The issue of gerrymandering is back in the courts as new cases challenging the constitutionality of this redistricting process have been brought before the Supreme Court. But what does it all mean?
This week we look at How to Win An Election: Gerrymandering
When Politicians Pick Their Voters…
Every 10 years the U.S. census counts the number of residents in the United States, and uses this data to determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. For example, a state that elects 13 House members will be divided into 13 congressional districts. According to the law in most states, the majority party in the state legislature gets to redraw these congressional boundaries following the census.
So what happens when a party uses this map-drawing process to help it gain more seats? This is called partisan gerrymandering, and with increasingly sophisticated computer programs giving politicians evermore detailed information on voters, it has become a far more powerful tool for securing electoral victory in the past 20 years.
But who are the winners and losers in the redistricting process?
In this episode, 538 discusses the impact of gerrymandering and what reformers are trying to do to change the system.
From Blue To Red
In 2010 the Republican party spent an estimated $30 million on an innovative strategy called REDMAP (short for the Redistricting Majority Project) in order to win control over a number of vulnerable statehouses and thereby seize control over the redistricting processes. The REDMAP website was clear in their intentions: “The party controlling that effort controls the drawing of the maps—shaping the political landscape for the next 10 years.”
And it worked. The Republicans gained nearly 700 state legislative seats, flipping 21 statehouses from Democrat to Republican - the largest increase in modern electoral history. This meant they gained complete control over the redistricting process in half the country. And what happened next fundamentally changed the course of the elections that followed.
In this episode, Planet Money discusses the impact of REDMAP on the U.S. electoral system… and what it means for democracy.
The Court Rules… Maybe
“Gerrymandering isn’t just a problem for Democrats, it’s a problem for democracy…"
The courts have long ruled that racial gerrymandering is unconstitutional - that is, spreading minorities across voting districts in order to weaken their voting power. But, Supreme Court judges have been reluctant to take the same approach with regards to partisan gerrymandering… until recently.
In this episode, Slate’s ‘What Next’ discusses whether the Supreme Court may finally be ready to put the nail in the coffin of partisan gerrymandering, and the court cases and judges to watch as this process unfolds.