Gerrymandering at Work
ElectoralVote.com looks at the time-honored practice of Gerrymandering congressional districts for maximum partisan advantage.
To make the concept clearer, consider a state with 8 million people and 12 congressional districts, for simplicity. If half the people are Democrats and half the people are Republicans, you might get 12 CDs, each with, say, 300,000 Democrats and 300,000 Republicans and competitive elections (assuming 800,000 children in the state). On some other planet maybe.
In reality, if the Democrats control the state government, they might draw eight districts with 350,000 Democrats and 250,000 Republicans, ensuring eight seats in Congress by margins of 58% to 42%. The remaining people would be stuffed into districts with 200,000 Democrats and 400,000 Republicans each. If the Republicans got to draw the map, they would do it precisely the other way. Either way, the guys drawing the map could be sure of 8 of the 12 seats.
The maps of some of the more eggregiously Gerrymandered districts (thumnailed right) are truly astounding. As Taegan Goddard observes, districts like these are “one of the main reasons so few congressional seats are in play during this year’s elections.”
While the Supreme Court has established numerous restrictions on how state legislatures may draw districts–this, despite the Constitution rather clearly giving state legislatures plenary power over this matter–the only one that matters when race qua race is not a primary motivating factor is that each district within a state must have nearly identical population. If, however, a litigant can demonstrate that race was a motivating factor–whether to diminish or concentrate the voting power of racial minorities protected under the 14th Amendment–then a host of other factors come into play.
It would make a lot more sense to have these lines drawn by objective professionals with no stake in the outcome, taking into account longstanding geographical, county, municipal, and other logical boundaries. A few states have delegated the process with that goal in mind. Alas, taking the politics out of politics is too much to ask and most state legislatures have tried to use their power over redistricting to maximum political advantage.