One Person, One Vote: A Surprising History of Gerrymandering in America

Pantheon. Jun. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9780593315866. $30. POL SCI
Seabrook’s (Drawing the Lines: Constraints on Gerrymandering in US Politics) excellent and cogent account of election boundary manipulation proves that political power knows few bounds and explains gerrymandering’s history and effects and ways to combat it. When Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry wanted to hold onto power in 1812, he created a misshapen senate district whose residents he believed would elect him. The local newspaper, suspecting nefarious intent, published an image of the district as a salamander; the infamous “gerrymander” was born. But Gerry’s efforts were not the first of their kind; Seabrook finds similar manipulations in England’s rotten boroughs and describes how the Founding Fathers themselves were not averse to some boundary manipulation. Describing various types of gerrymander, including New York’s notorious “handshake deal” and Thomas Hofeller’s secretive Republican REDMAP plan, Seabrook also discusses the restrained response of the Supreme Court and its ultimate refusal to become involved in the “political thicket.” Seabrook concludes that power lies with the people and explains how some states, led by California, are creating independent election district commissions to defeat political machinations.
VERDICT A timely and powerful book that should be read by everyone interested in preserving American democracy.
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