is rigged is precisely WHY we must vote in large enough numbers to overwhelm the rigging. I don’t think I convinced one person.

    The good news: if 2018 is anything to go by, I think D. J. Trump might have done what I could not.

    In 2020, I’m planning to start my campaign again. This time I’m going to add in the fact that districts will be getting drawn next year —- whether they vote or not. I’m hoping the combo of that fact + Trump will light some fires in a few souls.

    Well, more than a few.

  6. Both turnout and suppression of turnout are problems in keeping what is left of our democracy alive. I think the good news is that the younger and more liberal voters are likely to turn out better than we have before now that the Supreme Court has washed its hands on the gerrymandering issue under the convenient and selectively applied cover of the Separation of Powers Clause, and I think we should resort more to the use of litigation in state court appeals from suppression acts of GOP legislatures now that (presumably) state supreme courts are the courts of last resort (contra: Bush v. Gore which, parenthetically, led to my resignation from the U.S. Supreme Court bar).

    I also think that whatever means or combination of means we employ to deal with this issue which is undermining the bedrock principle of majority rule must be undertaken on a crash basis in state and local elections given the decennial count constitutionally scheduled for our next election. Sheila’s turnout advice is right to a fault, and I also recommend a resort to state court litigation where an arrogant minority presumes to rule by geography rather than by rule by the majority, consent of the governed, and other high-sounding but little applied emblems of democracy which are meaningless in the world of the gerrymander. When to start? Today, and without letup.

  7. I am profoundly skeptical that the people not voting are more like us than them (massive turnout) or that we can rely on some vague principle of progress (times are changing).

    Washington Post 6/25:

    “More than a third of Americans would support a preemptive nuclear strike on North Korea if that country tested a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States, new research has found, even if that preemptive strike killed a million civilians.

    The survey of 3,000 Americans was conducted by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and British research firm YouGov, and asked people to consider a scenario in which North Korea had tested a long-range missile and the U.S. government was considering how to respond.”

    I think I’ll go back to bed.

  8. Just about anything Republicans do is intellectually dishonest regarding democracy. Their entire platform is PREDICATED on being dishonest with democracy. They believe in the authoritarian figure to RULE the people, not govern them. This has been the case since Lincoln was shot. He was the last Republican to actually believe in democracy and the Constitution even though he stretched it quite a bit.

    Clearly, as today’s events show us, Republicans show no decency toward the most vulnerable in the world, to women or even to their own children. Their total embrace of Donald Trump and his moronic attacks on anything and everything that resembles civilization, national security and the rule of law – to name just a few things – is a travesty and an insult to all of those who died in the name of our nation.

    Pete Buttigieg got it right the other night when he mentioned the religious hypocrisy of Republicans. The fact that he is an elected official from Indiana proves that there are at least pockets of intellectual honesty in that fair state.

    A good subject today, Sheila. We simply can’t equate intellectual honesty with Republicans on any subject at any time.

  9. Gerald,

    I’m with you. Let’s try to get the TRUMPENSTEIN MONSTER into court. Remember the past:

    “Crossing Hitler: The Man Who Put the Nazis on the Witness Stand”
    by Benjamin Carter Hett

    During a 1931 trial of four Nazi stormtroopers, known as the Eden Dance Palace trial, Hans Litten grilled Hitler in a brilliant and merciless three-hour cross-examination, forcing him into multiple contradictions and evasions and finally reducing him to helpless and humiliating rage (the transcription of Hitler’s full testimony is included.)


  10. national popular vote, some states, Oregon most recent,(sb870) passed this because of scam gerrymandering. huffpost 6/5/19,, 15 states have seen the problems with either party claiming territory. SCOTUS sees gerrymandering as a no subject, passed the plate back to lower courts.thom hofeller dies and daughter hands over his work to the NEC and discovers a direct scam im progress at the RNC (republican nationalist cmte)(ok, fun)and scotus didnt hear this? either way, with computer generated redistricting, the genies outta the ,er , vault.. we come now to doing what is right, the popular vote. were long overdue with changes,that ol joke about white haired,potbellies old men,isnt a joke anymore, its spelled teason..

  11. We are attempting to sail in unchartered waters. We need a short course in understanding some of the “magnificent Germans” of the ’20s and ’30s.

    I advertised on this subject in “The Nation Magazine” a few months before Barak Obama was elected President.

