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Former editor-in-chief of Salon talked on the effects of gerrymandering

By Danny Cordova

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Benno Kraehe/Daily Collegian)

David Daley gave a talk on on gerrymandering and its effects in the ILC. (Benno Kraehe/Daily Collegian)

Former Editor-in-Chief of Salon.com David Daley argued that the United States is living in the “steroid era” of gerrymandering on Nov. 3 in the Integrative Learning Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Daley is also the author of “Ratf**ked: A True Story Behind the Secret to Steal America’s Democracy,” a book published in June that explores the unprecedented scale in which Republicans retook the U.S. House of Representatives majority back from the Democrats after the victory of Barack Obama in 2008.

Gerrymandering is the process of redrawing district boundaries to gain a political advantage. The design is to give the leading party as many seats and to give the opposing party as few as possible. Voters in a gerrymandered district are more likely to vote for representatives of the controlling party, instead of reflecting the range of political preferences seen across the nation.

“There is an advantage because the lines were drawn that way in order to receive a majority,” Daley said to audience of over 30 people. “It’s not politics as usual, it’s a result of a calculated political strategy that Republicans freely admit to and, too often, our media chooses not to correct.”

According to Daley, the U.S. Constitution mandated that the state legislative and congressional district lines are to be redrawn every 10 years after the Census. The responsibility of redrawing those district lines is in the hands of legislators.

“You could draw in a way that is deeply unfair and twisted,” said Daley.

This practice has been around since the founding of the republic, according to Daley. However, he argued that the practice was revisited by Republicans in 2010 and 2011 as an effective partisan weapon.

Daley also noted that while it seems that Hillary Clinton is going to win the 2016 presidential election, the Republicans are likely to maintain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

While looking back at the 2012 election, when Obama was reelected and Democrats gained a plurality of more than 1.4 million votes in the House over the Republican Party, Daley noted that the Republicans still maintained control of the House. The main question that Daley explored while writing his book was how this is possible.

He explained that the root of the incongruity goes back to 2008 when Republican political strategists within the Republican State Leadership Committee targeted state house and senate races nationwide for Republicans to control redistricting in preparation for the 2010 Census year.

“And then draw yourself friendly districts, lock in these gains, even in blue states and purple states, for the next 10 years,” Daley said.

In the case of Pennsylvania congressional district seven, the borders have been drawn in such a way that some people have poked fun at the extreme extent of gerrymandering. Daley said others have described the congressional lines as, “Goofy kicking Donald Duck.”

“These funny lines have a purpose,” said Daley. “The purpose is usually to withstand an electoral wave.”

The Democrats, Daley stated, could not defend the 115 state house districts and the Republicans took control of legislative chambers in 18 different states.

“It is one of the greatest heists and bargains in American politics,” stated Daley.

According to Daley, by winning the state house seats Republicans gained control of drawing 193 of the 435 congressional legislative seats.

Prior to the 2010 midterm elections, Democrats made up the majority of the House. Daley stated that the midterm elections tend to be good for the party that is not in control.

With Republican political strategists accessing Census data, voting records and consumer preferences controlling the redrawing of district lines, Daley argued that 2010 was the year that started “the steroid era of gerrymandering.”

Daley urged to find ways to combat gerrymandering that re-segregate and polarize people. He criticized the media for its inability to address the effects of gerrymandering.

James Frank, a senior BDIC major, expressed disgust, saying that his life outside his political involvement is utilized by politicians for gerrymandering.

“It feels very disempowering to have insight into the extent of having any information to be altered and manipulated,” said Frank.

The talk was hosted by the University of Massachusetts department of journalism.

Danny Cordova can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @DannyJCordova.

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