What is gerrymandering, and why should you pay attention to it? - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

What is gerrymandering, and why should you pay attention to it?

(RNN) - The U.S. Supreme Court decided against weighing in on partisan gerrymandering Monday in a pair of cases out of Wisconsin and Maryland, kicking the cases back to lower courts.

With a number of court cases challenging voting districts in states working their way through lower federal courts, Monday’s news caused curious political watchers to pull out their phones and Google the word.

The basic conflict with gerrymandering is that the political party in power can draw the districts to benefit them, allowing politicians to pick their voters to help them get re-elected.

How does gerrymandering affect American democracy?

Supposing we have a small state of 50 people, where 30 belong to the blue party and 20 to the red, the ideal representation would be to have the 5 districts separated into 3 blue and 2 red. However, through the creative carving of gerrymandering, either color could be represented as the majority. The process can create problems with voter representation.

This isn’t the first time gerrymandering has been relevant in American politics.

Gerrymandering has been an issue for the last 200 years. The term was named after the fifth vice president of the U.S. and former Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, who redrew the map of the state senate’s voting districts to weaken the opposing party in 1810.

In reality, people don’t live in areas sorted by politics, but the consequences of lopsided representation are very real. 

In addition to Wisconsin and Maryland, North Carolina has a gerrymandering case making its way through the courts.

What is redistricting, and how is it different from gerrymandering?

Every 10 years, the Census is taken to update population counts across the U.S. When this happens, the boundaries are drawn for congressional and state legislative districts - this is called redistricting. 

California, for example, has its own redistricting organization. This organization is responsible for determining the boundaries of the districts, and it consists of 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 commissioners from neither major party.

Click here to see how your state draws the lines on your voting districts.

Copyright 2018 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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