WATCH: John Oliver says gerrymandering threatens the "foundation of democracy"

The "Last Week Tonight" host explains a major flaw in the U.S. voting system

By Charlie May
April 10, 2017 4:29PM (UTC)
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(YouTube/Last Week Tonight)

Sunday night's "Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver decided to put democracy — "undeniably the best greek export that doesn't have fruit at the bottom"  — under the microscope by examining the impacts of gerrymandering voting districts. According to Oliver, while surely the "worst thing to happen to our democracy," is Trump's next Cinco de Mayo tweet, he notes that gerrymandering is "a real problem."

Oliver says Republicans in particular have given themselves "an edge" to ensure election victories. To illustrate this point, Oliver shows the district maps drawn in Pennsylvania and Ohio, which resulted in the states having a majority of Republican districts despite voters predominantly casting their votes for the Democrats. Oliver argues that "those numbers are way out of proportion to what people should expect," comparing it to accepting Neapolitan ice cream that's "75 percent strawberry. That's not okay."


"So whoever draws the districts has a lot of power, and thanks to technological advantages it's possible to use that power in very precise ways," the late-night comedian explained.

Oliver does go on to say that there is "nothing inherently wrong with re-drawing a voting district" and notes that it's necessary to measure proportionality and inevitable shifts in population. Gerrymandering based on race is illegal under the Voting Rights Act, but that's not where the problem lies. The issue at hand, Oliver explains, is that redistricting lines are drawn by the politicians themselves, which implicates an inherent partisan bias that both major political parties have taken advantage of.

As a solution, Oliver touts the idea of an independent commission that would be responsible for accurately and fairly drawing district lines. "While independent commissions might not be perfect, they would definitely be better," Oliver argues, "and the truth is, it would be hard to come up with a worse system than the one most states currently have."


"Lawmakers should not be allowed to dilute our votes by drawing their lines and essentially picking their own voters."

Charlie May

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Gerrymandering Hbo John Oliver Last Week Tonight