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Illinois District 4 (2004) shows rampant gerrymandering: it consists of two distinct regions, "connected" by a razor-thin region along I-294.
Gerrymandering is a form of political corruption which involves the defining electoral districts in unnatural geographic divisions which are constructed to favor one or more political parties. The redistricting can be done both to solidify the strength of an incumbent, or to make it more likely that an incumbent will be unseated. Often, there are political fights and deals over the redistricting, which result in "political trades" in which one party agrees to a redistricting unfavorable to them in exchange either for some other change in districting that favors them, or some other political gain.
I am opposed to gerrymandering in any form, and would support ending it even in cases where a more natural districting would result in electoral gains for groups whose views disagree with mine. I am opposed to gerrymandering because I see numerous negative effects that it has:
- In regions dominated by a single party, gerrymandering results in that party holding consistently greater power than pure democratic representation alone would warrant, which undermines democracy.
- In regions where two distinct parties hold considerable amounts of power, the back-and-forth fights involving gerrymandering, in the long-run, lead to electoral districts which strongly favor a two-party system.
- Gerrymandering results in unnatural boundaries in which cities, counties, and other cohesive social and governmental units are broken up, and districts often include strange and distant areas. This makes it hard for elected officials to represent their districts.
- Gerrymandering systematically disenfranchises the voters that end up in the minority of a district controlled by a party with differing views. These people's votes end up counting less than those of citizens in disputed districts. While this phenomenon happens to a lesser degree in other, more impartial districting setups, I find it more problematic when it happens as a result of deliberate political activities.
Ending or Preventing Gerrymandering:
There are numerous examples of methods to prevent gerrymandering. The state of Iowa uses a non-partisan organization called the Legislative Services Bureau to define boundaries according to a set of rules which expressly prohibit consideration of political factors, and require the districts to respect city and county boundaries. I support this type of solution.
There are some proposed "solutions" to gerrymandering which I do not support. For example, the Ohio Re-districting Initiative (2005), also known as 2005 Ohio Issue 4 or the Independent Redistricting Process, intended to maximize the "competitiveness" of districts according to a formula. This issue was voted down by a large margin, with 69.70% of people voting against it. I believe that this was a good decision: this initiative would result in unnatural geographic boundaries, in which cohesive communities were broken up into distinct electoral districts. It would also heighten the amount of political dissent beyond that which would naturally occur.
- Gerrymandering - Wikipedia - A thorough and ever-changing article on the topic of gerrymandering; a good starting point to read about this issue.
- Redistricting - FairVote.org - FairVote is an organization that advocates for comprehensive voting and political reform; this page outlines FairVote's plan for redistricting reform, which aims to completely end gerrymandering.
- Gerrymandering Examples and a Solution - RangeVoting.org - An article giving examples and a proposed algorithmic solution to gerrymandering. RangeVoting is another website advocating some interesting and innovating voting reforms.
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