Gerrymandering is the act of politicians manipulating the redrawing of legislative district lines in order to help their friends and hurt their enemies. They may seek to help one party win extra seats (a partisan gerrymander), make incumbents of both parties safer (an incumbent-protection gerrymander) or target particular incumbents who have fallen out of favor.
Those engaged in gerrymandering rely heavily on winner-take-all voting rules. That is, when 51% of voters earn 100% of representation, those drawing districts can pack, stack and crack the population in order to make some votes count to their full potential and waste other votes. Gerrymandering has become easier today due to a combination of new technology to precisely draw districts and greater voter partisan rigidity that makes it easier to project the outcome of new districts.
Independent redistricting commissions and other public interest changes to redistricting are important, but trying to fix gerrymandering fully within winner-take-all voting rules is simply impossible. Reasonable goals will always be in conflict, such as:
The key to fixing gerrymandering is changing key statutory laws for how elections are held. Check out our resources:
Image Source: Maryland Department of Planning
FairVote’s proposals that most directly speak to this problem zero in on changing statutory laws for how we hold elections.
U.S. House Elections: We are building support for the Ranked Choice Voting Act. It would make three key changes:
States can also make changes right now to promote the goals of the Ranked Choice Voting Act. For example, one proposal would have state enter into an "Interstate Compact for Fair Representation." This would be a contract between two or more states that would each agree to elect using ranked choice voting in multi-winner districts drawn by independent redistricting commissions.
Gerrymandering is often blamed for problems that are really inherent in the use of single-winner districts, such as a lack of competition or outcomes that unfairly favor one political party. Bipartisan redistricting commissions, independent redistricting commissions, and citizen redistricting commission are often seen as the solution to gerrymandered districts because they take district maps out of partisan (or even political) hands. There are good reasons to take power away from partisans in drawing district, but analyses by FairVote and leading scholars show that no matter how a state redistricts, single-winner districts tend to lead to outcomes controlled by the partisans that maintain the power of one party in a district. Despite the frequent association of gerrymandering with bizarrely shaped districts and poor aesthetics, both merely provide circumstantial evidence of legislative wrongdoing. Drawing oddly-shaped districts
Despite the frequent association of gerrymandering with bizarrely shaped districts and poor aesthetics, both merely provide circumstantial evidence of legislative wrongdoing. Drawing oddly-shaped districts is neither a goal of gerrymandering nor is it necessary for a map to be gerrymandered. It is not difficult to draw district maps that unfairly favor one political faction or entrench incumbents using attractively compact districts. Helpful resources include: