Joel Belz: Doing the right thing


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, August 14th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. The 2020 Census will soon be under way, and the shape of political districts are sure to change as a result. WORLD Founder Joel Belz has been thinking about this.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: Among all the abuses of the democratic process in America, none is more arrogant than the gerrymander. I argued that point in WORLD Magazine 25 years ago, but the danger is much more acute now. 

In case you missed it, gerrymandering refers to the process of deliberately reshaping a political district to favor one party—always the same one drawing the lines. 

The abuse has been going on for generations, and Republicans and Democrats are equal opportunity offenders. So this is a non-partisan complaint.

There are several reasons why the issue of gerrymandering is important over the next couple of years. One reason is the official census already under way. Gerrymandering depends on a faithful and accurate count of who lives where.

A second reason is that 2020 is another presidential election year. And just as critical as the White House is the tilt of the legislatures in all 50 states. Those legislatures typically have significant influence in the design of congressional districts. 

And a third reason for paying attention is the U.S. Supreme Court. In spite of its recent hands-off posture, it will likely issue a ruling on gerrymandering in the near future.

Those of us who live in North Carolina have witnessed gerrymandering at its worst. One was in the early 1990s. The designers had the obvious goal of carving out two congressional districts meant to assure the election of two African American congressmen. Incidentally, the other result was two white congressmen in safe districts.

To accomplish that, wily politicians had to work overtime to design two of the most tortured-looking geographical entities you ever laid eyes on. One district snaked along I-85 for 150 miles, picking up every African American voter it could find. The other district twisted and stretched from the Virginia border on the north to the South Carolina line on the south.

Such blatant reshaping of the political landscape couldn’t last long—and indeed the courts sent it packing. But along the way, those same courts have been more ready to declare what won’t pass muster than they are to tell individual states what will be permitted. 

Justice is best served when state legislatures and the courts remove themselves altogether from the redistricting process.

What seems to work best is an approach sometimes referred to as the “Iowa model.” With few complaints, that state has used an independent, non-political commission to draw congressional districts. Then the state legislature votes up or down on it; no tinkering allowed!

Citizens committed to Biblical equity in the voting booth should explore what steps they can take in their own states to nudge greedy politicians away from such voter fraud.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.


(Photo/Creative Commons)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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