img Explainer

Partisan Gerrymandering
ONC Editorial

May 30, 2023

This Explainer discusses the consequences of gerrymandering on American democracy.

The congressional redistricting process reflects changing population trends in America, ensuring that voters are properly represented in state and federal legislatures. Without proper representation, voters lose faith in their political system and in democracy. Partisan gerrymandering is a tool that political parties use to unfairly attain more seats in government, thus hijacking the redistricting process.  

Gerrymandering consists of cracking or packing voters into districts. Cracking refers to diluting the power of the opposite party by splitting their voters into as many districts as possible. Packing refers to concentrating voters of the opposite party into as few districts as possible. Both lead to irrational, sprawling, and oblong districts. 

Thirty-nine states allow state legislatures to draw districts, increasing the partisan nature of the redistricting process. States where one party has a supermajority—the party controls the Governorship, and the State House and Senate by wide margins—are the most likely to experience partisan gerrymandering. In an effort to reduce partisan influence, some states have delegated the power to draw district boundaries to nonpartisan outside groups. 

Gerrymandering decreases electoral competition. The Cook Political Report suggests that once all states have completed the latest round of redistricting, there will only be 30-35 highly competitive U.S. Congressional districts. 

When campaigns are competitive, candidates are more likely to craft policies that reflect the views of all constituents; competitiveness also increases political efficacy for the average voter—which is essential for democracy. 

To see sources consulted and/or to learn about the author, click here.

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