Gerrymandering in the US

Gerrymandering is the way in which political parties draw legislative district boundaries so they can maximise power and seats won in their favour. In the US, redistricting takes place every ten years. Politicians basically select their voters. Gerrymandering is done through “packing” and “cracking”. For example, Republicans would want to “pack” as many Democratic voters into a district as they can (so lots of Democratic votes are essentially wasted.) Largely Democratic areas can also be “cracked” into different districts where there is a slight Republican majority; the number of blue votes in these locations wouldn’t have an impact if they don’t win the majority (vice versa). Republicans won control of lots of states in 2010 and redrew the political lines in their favour, allowing them to keep many states and shifting the power balance.

Gerrymandering is a massive part of structural racism. Gerrymandered maps can dilute POC voting power. Republicans have “packed and cracked” Black communities so they could secure their advantage. Tom Hofeller is greatly responsible for the US’ political maps today. In North Carolina, he created District 12 by “packing” Black people in Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Charlotte. He did the same with state representatives and senators, helping Republicans gain lots of power in North Carolina, allowing them to pass legislation that can hurt POC. There were attempts to create new voter ID laws, but it was blocked by a federal judge due to it being discriminatory.

Because this was racial gerrymandering, the district lines were redrawn under the court’s instructions. This time, however, it was partisan gerrymandering. In the 2018 election, Democrats got 48% of the votes for Congress but just 23% of the seats. They won 51% of the votes for state representatives, but only 46% of the seats and half of the votes for state senate with only 42% of the seats. North Carolina’s Supreme Court claimed the Republicans had to redraw the state senate and house maps again, finally creating a less biased map. While this is the case for North Carolina, many of Hoffeler’s maps are still being used for other states.

Gerrymandering has been occurring in the US for over two centuries. While the US Supreme Court has banned explicitly racist gerrymandering, in a 5–4 ruling, the justices said that when disputes happen over whether politicians have gone too far in drawing district lines for their own gain, the federal courts will stay out of it. This basically allows both parties to manipulate district lines as much as they want without fear of the federal courts intervening, leaving the responsibility of stopping this to the voters and states.

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