Slacker’s Syllabus: Gerrymandering

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Every 10 years, following a census, states redraw their congressional districts.

Sometimes, those lines are drawn in a way that unfairly influences the outcomes of future elections.

That is gerrymandering.

So how does this work?

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Here’s a quick guide.

This represents the voting population of an entire region.

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This is how the voting districts should be drawn for fair representation.

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This is how gerrymandering can leave the minority without representation. The voting outcome of these districts would favor the blue group, which is in line with the actual demographics of the area. But the lines unfairly disempower the red group.

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And this is how gerrymandering can result in minority rule, leaving the majority underrepresented.

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59

The number of congressional seats affected each election cycle by gerrymandering, per a 2019 estimate.

Center for American Progress

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Things might be getting worse.

In many states, the party with legislative control gets to re-draw the lines for congressional districts. Following the 2020 Census, Republicans will have the ability to re-draw 187 congressional districts. Democrats will only control 75.

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4x

There are four times as many Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts as Democratic ones.

Associated Press

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We can fix this.

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There are several solutions to gerrymandering, all of which boil down to making the map-drawing process free of partisan input.

1. Independent commissions

This is the most commonly used and proposed solution, which would take the power of redistricting and put it in the hands of an independent and non-partisan panel that would draw congressional lines.

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2. Contiguous political districts

Currently, maps can be drawn however the party in power wants, allowing them to create odd-looking districts that make little sense in order to maintain power.

Passing laws that require maps to focus on contiguous political districts, or communities that share political and geographical makeup, would eliminate some of the bias.

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3. Algorithms

Another option: Hand over the mapmaking process to machines. There are several computer models that treat redistricting like a math equation rather than a political calculus.

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There’s one more solution available right now: the For The People Act.

It passed the House in March but was filibustered by Republicans in the Senate. The bill would require independent commissions to be established in every state to handle redistricting and would require bipartisan support for every proposed map.

Right now, it’s stalled. But other versions of the bill like the Freedom to Vote Act offer similar paths to addressing gerrymandering — if they can pass Republican opposition.

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