The rich, white elite class within the United States have a greater effect on politics than others. As in previous elections, older voters are more likely to turn out in greater numbers than their young counterparts. Likewise, white voters have a greater turnout than people of color, as do upper-class voters.
In anticipation of next November, many Americans might be wondering if their vote even matters. An ongoing resolution that their vote will not make a difference plagues these voters, and they have little confidence in the U.S. democracy, Pew Research found. These Americans are correct to feel this way. In the grand scheme of American politics, the average person has very little control over an election’s outcome. Politicians manipulate, disparage and shield voters across the country, thus demonstrating the decline of true democracy. I, along with many Emory University students, struggle to find motivation to vote when we feel so disconnected from a political system that represents all citizens unevenly. A rich, white billionaire’s vote is much stronger than that of a low-income person of color. This divide exists for multiple reasons, but the root of this inequality is gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is the creation of new or different electoral boundaries to give one party, class or race an undue advantage in specific districts. In Georgia, this looks like the Republican majority creating districts that silence minority votes, especially from Black residents. Gerrymandering should be illegal. It is undemocratic and un-American to intentionally write certain demographics out of their electoral voice and birthright as citizens.
America was founded to be a haven for those who were discriminated against and meant to provide social mobility and representation for oppressed groups. It was founded with the goal of all people having equal voices in the political system.
This is simply a fantasy. Demography should be destiny. The way that a given district or state looks and feels should be adequately and proportionately accounted for when government officials are selected.
Georgia has been in the hot seat for the past several years, turning from a strictly-red state to a competitive and influential battleground state, especially in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. The effects of gerrymandering have abhorrent effects in Georgia. The current district maps disparage Black and other minority voters in and around Atlanta and its suburbs. There, these minority voters, who tend to lean liberal, are packed into densely-populated districts. When this packing occurs, the vote of a person in a packed district does not carry as much weight as those who are in a district with a lower population. Thus, minority voters are minimized and not accurately reflected in the electoral process. Gerrymandering will erode and dismantle our beloved democracy. It will marginalize the small and empower the big. Gerrymandering will be the downfall of our democracy.
The minimization of voters in U.S. elections is not new. Originally, the purpose of gerrymandering was to write out voters because of their race, and the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) outlawed this practice under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause in 1995. However, politicians use gerrymandering today to discriminate based on race, but all in the name of a political party.
Partisan gerrymandering is still permitted, and electoral maps are allowed to be drawn for the benefit of political parties. Both the Democratic and the Republican parties use gerrymandering to their advantage.
In Georgia, some counties have been subdivided into more than three different congressional districts, confusing residents. Just last year, a suit against the Georgia legislature claimed that the new gerrymandered districts racially violated citizens of the state. Yet SCOTUS claimed redistricting of the partisan kind is out of the purview of the judicial branch. The 5-4 ruling was along ideology lines, with liberal justices dissenting from the majority opinion by arguing that partisan gerrymandering should be illegal and was within the purview of the court.
When it comes to voter disparagement, SCOTUS has remained weak in its rulings. The right to vote is foundational in the U.S., and it is cowardly for the court’s justices to not advocate for the American people and the worth of their votes.
Although racial gerrymandering is illegal, it is mirrored in partisan gerrymandering. While there are increasing numbers of minority voters who support conservative candidates, the numbers still heavily lean Democratic, according to The Pew Research Center. Using data from state election records, the Center found that about 73% of Black, Hispanic and Asian voters backed President Joe Biden in 2020, while only 25% supported former President Donald Trump.
As of October, 80% of Republican voters are still white. In 2022, the Democratic Party had a much larger share of racial minority voters. The Democratic Party is a melting pot of diversity, while the Republican Party is lagging behind due to its racist policies. When Republicans gerrymander against Democrats, they are not gerrymandering off of the party. They are unregretfully manipulating individuals because of their race.
With this racial breakdown in mind, I claim that partisan gerrymandering is a premonition of racial gerrymandering. This unfortunate equivalency does not have to be the case for the rest of American history. However, at this point, due to the large minority makeup of the Democratic Party, partisan gerrymandering is, in fact, racial gerrymandering. Maps drawn to exclude certain political parties may even be reflective of historically racial gerrymandered districts.
Georgia, where large minority populations are concentrated in areas in and around a major city, holds this especially true. Despite people of color comprising 41% of the population in Georgia, these populations are not accurately represented. On the state level, 76 out of the 180 Representatives are Democrats. There has not been a Democratic governor in Georgia since 2003, further demonstrating how insulated the politics are from Democrats in the state.
