Gerrymandering and Redistricting
Redistricting is a process that takes place normally after a U.S. Census, every 10 years, to more accurately draw political district lines to reflect changes in population.
Gerrymandering occurs when oddly shaped districts are formed in order to favor a particular political party. Of the ten states deemed to be most-gerrymandered, Democrats redrew the lines on four states while Republicans redrew the lines on six.
In Minnesota, the state legislature has the responsibility for redistricting congressional, legislative and Met Council districts, while county boards are responsible for redistricting county commissioner districts, city councils for city wards and school boards for board member districts. In Minnesota, the Secretary of State has the power to order corrections to redistricting plans, conduct training on redistricting and adjust election district boundaries in certain cases.
When Minnesota’s U.S. congressional districts were redrawn in 2012, the lines mainly stayed the same, except for the metro region. Certain districts still favor particular political parties in parts of Minnesota. For example, the 6th congressional district has historically voted Republican while the 4th and 5th districts will likely vote for Democrats, because of the voting patterns established in those districts over periods of time.
How Unfair Districting Works
Gerrymandering can skew the outcome of elections by misrepresenting the majority of a state’s electorate. For instance, even if the majority of citizens in a state vote for a Republican for President, the opposite party can retain control or gain seats in Congress depending on how district lines are drawn.
So, if certain neighborhoods in a district are predominantly Democratic in the middle of a Republican state, by combining or drawing a district line around those Democratic votes, a district can create a false majority.
Disagreement Over Drawing Lines
Many states have partisan (single party) redistricting groups depending on which party has the majority in the state. In Minnesota, both congressional and state legislative district lines are drawn by the state legislature.
In both the 2010 and 2000 redistricting cycles, the Minnesota Supreme Court was forced to appoint a panel to draw the final congressional district lines as the legislature could not come up with an agreeable plan.
Greater Gerrymandering Effect
Gerrymandering was a factor in the 2012 congressional election, in which House Democratic candidates won 50.59% of the vote (1.37 million more votes than Republicans), but only won 201 seats in Congress, while Republicans won 234 seats.
More states are moving toward creating nonpartisan boards to draw district lines. There are 12 states that currently give redistricting powers to groups other than the legislature. As states slowly start to use nonpartisan committees for redistricting the hope is that in 2020, when lines are drawn again, the majority of voters will be more fairly represented according to their voting preferences and less by the manipulations of party gerrymandering.