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There’s rarely a level playing field

On Dec. 13, the OBSERVER published an editorial headlined, “New York state ignoring voters with redistricting,” in which they argue that Democrats and Gov. Hochul are railroading the will of the voters by refusing to accept the congressional district maps proposed by the Independent Redistricting Commission. The state Democrats’ goal is clear. They believe that they can pass a map more favorable to Democrats by rejecting the commission’s and proposing their own.

Let’s call this what it is: gerrymandering. Democrats in New York state are going to draw a map that benefits their party at the expense of a congressional delegation that more proportionally represents the makeup of New York’s electorate.

But where the OBSERVER’s editors get it wrong is when they cry foul about how unfair this is without taking any national context into account.

After all, our congressional representatives are meant to represent us on the national level. And on that level, Republican-controlled states are set to take complete advantage of the redistricting process to draw politically advantageous maps that fly in the face of proportional representation.

State legislatures in Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas, Ohio, and New Hampshire are currently (or will soon be) availing themselves of gerrymandering opportunities that will give each Republican congressional delegation an outsized advantage compared to the percentage of votes they receive. It would not come as a surprise for the 2022 congressional elections to turn out similarly to the congressional elections of 2012, where Republicans won 53.8% of seats in the House despite receiving only 47.7% of the vote.

Let me repeat that: Republicans won nearly 54% of House seats, but only received 48% of the vote. How is that fair representation?

As somebody who is frustrated by the complete lack of proportionality in national representation, it makes little sense for state Democrats to adopt a policy of “unilateral disarmament” when it comes to redistricting. Why should Democrats voluntarily cede control when it is so blatantly obvious that Republicans have no intention of doing the same?

The shame is that it’s the voters who will deal with the consequences. As somebody who leans more to the left, I absolutely feel that my vote doesn’t matter because I live in such a conservative district.

For those of you who lean more to the right, I’m sure you feel similarly when you cast your vote for Senate candidates (or candidates for Governor, for that matter) who will have absolutely no chance of defeating their Democratic opponents.

But until we can settle on some nationwide redistricting rules that will ensure fair, proportional representation, I won’t lose any sleep over Democrats in New York taking advantage of redistricting for their political gain. We all know Republicans can and will do the same elsewhere.

Miles Pierce is a Rochester resident.

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