Gerrymandering is when politicians (or their gerrymanderers) manipulate voting districts to give themselves and their party an advantage. With gerrymandering, the only way that districts can change hands is if they are gerrymandered back into power by another politician- meaning democracy never has a chance.
The history of gerrymandering in America dates back centuries. Still, it’s been gaining traction recently as politicians take advantage of new technology tools to warp electoral maps to maintain political control. Gerrymandering isn’t just unfair- it’s downright anti-democratic!
It’s important to separate gerrymandering from partisan redistricting because partisan redistricting does not necessarily require gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the manipulation of district boundaries to benefit a certain group, usually diluting their voting power. This is achieved by purposely drawing district lines that include both supporters and opponents of one’s party.
Gerrymandering is often used as a method of racial discrimination by altering district boundaries to incorporate communities with high minority populations into predominantly white districts to dilute minority voting power in those districts. Racial gerrymanders are more easily detected than partisan gerrymanders because they create shaped districts of odd, jagged shapes.
The benefits of gerrymandering
The most obvious of the benefits from gerrymandering is a seat in congress for an individual of one’s own party. Drawing lines to include or exclude a certain group also has subtle effects on voting patterns within districts and swing votes. A district drawn specifically to include a high population of one party will produce more votes for that particular party while excluding those from other parties.
For example, if it were not for gerrymandering by including/excluding voters based on their political affiliation, Ohio would have had six democrat representatives and seven republican representatives in the U.S House of Representatives in 2012 instead of four democrats and nine republicans. Gerrymandering can significantly impact the way congressional elections play out in each district.
Gerrymandering can also give an advantage to one party over another in local elections, the most obvious of which is money raised for campaigning. The drawing of district lines to include/exclude certain groups can reduce or increase campaign spending for certain political parties. For example, by only including the student populations of three universities into District 75 (which consists mostly of students) rather than six, it gives students less opportunity to vote for representatives who are more familiar with them and addresses issues directly related to their experiences college.
If this were not done, it would be much easier for other candidates like Representative JB Jennings, who did not attend school in that area but attended schools near there when he was younger, to win that district.
Gerrymandering can also be used to shape the electorate by giving one party an advantage in voter turnout. Gerrymandering districts achieve this in a way that produces larger numbers of voters who are likely to vote for your party candidate without including other voting groups who are more likely to vote for the opposing party.
It has been said that “gerrymandering is distasteful, but it’s not unconstitutional” because there have been no rulings in the past against partisan redistricting excluding minority populations based on their political views. However, because of recent court cases, it appears that this may soon change.
The negatives of gerrymandering
There are many disadvantages when it comes to gerrymandering. First, it can be used to reduce political competition in districts. Second, this creates a system in which incumbents can run for reelection without much challenge or opposition because they control the lines drawn around their district. Third, when only large groups of like-minded voters are drawn together into one district, citizens feel less connected to their representative, reducing voter turnout and increasing the number of votes cast for other parties through write-ins.
Gerrymandering can also greatly affect how policies are passed in congress. If gerrymandering were not allowed, then there would be more moderate representatives who favor government intervention in certain aspects of people’s lives – such as limiting carbon emissions – because these initiatives would have less chance at failure due to equal representation.
However, those who favor less government intervention – such as the Tea Party and Libertarian party – would be overrepresented in congress if gerrymandering was allowed because they tend to draw support from only small groups of voters.
Gerrymandering is not always just political; it has also been used for racial discrimination. This practice is known as “racial gerrymandering.” In North Carolina, black voters were packed into one district so that their influence could be reduced elsewhere. This case caused the Supreme Court to rule 9-0 against North Carolina’s state legislative map because it showed clear racial bias.
Racial gerrymandering can still occur even if districts are drawn without a specific racial group in mind and with no intention to discriminate. In fact, in the case of Shaw v. Reno, the Supreme Court ruled that a redistricting plan drawn with race in mind can violate the constitution even if there was no intention at all to discriminate against minorities.
In the United States today, almost every state uses gerrymandering to create its congressional districts. It is becoming increasingly common in many other countries around the world as well. On November 17th, 2011, elections were held in Hungary where gerrymandering played a major role because Fidesz – The party currently dominating the government – used its power over the electoral commission to ensure they would win reelection before votes were cast by drawing district lines yet again.
Physicist and Noble prize winner Albert Einstein once said, “We should take care not to make the intellect our god it has, of course, powerful muscles but no personality” – meaning that under this system, there is no room for new ideas or voices because they are all silenced by political parties who manipulate the lines of their districts to get an advantage over opponents whose ideas they do not like.
Einstein was right; the US Constitution grants every citizen an equal voice which should be represented equally no matter what party they support or where they live, but gerrymandering contradicts this idea because it strips some Americans of their right to vote while simultaneously granting others more power than normal based on where their residence is.
1. Gerrymandering is the practice of manipulating voting districts to give one political party an unfair advantage
2. The term was coined in 1812 by Elbridge Gerry, Governor of Massachusetts
3. Today, it is often used to describe how state legislators draw congressional district maps for partisan gain
4. Some states have taken steps to try and reduce gerrymandering through independent redistricting commissions or other means (examples include Arizona, California, Florida)
5. If you are interested in more information on this topic, please get in touch with your local representative or visit the National Conference of State Legislatures website at https://www.ncsl.org