Drawing the Lines: What is Gerrymandering?
Whether it be on a news channel or your government class, you’ve probably heard the term “gerrymandering” thrown around before. But what does it actually mean, and why is it so important?
Every ten years, a census (the next one is in 2020) is issued to determine the population of each state, which in turn determines how much representation each state gets in the House of Representatives. Each member in the House represents a part of their state, also known as their congressional district. In order for representation to be equal in the House, the population of each congressional district must be as close to equal as possible. This is where problems arise, as the population amongst any given state is never evenly distributed, so some congressional districts need to be larger than others.
When the population changes, these districts need to be re-drawn, which is where gerrymandering comes into play. State legislatures that will draw districts to concentrate certain population characteristics so that one party (usually the party that the majority of the state legislators belong to) can more easily elect a member from a district in question. In simpler terms, gerrymandering just means that congressional districts can be manipulated so as to create more democratic or more republican districts, even if that does not quite reflect the political makeup of the region.
But why is this so important to know about? No matter your political party, it is always important that your voice and that of your constituents is heard in every election, especially in that of your congressional representatives. It is imperative to be aware of the different ways that one’s vote can be compromised, and in this case for the sake of swaying elections towards one party or the other.