By Zachary Keller
Today we had an academic seminar at the Washington Center that focused on the topic of gun control. One by one, students walked up to the microphone to voice their opinions. While there were a variety of different arguments, it was clear that the room was very divided. In the end, neither side could come to a definitive solution about what to do.
This situation seemed to imitate the current state of Congress, which has seen very low approval ratings lately. Yet, one has to wonder what the cause of our partisan behavior is? The answer given by David Welna, Congressional Correspondent for National Public Radio, and Ken Walsh, Chief White House Correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, was simple. The root of our problem is gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is the process of redistricting congressional districts in order to give one party the advantage in an election. This means that the competition for who wins an election does not come from two parties, but rather the individuals within the one party that has the majority representation in the district. For example, in order for a Republican to get elected in a district with a Republican majority, they must be more conservative than other candidates. Consequently, once they get to Washington D.C. they are supposed to represent their constituents. If the elected representative chooses to concede on some of the views they had during their election, they will face a tougher time during reelection because a more conservative candidate will challenge them within their district. The same situation holds true for Democrats in predominately liberal districts. The end result is a gridlock because representatives are unwilling to compromise.
So what is the best redistricting process for states to use? Most states have their state legislatures vote on a redistricting plan, which means whatever party has a majority may try to draw the districts to have a positive effect on their party during elections. However, the best approach may come from Iowa, which uses a non-partisan agency and statistics based on U.S. census data to draw congressional lines.
This approach makes the most sense to me. Gerrymandering seems very similar to rigging an election. Why would we want to make our elections uncompetitive? When political gridlock consumes our government, we need to find candidates who can compromise on issues. It is better to make some progress, than no progress at all.