John Oliver Thinks Gerrymandering Is A Really Bad Thing

by Joseph D. Lyons

John Oliver has been focusing a lot on President Trump — if not by choice — since he took office. The leader of our country took up the first few minutes of the show, for example. But the host of Last Week Tonight on Sunday tried to move past "the personalities harming our democracy" to look at something structural. And since democracy is rather important, "undeniably the best Greek export that doesn't have fruit at the bottom," you might want to listen up. Oliver took on the political practice of gerrymandering and fully explained why it's bad using an ice cream flavor to do so.

He gave examples of states like Ohio where 40 percent of the public would vote Democratic and then three-fourths of the representatives sent to Congress would be Republican. "Those numbers are way out of proportion to what people expect. You wouldn't accept Neapolitan ice cream that was 75 percent strawberry. How is that OK? What perverts voted for this?" Oliver joked. But that's essentially what happens with a congressional map when it's gerrymandered. Instead of splitting things fairly, one side gets a much larger slice of the pie.

Essentially this is because "whoever draws the districts has a lot of power," Oliver explains. And nowadays, "thanks to technological advances," it's possible to draw districts that have extremely complicated borders, to perfectly get the highest number of representatives possible for your party into Congress.

Essentially it's gerrymandering on steroids because of the precision of the software. Oliver plays a video of one political scientist saying, "You can carefully include and exclude whichever voters you want in one district and not in another, so it's become a very precise science." Oliver's response?

He's right about that. Gerrymandering has become a very precise science, and interestingly, it's one of the very few remaining types of science in which the Republican party currently believes.

So why does this happen? Sometimes it's based on race, sometimes it's about protecting a party's majority, and other times it's about protecting an incumbent's majority. But it should be the voters who are deciding who wins, not the politicians. "Lawmakers should not be allowed to dilute our votes by drawing their own lines and essentially picking their own voters," Oliver explained. It could be independent commissions that are tasked with this job; something that easy could make the whole process a lot more fair.

"The foundations of democracy are built on the idea that everybody's vote should count equally, everybody," Oliver said. "Every one of us should get an equal chance to make a bad decision that f*cks things up for everybody else — whoever we are, however poor our decisions." Then he really took it up a notch by bringing on stage the people who should be able to decide who wins in our democracy. Among them? Insane Clown Posse fans (jugalos), 47-year-old fans of Quidditch, those with expensive yet bad fashion taste, Jill Stein voters, and "everyone's racist grandma."

Oliver's point is that "Election results should not be the fault of lawmakers' crazy lines, they should be the result of our own crazy decisions." As mediocre as that may sound, it's clearly the better choice.

Images: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver/ HBO