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
Gerrymandering is the manipulation of election districts for partisan and political gain. Instead of voters picking the politicians they want, politicians pick the voters they need to get the election results they’re after. Surprisingly, gerrymandering has been around since before our nation’s founding. And with technology, those drawing the redistricting lines have, now more than ever, been able to microtarget their electoral manipulations with unprecedented levels of precision.
Nick Seabrook, an authority on constitutional and election law and an expert on gerrymandering (pronounced with a hard G!), has written an illuminating, urgently needed book on how our elections have been rigged through redistricting, beginning with the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, and extending to the twentieth century’s gerrymandering battles at the Supreme Court and today’s high-tech manipulations of election districts.
Seabrook 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). He writes of Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, and corrects the mistaken notion of the derivation of the term “gerrymander.” He writes of Abraham Lincoln and how his desire to preserve the Union led him to manipulate the admission of new states in order to maintain his majority in the Senate.
And we come to understand the place of the Supreme Court in its fierce battles regarding gerrymandering throughout the twentieth century. First was Felix Frankfurter, who fought for decades to prevent the judiciary from involving itself in disputes concerning the drawing of districts. Then came the Warren Court and its series of civil rights cases culminating in the landmark decision (Reynolds v. Sims), written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, which says that state legislatures, unlike the United States Congress, must have representation in both houses based on districts containing equal populations—with redistricting as needed following each census. The result has been ever-increasing, hard-fought wrangling between the two political parties after each census.
Seabrook explores the rise of the most partisan gerrymanders in American history, put into place by the Republican Party after the 2010 census, and how the battle has shifted to the states via REDMAP—the GOP’s successful strategy of the last decade to control state governments and rig the results of state legislative and congressional elections.
About the Author
NICK SEABROOK is a professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of North Florida. The author of Drawing the Lines: Constraints on Gerrymandering in U.S. Politics, he lives in Jacksonville, Florida.
“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
“[An] excellent and cogent account of election boundary manipulation proves that political power knows few bounds and explains gerrymandering’s history and effects and ways to combat it . . . A timely and powerful book that should be read by everyone interested in preserving American democracy.”—Library Journal (starred)
“A sweeping study of gerrymandering, the process of manipulating the boundaries of political districts to ensure an election’s outcome … 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.”—Publishers Weekly
“A study of the practice of shaping electoral districts … Seabrook shows how gerrymandering has been practiced by both major parties in recent years, with procedural road maps now followed by the GOP often laid out by their Democratic predecessors … [a] call to action … valuable reading for voting rights advocates.”—Kirkus