Ronald Regan once said, “In 1984, there were 367 elections contested by both parties. In the races, Republicans won half a million more votes than the Democrats. The Democratic Party won 31 more seats.”

“As a consequence of the gerrymandering in congressional districts, people aren’t being illogical when they stay at home. Because the result is a foregone conclusion,” said Barack Obama.

“This form of voter discrimination must end,” said George H.W. Bush.

Some have called it the most effective way of manipulating elections outside of outright fraud. Those folks may be right, and the documentary film “Gerrymandering” (written, produced and directed by Jeff Reichert) is a must-see for anyone who considers themselves keen to the political process.

While many have heard the term “gerrymandering” on the news every now and then, no real substance has been devoted to the practice. Political power in America is based on population. This explains why states like California and Texas have lots of representation in Washington.

Because of constant population changes, the government deems it necessary to conduct a census every year. Those numbers determine the process of reapportionment and determine how many congressional seats each state receives.

Once that is done, the state must redraw the boundaries of the district to account for the new population. This tends to happen in many democratic countries, but the difference with America is that here, the politicians participate in the redistricting process directly–no matter if it’s for state assembly, Senate, city council or a school district.

Reichert’s film touches on that particular aspect, which helps keep incumbents in power and lower the chances of a different political voice seeing the light of day in a specific district. “Gerrymandering” shows districts redrawn at will, making the absurd reality. Districts shaped like earmuffs, telephones, hair wigs, etc., were and are still the norm.

One of those citizens taking a stand against the practice is Kathay Feng, the executive director of California Common Cause. She has worked on Prop 11 in California, which would take the power of redistricting out of the politicians hands and give it to an independent commission consisting of citizens who would be held accountable. Her story, which is featured prominently in the film, had a rather interesting beginning.

“In 2001, I had a particularly pleasant experience with an assembly member [in San Francisco] who, during the redistricting process, called me up,” said Feng.

“She said, ‘Kathay, you’re not gonna put another effin’ Asian in my district.’ In San Francisco, by the way, one in three people are of some type of Asian or Pacific Islander descent, so you can’t move a block without putting another ‘effin” Asian in her district.

“It was that type of arrogance and, frankly, racism that drove me to ask the question, ‘Does this make sense for the incumbents to be drawing lines?’”

Another featured story in “Gerrymandering” has local relevance. It involved current New York State Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries and his race in 2000 against Roger Green for assemblyman in District 57.

With no political backing, money or connections, Jeffries, according to his statements in the film, “shocked the Brooklyn Democratic machine as well as the establishment.” Despite losing, he thought he had a real shot to defeat Green in the 2002 election, but there was one problem: Green had the map redrawn so that the block Jeffries lived on was specifically carved out of District 57.

“Brooklyn politics can be pretty rough, but that move was gangster,” said Jeffries in the film.

Jeffries also spoke to the AmNews about the importance of people knowing about these types of stories. “It’s important for people to understand the abuses of the redistricting process,” he said. “It can impact the quality of everyday life. Those individuals who are elected through the political process can either improve or hamper the day-to-day existence of people in our community.”

“Gerrymandering” takes the viewer all over the country to places like Texas, where 53 state Democrats once left the capital and escaped to Oklahoma to prevent voting on legislation that would help redistrict areas in favor of Republicans.

In Iowa, a man named Danny Young was elected with only two votes because of how the area was divided. In New Orleans, the displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Lower Ninth Ward were no longer counted as city residents since they lived outside of New Orleans while waiting on help.

Even Barack Obama, who lost his first election for state Senate in Illinois, had a hand in redrawing his district, which was mostly Black and skeptical of Obama, to include more liberal, white voters, which helped begin his ascent to national recognition and, eventually, the presidency.

Incumbent, political and racial gerrymandering all center around two things: power and self-interest. And while the American people are screwed over by the process, maintaining this practice is the only thing that most Democrats and Republicans can agree on.

The purpose of gerrymandering, according to Ed Rollins, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, “was not to have a democracy. It was basically to ensure that the best and the brightest controlled the political process. The myth of democracy is that it’s a myth.”

In other words, American democracy is not open to change. American democracy is not at the will of the people. It’s hard to not feel hopeless after watching “Gerrymandering.” However, the silver lining is that folks are still fighting the good fight. While true democracy may be a myth in America, some believe it isn’t dead yet.