Rampant Gerrymandering Impacting 2022 Redistricting

Nicholas Lockwood

One of the most important processes that occurs in U.S. politics is congressional redistricting. Redistricting, simply put, is the process in drawing electoral district boundaries. This includes electoral boundaries for individual state legislature seats towards the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressional districts are shaped due to a multitude of factors. These factors involve reapportionment from the U.S. Census Bureau along with individual state laws that are in place. However, there is a great poison that pervades through this entire process that intentionally dilutes the power of voters. That process is known as gerrymandering. 


What Is Gerrymandering? 


Gerrymandering is the intentional drawing of congressional districts to give one political party an advantage over another. There are two main ways that gerrymandering is carried out, known as “cracking or packing.” Districts can be “cracked” to split up communities of interest into multiple congressional districts. Districts can be “packed” when voters are concentrated into one congressional district. Gerrymanders are drawn to dilute the power of voters based on race, socio-economic conditions, or other important characteristics to one group. The term originated from Former Vice President and Governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry. Gerry drew strange congressional lines in order to intentionally benefit his political party, the Democratic-Repubicans, in 1812. One congressional district’s shape in particular became infamous due to its salamander-like shape, creating the term “gerrymander” by prominent federalists. However, the infamous salamander was just the beginning on how politicians would draw congressional districts in order to benefit themselves politically. 


The 2022 Redistricting Cycle and Modern Day Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering has obviously continued throughout American history. Both major political parties have influence over congressional districts through control of state legislatures in each individual state. However, gerrymandering has gotten more prominent due to the increasing national divide. Throughout numerous states, both Democrats and Republicans have drawn lines to benefit their political parties in the 2022 Midterm Elections along with the following elections for this decade. From the West Coast to the East Coast, there have been clear cut examples of gerrymandering being practiced in order to benefit Democrats or Republicans. Some of following examples include:




A clear example of cracking and packing districts comes from the state of Oregon. Oregon Democrats received an F from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project for many reasons. Democrats packed voters in Eastern Oregon in order to solidly have Republicans into one district. Moreover, Senate Democrats wanted to solidly have a 5-1 DEM map by splitting Portland into four individual congressional districts. 


Nevada / New Mexico

This was another example of gerrymandering in both states by Democrats. Both state Democratic parties split up the major cities of Las Vegas and Albuquerque in order to win or even gain congressional districts from Republicans. However, there is concern from Democratic allies that these maps are “dummymanders.” As a side note, “dummymanders” are made when a political party thinks that new redistricting lines will support their party but backfire. In Nevada, it is possible that Democrats diluted too many liberal-leaning voters in Las Vegas in rural Nevada that Republicans could theoretically pick up every district in its delegation. This also applies with the state of New Mexico as well. Both maps are currently under litigation as well. 



For the first example of a Republican gerrymander, Kansas Republicans split up Kansas City and created a congressional district that would attempt to kick Democrat Sharice Davids out of Congress. By cracking Democratic voters and minorities in Wyandotte County, a part of Kansas City, this map will be extremely debated in court. This congressional map might be struck down by the Kansas Supreme Court for violating the Voting Rights Act based on the splitting of minority voters in particular. 



Another significant Republican gerrymander came from the state of Texas. By significant examples of cracking and packing conservative and liberal voters, Texas Republicans formed this map to purely protect incumbents and keep the status quo of how many Democrats and Republicans represent the state. However, this plan is currently under litigation by the Department of Justice for violating the Voting Rights Act. 



For the state of Illinois, a strong Democratic stronghold, there were clear examples of packing Republican voters into three congressional districts in order to elect more Democrats. Democrats could possibly gain a seat due to the successful packing of voters by the state party this November.



One of the most obvious gerrymanders comes from the home of country music. Republicans split up Nashville in order to dilute its voting power in order to gain a seat for the rest of the decade. Tennessee Democrats have vowed to bring this map to court. 


New York

Perhaps the most brutal gerrymander of the cycle is from the state of New York. Democrats not only packed and cracked several seats, they are most likely getting rid of four Republicans seats. This delegation of a 22-4 DEM map will probably be maintained for the decade. However, this might possibly change due to the Democrats in the state facing litigation from Republicans due to odd congressional shapes in New York city and if the map is compact.  


All of these maps follow the basic procedures on how parties successfully gerrymander and gain seats from the whole redistricting process. The clear cut basis of the national divide is shown by the increase in gerrymanders seen across the country. So the main question is, how is this process even legal in the first place?


Effect of Gerrymandering Nationwide

As previously mentioned and illustrated, gerrymandering particularly impacts how much representation a party can fully possess in each congressional delegation. However, there are many other examples of how gerrymandering impacts U.S. politics. 


One example is extremism and the dilution of moderate voters. According to Brookings, “‘Congressional districts are drawn in ways that make nearly all of them safe for one or another of the major political parties. Considered in tandem with low-turnout primaries, gerrymandering further diminishes the influence of moderates.” This conclusion makes sense because with the redrawing of districts to compact conservative and liberal voters, it gets rid of virtually all competitive districts. Without competitive congressional districts, this doesn’t allow for the average “swing voter” to have a choice between candidates. This is only further emphasized with the increasing rural and urban division that occurs in U.S. elections. 


Remedy for Gerrymandering

Based on many recent redistricting cycles, there has been a large discussion of the usage of gerrymandering in individual states. However, what are many local groups and states doing to fight against gerrymandering? Well, there are several examples. Many states, including Colorado and California have established independent redistricting commissions. These commissions have been intended to draw competitive or fair congressional districts. This can be done with a group of independents voting on congressional maps or court-appointees. Many other states have also been able to pass amendments that would prevent gerrymandering as well.



Gerrymandering is a perfect example of the increasing amount of political divisions between both parties in the United States. This problem is further exemplified by actions from both parties in order to expand their control and governance. So, will this process change? Only time will tell.


State Image Links:



In Nevada, gerrymandering claims come from all sides



Illinois’ ‘extreme’ risk of gerrymandering becomes reality through congressional map



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