Sharp: Mississippi representatives should not be choosing their voters

The+legislature+meets+at+the+Mississippi+capitol+building+to+make+laws--and+to+gerrymander.

Ken Lund from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The legislature meets at the Mississippi capitol building to make laws–and to gerrymander.

By Chloe Sharp, The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science

Every 10 years, Mississippi legislators redraw state district lines after receiving the latest U.S. Census data; however, for decades now, they have been using this power to dilute the voices and votes of those who would vote against them and their party.

The term gerrymandering refers to this process — drawing district lines to give your party political advantages in the voting process. To put it simply, imagine a state where 60% of people voted for the Purple Party and 40% voted for the Yellow Party, and for the sake of simplicity, all members of each party lived in the same area. Now say this state is split into 10 districts. 

If this state was perfectly represented, there would be six Purple representatives and four Yellow representatives; however, say it’s time to redraw the district lines, and the Purple representatives didn’t want any Yellow representatives in the legislature. The Purple representatives now draw new districts so Purple voters make up the majority of every single district in the state. Then, come the next election cycle, there will be 10 Purple representatives and zero Yellow representatives in the state legislature, despite the fact 40% of the population voted for Yellow. This is an example of gerrymandering.

This process of gerrymandering is extremely corrupt, especially when you consider state legislators who are in charge of redistricting rely on gerrymandering for job security. The people who are in charge of redistricting Mississippi are the very same people who rely on votes from these districts to keep their jobs in positions of power. Because of this, Mississippi legislators tactfully draw district lines in the state so they can dilute the voices of people who would be voting against them as much as possible. 

State legislators essentially being in charge of picking who votes for them is an obvious conflict of interest that should not be allowed in any state. This process can and has led to incredibly skewed voting systems across the country where one person’s vote may not matter as much because of where they fall within district lines.

During hearings against gerrymandering, the U.S. Supreme Court has nearly always ruled that because it has been occurring for so long and since it is not clearly discussed anywhere in the U.S. Constitution, gerrymandering cannot possibly be unconstitutional, and therefore, the court cannot rule on cases such as these; however, to this I argue someone needs to be held accountable for checking these state legislators’ virtually unchecked power when it comes to redistricting.

Instead of this corrupt system, Mississippi and all other states should employ a redistricting commission made up of independent citizens rather than state legislatures, similar to the system used in California. Though these citizens may be politically motivated, this kind of redistricting commission leads to far less corruption because their jobs don’t depend on the votes coming from these districts like the Mississippi legislators’ jobs do.

This story was originally published on The Vision MSMS on November 10, 2021.