“You know, some of the things I’ve seen at this convention have been pretty provocative,” President Barack Obama said Wednesday. “This protest about redistricting and what was the exact point of that? Well, basically, the argument is that that practice of gerrymandering is fundamentally in conflict with democratic principles.”
Gerrymandering refers to the redistricting of districts to favor a political party. Many states elect their U.S. representatives by congressional district, regardless of party affiliation, giving gerrymandered districts the power to essentially guarantee a party’s majority or keep it. In Wisconsin, a Republican-drawn map led to an 18-1 partisan advantage for the GOP for the two congressional districts encompassing the state’s Green Bay and Milwaukee areas, according to New York Times reporting.
In November 2016, after a long and contentious battle, Wisconsin held a nonpartisan, nonpartisan constitutional convention, in which delegates were tasked with determining the boundaries of Wisconsin’s congressional districts. The plan, known as Fair Districts, was designed to reduce partisan gerrymandering and would “preserve equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans,” according to a 2012 memo written by Greg Mape, a founder of the League of Women Voters and founder of Fair Districts.
“I realize this is a somewhat timely and popular idea, but it’s not how democracy is supposed to work,” Obama said, criticizing the Republican Party’s adherence to gerrymandering in more than half of all state legislative districts.