Gerrymandering and Voting Rights Take Center Stage at Staten Island Constitution Day Forum

September 19, 2019

“Who decides your right to vote?”

Professors Ellen Boegel, William Byrne, and Associate Provost Robert Fanuzzi extended this question to an engaged audience on the Staten Island campus of St. John’s University as they commemorated the 232nd anniversary of the U.S. Constitution’s ratification.

Constitution Day provides a chance for students, faculty members, and members of the surrounding community to recognize the rights and obligations they have as U.S. citizens.  This year’s discussion centered around the right to vote and how the practice of gerrymandering infringes on that right.

Professor Boegel and students from Introduction to Legal Studies started the conversation by discussing the impact of recent Supreme Court decisions on gerrymandering and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and current initiatives by state governments to rectify voting district irregularities. Dr. William Byrne of St. John’s Department of Government spoke in detail about the different calculations that are used to define voting districts and the uses to which political parties can put them. Dr. Fanuzzi and his American Literature students concluded the discussion by connecting voting rights laws to post Civil War African American voting rights and subsequent efforts to evade Constitutional amendments forbidding racial discrimination.

Gerrymandering and the issue of voters’ rights will no doubt take center stage during the 2020 election year. Tuesday’s event served as a catalyst for those in attendance to exercise their rights as citizens and active voters of this country.