Gerrymandering is a tactic that has been an enormous problem for ages. It is the practice of strategically shaping districts in ways to provide an advantage to one party, not truly representing the will of the people. In extreme cases, a heavily gerrymandered state could have a people whose majority are members of the opposite party, running their state governments. This can happen with evolving demographics and shifting popularity of a party. If one party once controlled the state legislature, they only need to have drawn the district lines once in their favor, then they can continue to maintain control for several years. With that control, implement other voting restrictions that favor their party.
Now with computers, and access to advanced datasets and tools, that can automatically determine the most efficient boundaries to use to create a gerrymandered map, this has been thrown into overdrive. According to the World Population Review (https://worldpopulationreview.com/states/most-gerrymandered-states/), the most gerrymandered states are, and the side it favors:
- North Carolina (Republican)
- Maryland (Democrat)
- Pennsylvania (Republican)
- West Virginia (Republican)
- Kentucky (Republican)
- Louisiana (Republican)
- Utah (Republican)
- Texas (Republican)
- Arkansas (Republican)
- Ohio (Republican)
The party that the gerrymandering favors is in parenthesis. Notice a pattern?
2018 was a year that saw a significant shift toward putting democratic lawmakers in office. However, that shift was severely limited in it’s impact due to gerrymandering (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/07/opinion/midterm-elections-2018-republican-gerrymandering.html). Both Ohio and North Carolina saw an increase in the popular vote for democrats by 5 and 3 percent respectively, but saw no change in the number of seats allocated to lawmakers. Texas and Michigan were also heavily gerrymandered states that saw limited seat gains for the democrats, which were disproportionate to the shift in the popular vote in those states. In Michigan alone, Democrats outpaced Republicans by 100,000 votes, however, they still fall behind Republicans in the number of seats by 22 to 16.
A U.S. Circuit court ruled in April that Michigan had to re-draw its district lines before the 2020 election because those maps were rigged to benefit Republicans in “historic proportions” https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2019/04/25/michigan-gerrymandering/3576663002/. However, this decision was overturned by the U.S. Supreme court in August 2019 which essentially said that federal courts could not pla be involved in settling state gerrymandering cases. If the supreme court ruled that the feds couldn’t be involved settling these cases.
So 2020 is not looking great in terms of settling the gerrymandering problem. If this continues to be the case, the election in November could still be a toss up with regards to state and house seats. This makes it so much more important for people to show up in November to overcome this and all of the other obstacles covered in this series.
And before someone comes in with a “both sides” comment, yes, the Democrats have done it as well, as is the case in Maryland https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/03/28/how-maryland-democrats-pulled-off-their-aggressive-gerrymander/. But Republicans have benefitted from Gerrymandering in four times as many districts than the democrats have. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/03/31/just-how-big-of-a-hurdle-is-gerrymandering-to-democrats-taking-back-the-house-this-november/
Michigan has a smart idea for fixing gerrymandering. Conservatives want to crush it.
It’s one thing if we’ve allowed gerrymandering to happen because there are no laws that actually forbid it. Most people seem to agree that it’s not good, regardless of what side it helps. But it seems that only conservatives are acting to preserve the act of gerrymandering.
More potential sources:
Even the 2018 "Blue wave" wasn't enough to overcome Republican gerrymandering: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/07/opinion/midterm-elections-2018-republican-gerrymandering.html
More articles on Gerrymandering:
Things are looking up when it comes to gerrymandering.