Essay on Voting: Gerrymandering

Published: 2021-06-25
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Boston College
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Redistricting is a process that involves drawing the boundaries again to divide the voters into their election districts. It is required by the federal law to draw the district boundaries once every 10 years if the population of the districts becomes unequal during that duration (Tokaji, 2014). However, in some cases the district maps have been used for the wrong purposes such as establishment of political borders that will ensure some political power. If the districts are drawn unfairly, the people may be unable to elect the person of their choice. Therefore, these results in people elected to represent their districts do so poorly, as they are disconnected from the voters interests.

Each state is responsible in developing its timelines and approach for the start and completion of redistricting. In Texas, there are 36 United States legislatures and 181 state legislators are voted by their districts. Notably, the US senators are not voted by the districts but by the state as a whole. The federal government require all districts to be equal and not discriminate based on race or ethnicity. In Texas, the State Legislature makes the congressional and state legislative borders. Therefore, if the legislature does not agree on the state legislative strategy, a backup plan is put in place. The standby plan is a commission made up of the lieutenant governor, speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Attorney General, State Controller and the Commissioner of the General Land Office, who must draw the lines. Texas congressional and State Legislative district maps that were put in place after 2010 census have been disputed and undergoing litigation. The Federal Law necessitates that every district has about the similar population. The voting lines should not dilute the voting power of any race and ethnicity in each district. The Texas Constitution requires the State Legislative districts to be adjoining, and they must reserve entire districts when populations authorize.

There are various weakness and strengths in redistricting. Some weaknesses include gerrymandering. According to Jennifer Clark from the University of Houston, redistricting is crucial for the voters, but in some states, the incumbent legislators come together to defend their places and reduce rivalry in the political organization (Fraga & Merseth, 2016). Additionally, the people involved in redistricting may want to reduce conflict and thus reduce competitiveness by ignoring compactness, contiguity, and maintaining the voters interests. The strengths of redistricting are to ensure that the voter gets to elect representatives of their choice. Moreover, people from minority groups also get to have a voice in the election. A good redistricting enhances fair representation and an opportunity for the voter to ask questions.

Gerrymandering refers to the practice of dividing areas into districts but using infrequent shapes and sizes. Such practices are meant to give on the political group a biased advantage by decreasing the oppositions strengths. Notably, the unusual shape and size of the district do not invalidate the district spontaneously, but the courts may be forced to take a deeper look into the district. Texas was blamed for gerrymandering some of the state congressional districts to reduce the increased influence of the minority voters. Consequently, three congressional districts were invalidated, the south, west Texas and the Austin area. Redrawing of the maps will benefit the Latino and the Democratic voters (Tokaji, 2014).

The Voting Acts Rights section 2, of 1965 states that district lines must not dilute the voting power of racial or ethnic minority groups (Fraga & Merseth, 2016). As discussed, the gerrymandering in Texas was meant to dilute the strength of the minority Latino Voters and the Democratic voters (Fraga & Merseth, 2016). In 2011. Texas passed on of the most restrictive laws on voter identification. The law requires a voter to show government identification documents for them to vote. However, as per the law, Texas was required to submit the law for review. After submitting the laws was found as being excessively restrictive and discriminatory to the poor and the minority in the state. The poor people and the minority are a high percentage in the state containing African Americans and the Hispanic voters; thus, the law was denied.

The Supreme Court made a decision that ruled section 5 and 4 of the Voting Rights of 1965 was unconstitutional. The Section 4 of the Act sets out the formula of how the Justice Department applies Section 5 of the Voting Rights. Section 5 clearly states that discrimination is not allowed and a state with a past discrimination has to attain authorization from the Federal Government before they alter the election laws (Fraga & Merseth, 2016). In 2013, states such as South Carolina, Texas, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Virginia, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, were required to ask for prior clearance to make electoral changes. Notably after the Shelby County v. Holder, these states were given permission to alter the electoral law or change district maps without clearance from the Justice department (Brunell, & Manzo, 2015). In the absence of section 4, the justice department has less legal powers to challenge any discriminatory election law (Fraga & Merseth, 2016). After the Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court found the Section 4 unconstitutional due to the age of the analysis plans.

The Supreme Court, however, recognized that discrimination still exists, but questioned the Acts unusual measures in satisfying the constitutional requirements. The Supreme Court found that the Act put a burden that needs to be justified using current necessities. Therefore, Congress would have to make new rules if they wanted to keep Section 5. However, the new rules need to be updated to the context that shows which state needs the Justice Department to sign off the election law alterations. Since the Shelby County v. Holder, some of the affected states have approved laws that were valuable to the voters such as online voter registering (Brunell, & Manzo, 2015). Most laws passed have been deigned to reduce the budget and counter voting frauds. Notably, other laws have seen the shift to early voting, new Voter Identification requirements and new voter registration times. However, some opponents of these laws have pointed out that these laws limit the right to vote, especially for the poor and marginal voters (Brunell, & Manzo, 2015). Most of the low-income and minority voters do not have government identification documents. Others may lack elasticity in their grind hours during Election Day. Other laws have resulted in the split if partisan lines. Such new changes have been mostly witnessed in the conservative state legislatures that were made to counter the voter fraud and help reduce budgets (Brunell, & Manzo, 2015). Some new legislation laws such as in Texas were facing legal action.

Today voting disputes have been increasing by the year. Many people have come up with solutions to the problem by protesting, civil education among others. In 2015, Congress introduced two separate bills, Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Voting Rights Amendment Act. These bills were meant to restore the lost protections of Section 5 and make it operative again (Tokaji, 2014). They also meant to modernize the Voting Right Acts to depict the current needs. However, the bill was not passed.

The voting laws have received opposition, while others have welcomed them. For those who support the laws, most of them think that the Voter ID is a good idea. The voters were divided on whether voter suppression or fraud was of any significant concern. Notably, many voters still thought it was a bad idea for the Supreme Court to bring down the Voting Rights. Some voting rights advocates have since been opposing the new laws. Additionally, most voting rights groups have been looking for long-term solutions to achieving their objectives of voting out people they disagree with. People have also been engaging in voter education to reduce confusion of the new laws.

Evidently, voting today has been, marred by various challenges. One involves redistricting and gerrymandering. Redistricting, which involves drawing the boundaries again to divide the voters into their election districts, is required by the federal law to draw the district boundaries once every ten years if the population of the districts becomes unequal during that duration. However, incumbents who do not want to be defeated tend to tamper with the district lines also known as gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the practice of dividing areas into districts but using infrequent shapes and sizes, thus giving a political group a biased advantage by decreasing the oppositions strengths. Secondly, there are the voting rights of minority groups. The Voting Acts Rights section 2, of 1965 was meant to ensure that everybody has an equal right to vote for a representative of his or her choice without discrimination. For a state to change any voting law, it was required to have permission from the federal justice system. However, after the Shelby County v. Holder, that law was scrapped. Thus, many states have been coming up with discriminatory laws that many put the poor and the minority groups away from voting. Some laws have been great such as online voter registration and the reduction of the budget. However, other laws that require voters to show their government identification documents and early voting, have been blamed for closing out some people from their right to vote.


Brunell, T. L., & Manzo, W. R. (2015). The Voting Rights Act after Shelby County v. Holder: A Potential Fix to Revive Section 5. Transatlantica. Revue d'etudes americaines. American Studies Journal, (1).

Fraga, B. L., & Merseth, J. L. (2016). Examining the Causal Impact of the Voting Rights Act Language Minority Provisions. The Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, 1(01), 31-59.

Tokaji, D. P. (2014). Responding to Shelby County: A Grand Election Bargain.


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