What exactly is gerrymandering – and why should environmentalists care?
Once every decade, the U.S. Census is conducted. This historical record counts all persons living within the population. The final counts are then used to recalculate the number of seats that each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives. Georgia’s general assembly will also redraw the districts for state representatives. This redrawing of districts determines political representation and if not watched closely, can lead to gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is the term used to describe political districts being drawn in a way to give power to one party over another. It’s often used to dilute the power of the voters by making majorities out of minority populations. This means that political parties who use gerrymandering are ignoring the voices of significant groups of people.
Here’s an example:
Imagine a team of ten people where a majority wants Coke while a minority wants Pepsi. Now, imagine that the people who lead the team want Pepsi. The team’s leader knows that only four people want Pepsi, while the other six want Coke. Instead of taking a simple vote and letting the majority win, the team’s leadership decides to divide the team into three groups. In group one, there are two people who want Pepsi, and one person that wants Coke. In the second group, there are two people who want Pepsi, and one person that wants Coke. In the third group, there are four people that want Coke. The team leader then asks each group to cast their vote. Naturally, two out of three of the groups vote in favor of Pepsi, so Pepsi wins. It didn’t matter that there were more people who wanted Coke. Because of the way the groups were divided, the will of the majority was ignored. That’s what gerrymandering allows politicians to do: create unfair districts packed with a single type of voter while diluting the remaining voters so that they do not hold a majority.
That’s why Gerrymandering is so menacing. It effectively shuts out voices, allowing a whole part of the population to go unheard and to be ignored without consequences… and this is a major problem for pro-environment voters.
Due to gerrymandering, anti-environmental legislators have outsized influence. They consistently ignore Georgia voters, who support climate action according to a recent poll conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. At least 70% of Georgia voters say they would be more likely to support a candidate for political office who favors increasing government funding for renewable energy or setting stronger fuel efficiency standards, and two-thirds would be more likely to support candidates who favor requiring electric utility companies like Georgia Power to achieve a national renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 100% renewable energy by 2050.
Stopping gerrymandering with transparency, standards, and a citizens redistricting commission
Georgia needs a more transparent redistricting process. Legislation called “the Democracy Act” has been introduced in the Georgia General Assembly. It would provide for two major things:
It would allow Georgia voters to decide at the ballot box whether to create an independent citizens’ redistricting commission. The commission would takes redistricting out of the hands of the partisan legislature and put it into an independent commission. At least twenty states have created such commissions, many of which have resulted in more competitive elections. Competitive elections are the best sign that districts were drawn fairly.
The legislation also includes redistricting guidelines that require a fair, transparent, nonpartisan and accountable process. The legislation introduced in the Georgia General Assembly with the name the “Democracy Act” provides for all of these solutions to partisan gerrymandering in Georgia.
Both of these legislative solutions have been introduced in the Georgia House and Senate, but have yet to come to a vote in their respective redistricting committees. GCV, along with our friends at Fair Districts GA supports both of these legislative solutions.
Speak out, tell your representatives that gerrymandering is wrong and hold them accountable!
You can reach out and speak to your state representative or state legislator anytime to tell them you support a fair, transparent, and nonpartisan process. You can also reach out directly with a call or email to the legislators who are in charge of redistricting here in Georgia: