On Sunday, HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver dedicated a segment to one of the most serious threats to our democracy. Oliver’s segment on gerrymandering highlighted how partisan manipulation of district lines, or partisan gerrymandering, harms the ability of Americans to have their vote count in elections. The problem of partisan gerrymandering is not new.
However, based on the data, redistricting plans in the post-2010 cycle resulted in more extreme partisan gerrymandering than any other decade in modern American history. Oliver’s segment was timely and informative, using funny wedding metaphors to help describe difficult concepts like ‘packing and cracking,’ also explained in CLC’s partisan gerrymandering report.
The focus of the second half of his segment (starting at 15:15) was on the high stakes of CLC’s landmark case Whitford v. Gill. Oliver described the impact the Wisconsin case could have nationally, and its importance in the fight to end the unfair practice of partisan gerrymandering. The Whitford case is now before the Supreme Court after CLC’s win in federal district court, where a three-judge panel struck down Wisconsin’s State Assembly map. Soon, the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to, for the first time, issue a clear ruling that sets limits on partisan gerrymandering.
Oliver also examined the inherent challenge of trying to take the responsibility for redrawing legislative district lines out of the hands of self-interested politicians, and handing that task to independent commissions. Oliver repeated a line that has rung true to supporters of fair maps around the country, “Lawmakers shouldn’t be able to dilute our votes by drawing their own lines and essentially picking their own voters.”