On Gerrymandering

I live in Mississippi House District 37, which stretches from the eastern border of Lowndes County, through a corridor in West Point so narrow that my son could throw a baseball from one side to the next, and on into West Oktibbeha. The representative himself lives in New Hope. He sells insurance there, and works very hard to make sure that the lives of the people who live and work in New Hope get all the advantages from his legislative work that they can.

But I live in Clay County. The work that representative does barely touches me, when it touches me at all. I assume the same is true of those who live in West Oktibbeha. So why is he my representative?

After the most recent census, Mississippi Republicans re-drew districts in such a way that most incumbents were protected, and those who weren’t were Democrats. To be fair, Republicans did this because they had for years been on the other end of that stick–Democrats were just as bad about this process, which is known as gerrymandering, as Republicans are now. Politicians also can draw district lines without fear of judicial consequences. The Supreme Court does not usually get involved in gerrymandering cases. As long as districts have roughly the same number of constituents, the court looks the other way–with one exception: when minorities cannot win a proportionate share of representation. In Mississippi, what that has meant is that legislative districts get drawn by race and then geography.

One could argue that gerrymandering works well for Mississippi. We do, after all, have the highest proportion of African-American representation of any state legislature.

At the risk of sounding perverse, though, let’s consider the possibility that we are better served by legislators when districts have more geographical integrity. With whom do I have more in common: a politician who lives 20 miles away, or a politician who lives in my own county? Regardless of race, gender, or party affiliation, will representatives be more likely to find common ground with me if I actually see them more often?

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6 Responses to On Gerrymandering

  1. Brianna Leigh Ladnier says:

    Gerrymandering is a skill used by those in the lead to rocket themselves even further in front. It is horribly unfair to the Democrats currently. The Republicans have an enormous lead and leverage over any left-leaning opinions and ideas.
    Hopefully, this will change in the near future.

  2. Indu Nandula says:

    Gerrymandering is definitely wrong, no doubt about that. All districts in the state of Mississippi should be represented equally. However, a representative may or may not be very familiar with certain areas of their district. Moreover, especially if one doesn’t reside in the area in which they support, it is especially difficult to pinpoint exactly which issues are pertinent to their region that need to be fixed. Hence, one can only assume that what their “primary” area needs is also what is needed in any outlying areas of legislation.

  3. Lane Hughes says:

    While it probably would be nice to see legislators on the street, I have not once had that happen to me ever. Literally, I didn’t even know who my Senators were until we went to Capitol Day. So no, I don’t feel that whether they grew up in the same county or not truly matters. On that note, gerrymandering does seem odd in that it makes folks vote for representatives and then those representatives get changed based simply on geography. Whether this is what actually happens or not, I don’t know, but it just doesn’t look right either way.

  4. Kaelon McNeece says:

    Because it will only be “illegal” if they misrepresent minorities, I have no doubt that politicians would redraw zones pertaining to them in ways that will benefit their success the most. This success, however, comes at the cost of representing a group of people that the representatives can’t truly identify and relate to the problems of the people in question. In Dr. E’s case with Gary Chism, the representative of District 37, Chism can’t represent the people of Clay, Lowndes, and Oktibbeha County if, by living outside of the county, he can’t acquire the first-hand knowledge and experience required to fully represent the needs of the people of his representative district.

  5. Tija Johnson says:

    I think politicians use Gerrymandering for their benefit. I’m a strong believer that they zone off the areas for personal benefit. By drawing the lines according to demographics or any other kind of motive, the politician can manipulate whatever or whomever they like. The move is unethical in my opinion (especially if they are doing it for personal gain.) I am not surprised at possible ways zones are drawn though. As far as you Dr.E, it’s a possibility that your rep will find a common ground if you go see him/her more. Then again, they could lie to your face and continue with whatever. Sad truth.

  6. Kamaljyot Bhalla says:

    In today’s society, it can be quite difficult for someone to “speak for your thoughts.” I think that it does not always matter if the representative is from your same location, all that matters is if they are saying what you believe in. I do not think one should bind themselves thinking whether or not their representative is geographically in the same area, but rather if they share the same values.

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