Minorities shape Georgia socially and culturally, but not politically because of a political system that does not deem their voice important. Clearly, partisan gerrymandering is synonymous with racial gerrymandering. Partisan gerrymandering should be illegal, unless we no longer align with our constitutional values of equal protection, SCOTUS? Partisan gerrymandering targets minority voters, which SCOTUS previously deemed to be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Partisan gerrymandering, just like racial gerrymandering, is detrimental to elections. It erodes voters’ confidence in their government, and it will be the demise of the democracy Americans are so proud of.
Americans should not take pride in such a harmful system. We, the people, need to be more active in fighting against gerrymandering. As Georgia’s 2024 presidential primary approaches, the distorted opinion of Americans is going to once again be the law of the land. Although Georgia could change its electoral maps in nearly the blink of an eye, it is unlikely to occur before the March 12 primary. All registered voters can vote in the primary — and should. Despite the disparagement of voters, it is still imperative that anyone who can exercise their privilege to vote does so, as many within our country and around the world are not given the same rights.
For Georgians, there is imminent pressure to act. In the 2020 presidential election, Biden was heavily reliant on Atlanta mail-in votes and the surrounding suburbs to win the election. All 16 electors for Georgia had not voted for a Democratic nominee for president since 1992. The electoral votes from Georgia were necessary for Biden to win the election. In 2021, Georgia’s run-off election is what sealed the 50-50 split in the U.S. Senate. Despite enormous efforts to minimize minority or Democratic votes, voters have made significant grassroots efforts and have been fairly successful.
The efforts to fight for Georgians’ right to equal power in the electoral system must continue. Feb. 14 is the final day to register to vote in Georgia, and it is imperative that you participate. There is too much riding on the 2024 presidential election to lose steam now.
There are two ways to make changes to the rampant suppression of minorities in Georgia: legislative and legal. At this point, little can be done to convince SCOTUS that partisan gerrymandering has the same devastating effects as racial gerrymandering. There is, however, potential to pass legislation in the Georgia General Assembly to help limit or do away with gerrymandering, but this can only occur if citizens of the state can overcome the current gerrymandered hindrances.
It is a common commitment among both sides of the aisle to fight for legislative reform. As Emory students, we are a hub of potential voters who are not reaching full capacity. As of 2018, only 57.1% of the registered students on Emory’s campus were voting, according to a Tufts University research study. We have the privilege to be immersed at an institution that encourages active engagement with the community and world around us. The community of Atlanta and the state of Georgia care for and nurture us, and it is our responsibility to do the same for them.
As community members, we need to lobby the Georgia General Assembly to pass new legislation that requires an independent, non-partisan company to come to the state to be responsible for drawing new electoral maps. A non-partisan group would be completely separate from the politics and ideology of the government, and its mission would be to give each vote in Georgia equal weight. By doing so, a more competitive and fair election would be ensured. Getting involved with justice-oriented groups on campus, like the Emory Social Justice Coalition or Young Democrats of Emory, can be a great on-campus community to make contact with local Georgia politics. Working with student groups to call your representative and showing up to protest is a way to advocate for equality.
Americans voting despite the hurdles and unfairness of gerrymandering will make a difference in the world around them. The United States has to become more democratic. Americans want to become more democratic. We must let them.
In the dance of politics, our legislators are comfortably nestled in a system that caters to their self-interests, showing little inclination to disrupt the status quo. It falls upon vigilant citizens and institutions like Emory to shake them from their complacency and demand accountability. Our democracy, currently drowning in the murky waters of gerrymandering, needs more than just votes — this requires a collective push for genuine change.
I implore you: Do not only cast your vote, but open your eyes, question the system and actively advocate for transformation. Envision a political landscape where every citizen’s vote, regardless of color or party, carries the same weight. This is a passionate call to resist being passive spectators and instead champion our democratic ideals. Let us unite in this fight for a political system that transcends puppetry and truly mirrors the diverse aspirations of our nation. Stand with me in demanding fairness, equality and a democracy that authentically represents the people.
Lola McGuire (26C) is from Nashville, Tenn.
Lola McGuire (she/her, 26C) is from Nashville, Tennessee majoring in Political Science and minoring in English on the pre-law track. Outside of the Wheel, Lola is the Social Justice Coordinator for Emory Democrats, an Intern with the local Georgia government, tutor for Emory Reads, and nanny for three sweet boys. In her free time you can find her basking in the sun, drinking coffee, listening to Billy Joel, or thrifting with friends.