Ethnic Gerrymandering- A Problem, Not a Solution

A group of plaintiffs, including the Georgia chapter of the NAACP and the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) recently filed lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia alleging that Gwinnett County districts divide minority voters so they aren’t a majority in any district. Considering that Gwinnett is a majority minority county, the claim appears frivolous at best.

In fact, this lawsuit appears to be nothing more than a demand for ethnic gerrymandering to effectively eliminate anyone not of the chosen minority from running for a particular office. Considering the number of minority candidates who have been elected to city council and state district offices, the lawsuit is also an insult to Gwinnett County voters who have a history of electing candidates based on quality and integrity, regardless of race or ethnicity. That isn’t to say voters haven’t made poor choices in the past, but county elected officials who abused their positions were either voted out of office, indicted, or chose to resign to avoid prosecution.

Irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender or any other characteristic, the path to becoming an elected official is the same, and the first step is always a declaration of candidacy. Subsequently, a candidate must establish a position regarding relevant issues and convince voters that he or she has the qualifications, desire and fortitude to represent their best interests.

Before any claims of discrimination can have even a shred of credibility, some evidence must exist that a candidate was defeated because the electoral districts were structured so as to prevent the election of a candidate of a particular race, ethnicity or gender. Such evidence does not exist; the current district boundaries adopted by the State Legislature in 2011 are untested since no minority candidates ran in the 2012 and 2014 races for Board of Commissioners seats; claims of discrimination are completely without basis.

That fact is further substantiated by the success of minority candidates ran for State House positions. Of the 18 House districts wholly or partially within Gwinnett County, during the 2015-2016 legislative session, seven representatives were black, Hispanic or Asian.

Considering that less than 50% of the county’s white population is white, the plaintiffs and other race baiters will no doubt argue that if the House districts were drawn “correctly”, over half of the representatives would be minorities. To accept that premise is to accept racism in its most divisive and insidious form as it is a statement that proper representation can only be achieved if the representative is of the same race or ethnicity as the people he or she represents. To be more blatant, it states that proper representation can only be achieved if white voters elect a white candidate, black voters elect a black candidate, Hispanic voters elect a Hispanic candidate and Asian voters elect an Asian candidate.

Ironically, with Gwinnett being the most ethnically diverse county in the nation, elections with race-based outcomes are virtually impossible to achieve without extreme ethnic gerrymandering, hence the recent lawsuit. In spite of their claims, it appears the plaintiffs’ objective isn’t to eliminate discrimination, but to bring about the type of discrimination they prefer- one in which ONLY a candidate who is their minority of choice can be elected.

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