A redistricting crisis is now upon us. This surprising, compelling book tells the history of how we got to this moment—from the Founding Fathers to today’s high-tech manipulation of election districts—and shows us as well how to protect our most sacred, hard-fought principle of one person, one vote. Here is THE book on gerrymandering for citizens, politicians, journalists, activists, and voters.
“Seabrook’s lucid account of the origins and evolution of gerrymandering—the deliberate and partisan doctoring of district borders for electoral advantage—makes a potentially dry, wonky subject accessible and engaging for a broad audience.” —The New York Times
Nick Seabrook, an authority on constitutional and election law and an expert on gerrymandering (pronounced with a hard ‘G’!), begins before our nation’s founding, with the rigging of American elections for partisan and political gain and the election meddling of George Burrington, the colonial governor of North Carolina, in retaliation against his critics. The author writes of Patrick Henry, who used redistricting to settle an old score with political foe and fellow Founding Father James Madison (almost preventing the Bill of Rights from happening), and of Elbridge Gerry, the Massachusetts governor from whose name “gerrymander” derives.
One Person, One Vote explores the rise of the most partisan gerrymanders in American history, put in place by the Republican Party after the 2010 census. We see how the battle has shifted to the states via REDMAP—the GOP’s successful strategy to control state governments and rig the results of state legislative and congressional elections over the past decade. Seabrook makes clear that a vast new redistricting is already here, and that to safeguard our republic, action is needed before it is too late.
Political scientist Seabrook (Drawing the Lines) delivers a sweeping study of gerrymandering, the process of manipulating the boundaries of political districts to ensure an election's outcome. Noting that Patrick Henry attempted to prevent his nemesis, James Madison, from serving in the first Congress by influencing the Virginia state assembly's districting plan, Seabrook shows that the "partisan manipulation" of electoral maps began well before the 1830s, when a salamander-shaped district drawn by Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry's Democratic-Republican Party was nicknamed the "Gerrymander." In the first half of the 20th century, the refusal of state officials to redraw district lines in response to demographic shifts known as the "creeping gerrymander" sparked public outrage and led to a series of 1960s Supreme Court rulings establishing that citizens are entitled to periodic redistricting to ensure that the power of their vote was not diluted. These rulings though well-intentioned created the conditions by which Democrats placed a stranglehold on California politics in the 1980s and Republican operatives consolidated power in North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other states in the 2010s. As a remedy, Seabrook urges readers to pressure their state legislatures to establish independent commissions and other nonpartisan redistricting procedures. Dense yet entertaining, this comprehensive survey is a worthy introduction to a high-stakes political issue.