Currently districts are engineered with impunity to protect incumbents, with voters voices diluted as they are packed together to achieve partisan ends. The resulting preordained outcome feeds citizen apathy, drives down voter turnout, depresses competition and entrenches incumbents who are protected from real competition and real accountability at the polls. The only serious challenges to these safe seats come from the extreme wings of their own parties, only serving to further polarize Congress.
Under this system, many Members of Congress are more beholden to a partisan base than to solution-oriented pragmatism. The outcome is a polarized political atmosphere where few are willing to work together in the political center, where most Americans reside.
Unfortunately, the public outrage that is still mustered over partisan gerrymanders builds and crests as the voters are divvied up by politicians every 10 years. By the time the next census comes along, the public, and even the media, is not paying much attention until it is too late.
Americas disaffected voters have been missing from this movement to reform the process, but their voices will be necessary to change the system. Most Americans today do not realize the negative impact many years of gerrymandering has had on Congress ability to accomplish the nations common goals.
Even as we face the greatest economic challenges most Americans have ever lived through, polarization and gridlock brought on by gerrymandering has limited Congress ability to address the issues with effectiveness, common sense and bipartisanship. The time to act is now, before the next election (the last before the census) is upon us and it is too late. We are asking our colleagues, our allies and the American people to help us to rectify this grave miscarriage of democracy.
Reps. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) and Mike Castle (R-Del.) are co-sponsors of the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.