Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing up districts to favor one group over another. It could be a race, an ethnicity, a geographic area, or a political party. How would one go about determining if a state’s districts were Gerrymandered?
The term was derived from a politician named Gerry who drew a district that looked like a salamander so as to include all the voters of a different persuasion in a single district. That minimized the seats they might control in the state legislature.
Up until fairly recently, Gerrymandering was simply considered one of the perquisites of winning a state’s legislature. Once you had control, you changed the districts to make sure you kept control even if the voters swung against you. That was just how it was done. Every state in the Union has some Gerrymandering at the local, state and/or federal level.
Let’s look at an example.
Long ago, when LA annexed the SFV, there was little but small towns and orange groves. It could have been a contiguous district but the city decided they didn’t want the newly annexed area to have any political power. It was a hostile takeover fueled by real estate money. The best interests of the SFV didn’t always line up with the best interests of the central city. Ever since there have been periodic secession attempts by the SFV but it can’t happen because state law requires a majority of voters in the entire city to agree.
Today there are still vestiges of that Gerrymandering. Note particularly the 4th and 5th districts. It is painfully obvious that they could have been drawn more logically but the incumbents like it that way because it ensures reelection AND keeps the power in the south.
There are 5 Valley districts and 7 Basin districts. If 4 and 5 were rationalized, it would be 6 and 6. That’s a huge power shift.
Mathematics is able to shed some light on Gerrymandering and had a prominent role in shedding light on the case of North Carolina where the districts have been declared illegal twice with no resolution. But make no mistake, almost every state in the Union has Gerrymandering at some level. Even those who assign judges and then let the legislature modify the recommendations. It is just what you do when you are in power during a reapportionment year.
The idea for the post came from:
Which led me to:
Which led me to this most informative video.