What is Gerrymandering?
In 1787, our founding fathers came to an agreement known as the Great Compromise. The deal called for two chambers of Congress to be created to form the legislative branch of the federal government—with the lower chamber to be named the House of Representatives and the upper chamber to be called the Senate.
The goal was to bring equal representation for each American to the decision making process of our infant government. The Senate was to name two members per state, regardless of size, to serve six-year terms each. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives was designed to reflect each states population distribution—with these members serving two-year terms. But has the current government system remained true to the spirit of equal representation that was coveted by our founders?
Technically, yes. States with larger populations like Florida or California are apportioned more congressional seats than less populated states like Montana or North Dakota. However, while representation may be equal based on population markers, accurate ideological representation of constituents is hardly accounted for in many of congressional districts.
Enter gerrymandering: A funny sounding word used to describe how congressional district boundaries are drawn to give one political party an advantage over the other—something the founders didn’t see coming.
Imagine a geographical grid of one hundred voters with their political ideologies represented by the colors, blue and red. The region is made up of forty percent blue voters and sixty percent red voters.
Now if the district lines were drawn in a consistent manner, such as this, the number of elected red and blue candidates would match the political make-up of the region perfectly—four elected candidates for blue and six for red.
However, after every national census, states are required to redraw congressional districts to address population movement. That’s when shenanigans happen. If the political party in power is able to control the redistricting process, they can draw the district boundaries in odd, irrational shapes in order to gain an advantage over the other party during the next election. The end result: an unrepresentative governmental body—where one party has gamed the system to get more votes than the other in Congress.
So if you ever see congressional districts that look like a blindfolded preschooler drew them, you now know that Gerrymandering was involved.
To learn more about the electoral process and the make-up of our government, visit InformationStation.org.