Are Democrats being ethical these midterms?

Democrats are gerrymandering furiously in response to past Republican-biased district maps


Illinois district map

Veronica Hamaguchi, Assistant News Editor

Tuesday, Nov. 8 are midterm elections and Democrats are taking more extreme Republican-esque measures to keep their majorities in Congress.

Illinois has 17 congressional districts, each with its own U.S. House Representative.  These districts all have nearly the same population, and the “shape” and number of the districts change every decade after the census.  

The determiners of the shapes of these districts are different depending on the state, and most states have state legislators in charge of redistricting.  In fact, only nine states prohibit direct participation by legislators in the redistricting process (AK, AZ, CA, CO, ID, MI, MT, NY, WA), and VA has a commission of half-legislators and half-citizens.

In many states, legislators choose to draw congressional maps in such a way that will maximize the number of house representatives of their political party.  This is called gerrymandering and often results in oddly-shaped districts.  It’s also illegal if it discriminates against a minority group or is too extreme.

The last time the states were redistricted was in 2010, and Republicans’ use of gerrymandering was extreme.  At the time, former president Barack Obama was in the White House and Democrats had a majority in the House of Representatives and a supermajority in the Senate.  In short, Republicans were willing to set aside ethicality and morals for the sake of political gain.  

However, this time, Democrats have been joining Republicans in excessively distorting district maps, with Illinois and New York being some of the most blatantly obvious examples.  Because of this, there has been some debate as to whether this extreme level of interference with an election is justified.  I think it is.

According to the Pew Research Center, 83% of lawmakers who identify as Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander or Native American are Democrats, while only 17% of Republicans identify as such.  It is essential for voters to be represented by their congresspeople, and an overwhelming majority of people of color in Congress are Democrats.  

Democrats trying to make this election more “fair” by partaking in an ethically and legally questionable practice is going to benefit people of color tremendously by making Congress more diverse and representative of the United States as a whole, especially since Republicans’ use of gerrymandering has put more Republicans in Congress, almost all of which are white.

Additionally, it would be incredibly unlikely for gerrymandering to end altogether.  It is a tactic that dates back to 18th-century England and began in the U.S. almost as soon as it became a country, becoming much more extreme in Massachusetts in 1812.  

It would be shocking if this very conservative Republican party decided to end this shady practice that is almost as old as America anytime soon, especially since it would hurt their chances of winning future elections.  Because of this, Democrats had two options: to continue to lose elections because of the Republican-biased district maps or to gerrymander back, and they chose the latter.  

When the results of an election and its popular vote differ, the results favor Republicans.  This has been a frustrating reality for years.  This year, because of Democrats’ attempts at leveling the playing field, the results of the 2022 midterm elections are likely going to be more “fair;” the candidates with the most votes will be more likely to win.  

I want to clarify that I don’t think gerrymandering is good.  It’s a form of discrimination against an opposing political party and takes away voters’ voices.  However, if Democrats did not use it in such excess this year, Democrats would continue to win popular votes and Republicans would continue to win elections.