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Original 1811 Gerrymandered districts



Gerrymandering - Vote Manipulation.  Congressional districts have, since 1811, been established by the party in power with odd shapes to insure safe election of more candidates from their party.  Instead of 10 districts with 50% of each party, they can give 100% to the other party in two districts by creative drawing.  The result is a majority in the other 8 districts of 60%.  This makes the primary more important than the general election.  Since the radicals of each party are the ones who vote more in primaries, this leads to candidates having to appeal to the radical wing of their party, not the people as a whole.  The 1994 republican takeover of Congress was largely due to gerrymandering after the 1990 census.



Original 1811 Gerrymandered map.


In 2003, the Texas Republicans redistricting put 7 democratic incumbents in different districts by drawing the lines to snake around their homes.  This was payback for the Democrats 1991 redistricting, which resulted in winning 70% of the House seats with only a 50-48% advantage in the popular vote.  In Michigan, where there are more Democratic voters than Republicans, gerrymandering gave a 9-6 advantage to the Republicans.  Democrats do the same when they are in power.  After the 1980 census, Phil Burton gerrymandered California in favor of the Democrats, increasing the Democrats House advantage from 22-21 to 27-18.

While gerrymandering has been around for a long time, some recent trends have made it worse.  Sophisticated software makes gerrymandering more effective, factoring in actual voting, not just registration.  Districts change color on the display when the boundaries make the result switch, and homes of representatives are shown with elephant or donkey icons.

A new tactic is re-drawing districts to move an incumbent’s home into another district, forcing the incumbent to run against the entrenched incumbent from that district, who may even be from the same party. 

In the 80s and 90s, black Democrats formed an “unholy alliance” with Republicans.  The result was districts in the South being drawn with 60% blacks, sending more blacks to Congress, rather than white democrats.  It also concentrated democratic votes, allowing more republicans to be elected from neighboring districts.

Democratically gerrymandered California, with 53 representatives, could agree to eliminate gerrymandering when republican gerrymandered states with an equal number of representatives do the same.  For example, republican gerrymandered Texas (32 representatives) and a couple other republican gerrymandered states.  Absent such inter-state cooperation, efforts to end gerrymandering in a single state are usually portrayed as a political ploy by the party out of favor, such as republicans in California.

It has been suggested, however, that ending Gerrymandering won't solve the problem, since the problem is that people of like minds live together. In certain states where gerrymandering was ended, it didn't make any difference in the representation.  However, the fact that politicians have been able to substantially increase the number of their party through gerrymandering suggests that ending it would have an opposite substantial effect, although perhaps only in large, diverse states such as California and Texas.  Steven Hill of the New America Foundation admits redistricting reform "may make a few more legislative seats more competitive" but argues that the concentration of Democrats on the coast and Republicans inland means the seats will not suddenly become competitive.  He is in favor of a proportional representation system.

In California, in 2005, the voters voted down Proposition 77 , which would have ended gerrymandering.  But a limited version (California only, not Congressional representatives) was approved in 2008 with the passage of Proposition 11.

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In California, after the 1980 gerrymandering Democrats increased their House advantage from 22-21 to 27-18.




In Texas, after the 2002 gerrymandering, Republicans won 50% of the vote, but 70% of the seats.

“The extremism of California’s politicians . . . is mostly the result of gerrymandering.”  The Economist, “Last Action Hero.”



Ominously, people not only associate with only those of similar political beliefs, they choose where to live on this basis.  The Big Sort.

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