Gerrymandering and Redistricting: The Essential Differences You Must Know

by Eli Mshomi

While democracies are considered the fairest form of government, principally due to the concept of free elections, many electoral challenges have cast shadows on the efficacy of democracies. One such challenge is the diminishing difference between redistricting and gerrymandering.

The primary difference between redistricting and gerrymandering is that redistricting is done every ten years in the United States, which allows the latest population changes to be incorporated in the elections. On the other hand, gerrymandering is a political effort that is done to do redistricting in a way that helps a specific political party.

How is redistricting different from gerrymandering?

Redistricting is a fair process and is part and partial of any democracy. In fact, countries, where active redistricting is not done, do not represent the democratic practices in a true way.

People tend to move within countries, and this intra-country migration makes some states more and others less populated.

It means that the states where people are coming in bulk will have more seats in the House of Representatives, and the opposite is true for states where the population is declining.

But this is where gerrymandering comes in. In gerrymandering, political parties engineer the redistricting process in a way that helps those in power to create new districts so that they can win elections easily.

The prominent example in this regard is the increase in the share of seats of Texas, which resulted in rigorous gerrymandering by Republicans.

After the 2020 census, Texas got two new Congressional seats, and the GOP found it an opportunity to increase its likelihood of winning those seats.

Is gerrymandering only done by Republicans?

Gerrymandering is not a new phenomenon and is not done by Republicans only, as it is often perceived.

While Republicans may be the leaders of gerrymandering, many Democratic states are also pursuing it to manipulate districts in their chosen way. In New York City, Democrats are pursuing gerrymandering religiously as two new seats of the state Senate are allocated to the city.

By default, Democrats assumed that the non-white voters belonged to them, so they tried to orchestrate racial gerrymandering by counting on Black people. While some suggest that this move could backfire, however, it is likely to gove results in their favor.

What are the famous ways to do gerrymandering?

With the end goal of winning elections, gerrymandering can be done in many of the following ways:

  • Leveraging data to separate some voters from other
  • Drawing up district lines so that the winning margin can be as little as possible and the rest of the winning margin can be utilized in a district where a candidate would otherwise perform poorly.
  • If a party is sure of losing a district, they would want it to lose by the most votes so that those votes cannot be adjusted anywhere else.

What do political parties need to do for gerrymandering?

Data is the most important thing in doing gerrymandering as political campaigns have to leverage this data to know where they should do and where they should not do this gerrymandering. 

This data can be present in various forms, e.g., by measuring the registered voters for a specific political party or seeing the general income trends, past voting records, and even seeing the color of the skin of the people.

As political campaigns already have rigorous data from political surveys and data mining, they know which area to target and which to ignore to get the best possible results.

Final Thoughts

Gerrymandering is a classic example of perpetuating institutional racism in the United States, as drawing these maps based on race is a common practice.

Even though making laws that discriminate against people based on race, caste, creed, and religion is prohibited, many times states get away with these laws, and other times they end up facing legal challenges in courts.

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