  12. One other effect of Gerrymandering is the concentration of the extreme. The GOP elected official must consider who is voting in the primary and what are their social, cultural and religious beliefs.

    The GOP is now packed with evangelicals, pro-guns and anti-immigrant beliefs. The strongman authoritarian figure is desired as a leader. Any Republican who deviates too far from the the base will be challenged in the primaries, likely by someone more extreme.

    The goal then becomes – How to carve out as many safe districts for the Republicans, at the same packing the Democrats into as few a districts as possible.

    It should be obvious by now there is no possibility to reason or appeal to the Republicans. The GOP plays to win if takes moving goal posts (voter suppression by any means, McConnell’s refusing to allow a vote for Obama’s SCOTUS nominee) they will do so.

  13. Monotonous,

    “It should be obvious by now there is no possibility to reason or appeal to the Republicans.”

    You’re probably right. But that doesn’t mean we’re “dead in the water.” Our biggest problem is the male/female chasm that is quite obvious on this blog and reflects the situation in the outer political world. It prevents creating a “cohesive force” to engage Trump and his followers. Without a change, there is no way an effective countervailing force will ever be assembled that can move us back into some reasonable state of equilibrium.

    I stand by this observation to my “dying breath.”

  14. I agree with Todd, ” It’s an oligarchy ruled by the few with enough money to buy the political class. The role of the GOP is to keep the Oligarchy in power, and the role of the DNC is to keep the progressives from rising to power. ”

    This statement about the DNC has been painfully clear since the 2016 election. Democrats will wail and gnash their teeth over the electoral college system that brought Candidate Agent Orange and Pastor Pence to power, the totally undemocratic super delegates system is intact within the Democratic Party.

    It was amusing to see and hear Kamala Harris hit Corporate Joe Biden below the water line and Corporate Joe’s zig zag course to defend himself.

  15. Politically, we’re about to become reminiscent of France in the mid-’30s when they elected, the pro-democracy candidate, Leon Blum as their President. His followers were labeled as “INCOMPATIBLES” and they folded “true to form” when confronted by the losing side.

  16. In 2016 the threat of an additional 8 years of a competent Executive Branch following 8 years of the best, Obama, was an overwhelming specter for Republicans and Putin. Republican had kept the propaganda machine against the Clintons on max volume since Bill left DC so there was not much upside flexibility left for that strategy. Then Trump came along and demonstrated that they were just not lying enough. To everyone’s surprise that revelation bumped out all of their candidates and he took over possession of their Party. Even that wasn’t enough to stem the democratic tide so the other threatened party, Putin, stepped in and using his vaunted spy craft made happened what Republicans couldn’t.

    Of course the results have been every bit as bad as most Americans thought that they would be especially with MItch McConnell assuming dictatorship of the Senate and Paul Ryan the House.

    Since then Democrats have followed a carefully crafted strategy to reestablish our democracy. 2018 was a big step but 2020 will be an even bigger one and that party is ideally positioned to offer candidates who represent every possible approach to recovery.

    Now comes our part. Choosing among them. Offering our expertise in determining what world view will be most effective in the restoration of our founder’s dreams.

    Of course those who value freedom the most are nervous about the threat of failure. We’ve seen first hand the cost now. We were completely unprepared for the threat from inside as we’ve always assumed it would come from outside. Trump has absolutely no relationship with truth so we are seeing the lies at an all time high in quality and quantity. Our country’s friends see the threat to them and our country’s enemies see the benefit to them of our weakness.

    This will be the Revolution of our times. We will dimiss the aristocracy once again. We will welcome back enlightenment. We will relight the beacon of freedom for an oppressed world.

    But we have much work to do before success. Humanity has progressed hopefully to the point where this is a war that will cost us only time and treasure instead of lives. But by every measure the outcome of this revolution will be every bit as important to the world as the first one was.

  17. Very, very disappointed by the SCOTUS decision. Gerrymandering is making popular suffrage a waste of time with the same duds being re-elected over and over and then doing nothing. Democracy, given all the stresses that it is already currently under will die if this minimization of the input of citizens continues.

    WE are supposed to be the masters of our government NOT ALEC-led state legislators that are stacked indefinitely by GOP legislators that have such undemocratic notions from the get go. An effort also needs to be made to eliminate the sources of those notions from wherever they come from and it needs to be done very soon.

