“That makes no sense!”
“Your district looks like it has bunny ears!”
Funny enough, these are actual quotes I have heard when I show people my district. It is only after I explain to them how district lines are drawn that they begin to understand the reason for the bunny ears!
I tell them that every 10 years the government completes a census, which counts all the people in the country. Then the following year, the State Legislature redraws legislative districts while taking into account the census information.
Sounds fair, right?! Well, when one party controls a majority of the State Legislature, the districts drawn tend to favor that party. This is called GERRYMANDERING!
What is Gerrymandering?
Gerrymandering refers to the drawing of political boundaries to favor one party or faction over another. It was first done in Massachusetts in 1812 by Elbridge Gerry (hence the name).
How is Gerrymandering done?
The two primary techniques used to accomplish gerrymandering are packing and cracking.
(see diagram below)
–Packing is concentrating the opposing party’s voting power in one district to reduce their voting power in other districts.
–Cracking is spreading the voting power of the opposing party’s supporters across many districts.
Why is Gerrymandering bad?
Many experts attribute gerrymandering to the extreme polarization of our political parties today, because it limits the power of the moderate voters in each district.
It can also lead people to believe their votes don’t matter! For example, the 2016 election results show that Indiana is not nearly as “red” of a state as the makeup of the legislature would lead you to believe.
In the 2016 election, Donald Trump won Indiana 57% to 43%, and Senator Todd Young won 51% to 49%. However, the Indiana House is 70% Republican and 30% Democrat, and the Indiana Senate is 80% Republican and 20% Democrat.
Based on the results of the 2016 election, one could expect the Indiana House and Senate to have a breakdown more like 50-60% Republican and 40-50% Democrat.
How do we fix Gerrymandering?
Many people, myself included, are in favor of having an independent bipartisan commission draw the district lines, rather than the legislature.. This would help alleviate some of the biases that go into district making and hopefully lead to more fair and representative districts.
If you would like to learn more, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.