Gerrymandering for Dummies
written by Sheila Ellison
I’m new to political action. I consider myself a first responder, the Hurricane hit on Nov. 8th, I assembled my first aid kit and was ready to do something, anything to ? the disaster. Two months later I arrived in Washington D.C for the Women’s March, which at age 56, was my first protest. Inspired, I asked a friend who was born a political activist, “How can I help you?” She said, “I’m focusing on gerrymandering.” I said, “Great. I’m in.” Then I went home and googled gerrymandering and found out it meant dividing of a state into election districts to give one political party a majority in many districts while concentrating the voting strength of the other party into as few districts as possible.
I was hoping for a more exciting volunteer opportunity, but I said yes, which meant I had to dive in and figure out how this gerrymandering thing worked. I’m a visual learner so I picked Virginia and started looking at district maps. After five or six that looked like these two, I started to feel like American’s were being robbed of their right to representation. How did I not know about this? And it’s being done in every state.
Virginia District 42
Google search is like taking a hike on a winding trail where you see all sorts of animals and plants you never expected. I decided to focus on the 42nd district and that pie shaped cutout. Why had the gerrymandering gods chosen that piece to cut out? Enter twelve term state delegate Dave Albo who ran for election in 1993 to “eliminate parole, create prison boot camps and provide criminal background information to juries before sentencing. “He also claimed, “There’s not a single candidate in the whole state who knows more about crime than I do.”
Since then Dave has Cracked the whip! This is taken directly from his website “As Chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee, Delegate Albo has ensured drug dealers get lengthy prison time. Dave wrote Virginia’s anti-gang laws that make recruitment into gangs a felony and give mandatory prison time for gang crimes near schools. These are some of the toughest anti-gang laws in the U.S.”
The irony? at the very center of Dave Albo’s district 42, lies that piece of pie I was curious about. That “pie” contains the neighborhood where African American High School Student Maurice Burger, 17, was gunned down in front of his house in Lorton Virginia, September 7, 2016. A Murder in what should be District 42. It appears that “Lock ‘em up” Dave has a “safe” district because his republican colleagues carved out the young liberal neighborhood in which the Burger family lived. Dave Albo conveniently has no consequences for his actions, since the population most affected by the policies he supports can’t vote in the district they would be and should be in, had gerrymandering not intervened.
Rather than focusing on the provision of vital services, that could improve this neighborhood, Dave supports more prisons and more “tough on crime” rhetoric. The net result is egregiously high incarceration rates for African Americans, and continued gun violence in lower income neighborhoods.
But that’s not Dave’s problem, not unless we the people start fighting for fair districting, where district lines are drawn more like the map of the United States, with squiggly lines usually along a river. Come on, America, we’re better than this. Make the state delegates win on their own merits, we are a country of competitors, we’re tired of being manipulated, and neighborhoods like Maurice Burger’s deserve to be heard.