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Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering

In the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan, incumbent-protected districts. The resulting district is known as a gerrymander; however, that word can also refer to the process.

Gerrymandering may be used to achieve desired electoral results for a particular party, or may be used to help or hinder a particular demographic, such as a political, racial, linguistic, religious or class group. 

Group Administrator: Brian Hunt

Members: 11
Latest Activity: Jul 10, 2012

Gerrymandering (cont.)

EFFECTS OF GERRYMANDERING (via Wikipedia article "Gerrymandering")

 

REDUCTION IN ELECTORAL COMPETITION AND VOTER TURNOUT

  • Elections become less competitive in all districts, particularly packed ones. As electoral margins of victory become significantly greater and politicians have safe seats, the incentive for meaningful campaigning is reduced.
  • As the chance of influencing electoral results by voting is reduced, voter turnout is likely to decrease. Hence, political campaigns are less likely to expend resources to encourage turnout. With a reduction in competition, a candidate puts more effort into securing party nomination for a given district rather than gaining approval of the general electorate.  The candidate is virtually assured of a win once nominated.

INCREASED INCUMBENT ADVANTAGE AND CAMPAIGN COSTS

  • Incumbents are far more likely to be reelected under conditions of gerrymandering.  Incumbents are likely to be of the majority party orchestrating a gerrymander, and incumbents are usually easily renominated in subsequent elections, including incumbents among the minority.
  • Deleterious effects on the principle of democratic accountability. With uncompetitive seats/districts reducing the fear that incumbent politicians may lose office, they have less incentive to represent the interests of their constituents, even when those interests conform to majority support for an issue across the electorate as a whole. They may look out more for their party's interests than for those of their constituents.
  • It impacts campaign costs for district elections. If districts become increasingly stretched out, candidates must pay increased costs for transportation and trying to develop and present campaign advertising across a district.  The incumbent's advantage in securing campaign funds is another benefit of his or her having a gerrymandered secure seat.

LESS DESCRIPTIVE REPRESENTATION

  • Has significant effects on the representation received by voters in gerrymandered districts. Because gerrymandering can be designed to increase the number of wasted votes among the electorate, the relative representation of particular groups can be drastically altered from their actual share of the voting population. This effect can significantly prevent a gerrymandered system from achieving proportional and descriptive representation, as the winners of elections are increasingly determined by who is drawing the districts rather than the preferences of the voters.
  • Gerrymandering may be advocated to improve representation within the legislature among otherwise underrepresented minority groups by packing them into a single district. This can be controversial, as it may lead to those groups' remaining marginalized in the government as they become confined to a single district. Candidates outside that district no longer need to represent them to win election.

INCUMBENT GERRYMANDERING

  • It helps incumbents as a whole, effectively turning every district into a packed one and greatly reducing the potential for competitive elections. This is particularly likely to occur when the minority party has significant obstruction power—unable to enact a partisan gerrymander, the legislature instead agrees on ensuring their own mutual reelection.

PRISON-BASED GERRYMANDERING

  • Prison-based gerrymandering occurs when prisoners are counted as residents of a particular district increasing the district's population with non-voters when assigning political apportionment. This phenomenon, according to prisoners' rights organization, violates the principle of one person, one vote.  Prison Policy Initiative argues that although many prisoners come from (and return to) urban communities, they are counted as "residents" of the rural districts that contain large prisons, artificially inflating the political representation in districts with prisons at the expense of voters in all other districts without prisons.  Others contend that prisoners should not be counted as residents of their original districts when they do not reside there and are not legally eligible to vote.

 

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