  18. Tom,

    Thanks for corroborating my comments today. You’d think all this would be obvious to thinking people. Guess not.

  19. “What motivates the totally disinterested?”

    What’s the difference when the Republicans and Republican-lite has totally forgotten about you?

    The Republicans represent the top 5%.

    Republican-lite (The Democratic Party) represents the top 15%.

    The charade has been going on for decades. Did you think no one noticed?

    As a previous post from just the other day has proven,Democrats have been”supposedly” “advocating” for education beyond compulsory. Yet,now the facade has been removed and the Democrats have been exposed. They really don’t want such a thing. They do not want “everyone” to have “access” to higher education and healthcare. So,why vote for Republican-lite?

    There’s no reason to continue the charade except for those reliable upon the party to fill their rice bowls.

    Beyond OMG RUSSIA!,Transgender Restrooms and HeritageFoundation/RomneyCare,what has the party offered in recent years?

  20. Heh,reliable….

    That should read RELIANT upon the party to fill their rice bowls.

  21. Just an FYI, Indiana went blue for the first time since LBJ in 2008. Why did that happen? How did that change?

    Why did Indiana become disinterested and red again?

    Republicans act what’s in the interest of their constituents.

    The DNC acts as if they hate their constituents–at least those outside of the 15% of top earners.

  22. Trump operates within an “intelligence gap.” For whatever reasons, I’ve seen no evidence that the consensus of this blog wishes to close it. I hereby yield to the majority.

  23. Gerrymandering and propping up anachronisms such as Joe Biden really does say; More of The Same.

    That’s why people become disinterested. That’s a feature,not a bug in the system.

    I hope my contributions help answer the query in my original post.

  24. The dystopian view of American politics with the explanation given in terms of Republican and Republican Lite defies solution except by starting all over again. I suppose there is no proof positive evidence that that view isn’t correct but to me, in terms of solutions, starting from scratch is a longer term approach than 2020.

    My approach is to keep as open a mind as possible to all 20+ Democrat candidates as they campaign and see who will disprove the dystopian view and offer not Republican Lite but liberal Lite in order to offer a path to 21st century government that starts and accepts where we are as just that and not a place where you can’t get to there from here.

  25. Pete:”Since then Democrats have followed a carefully crafted strategy to reestablish our democracy. 2018 was a big step but 2020 will be an even bigger one and that party is ideally positioned to offer candidates who represent every possible approach to recovery.”

    When the Democrats voted to expand the spying powers of the Trump administration,was/is that an example as to how the Democrats intend to restore our democracy?

    Why the extend spying powers of the president when he’s a supposed puppet of…..DrumRolll….RUSSIA!?

    That support alone makes the OMG RUSSIA! meme look nothing more than political kayfabe.

  26. In a 256-164 vote, the House passed a bill that would extend, or in many respects possibly expand, a controversial spying authority known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This law is used to spy on the emails, text messages, and other electronic communications of Americans and foreigners without a warrant. The bill now goes to the Senate.

    More here…


  27. Pete,evidently posts containing links from the ACLU seem to be verboten. I answered your question with that particular post. The ACLU has fought against 702.

    Google 702+ACLU+Democrats give Trump expanded spying powers.

  28. It seems like a bi-partisan action to allow those sworn to protect us to do their job by staying ahead of those those who would would do us harm which I certainly see as including Trump and Putin.

  29. Just because the fix is in doesn’t mean you can’t break it (can’t remember where I heard that)

    I cut my political teeth on railing against the “establishment” (which sometimes meant the UAW and Democratic Party. In 1972, an outsider, Perry Bullard, gained a seat in the Michigan state house. It was in Ann Arbor and winning the primary guarenteed the general election, but it was based on (1) massive voter registration of students, (2) making certain that they all applied for absentee ballots (Michigan primaries are in August), and (3) making certain that they actually voted. [full disclosure, my brother, a friend of Perry’s from law school, ran the campaign]

    Now for a legal question – assuming the best – Democratic control of two branches, could they pass a law that defines “illegal gerrymandering” in terms of some set statistical difference between the total vote and percentage of congressional districts going to each party (based on something like 2020 or 2018 votes for a lower state office – I used to use Secretary of State or Auditor for a base “party” vote calculation)? Could congress extend such a rule to state legislatures? This all assumes that they don’t fiddle with the precinct lines like they did in Indy.

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