October 19, 2017

A political cartoon comments on an 1812 Massachusetts redistricting plan designed to keep the political party of Governor Elbridge Gerry in power. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Every decade, states are required to redraw their district lines. But redistricting isn’t always fair or done with constituents’ best interests in mind. In fact, there’s a lot of shady practices that go into redistricting. We talk with Justin Levitt, the Loyola University law professor behind the website All About Redistricting to learn how gerrymandering shapes our politics.

Three Takeaways 

  • Levitt says many people attribute the polarized redistricting process to new technologies and a new set of rules. That’s not necessarily the case. Instead, Levitt says polarization has more to do with a breakdown of societal norms.
  • States are required to redraw district lines every decade. Some states have a better track record than others. Every decade since the 1970s, courts have struck down Texas’ new districts, citing political or racial gerrymandering. 
  • Levitt says the best way to bring about redistricting reform is for citizens to push it through as a ballot initiative like they did in California. But even if you muster up enough support, the initiative might not make it past a state's Supreme Court.

More reading 

  • Vox dives into the difference between racial and partisan gerrymandering.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court is taking up a case on gerrymandering. Northeastern University’s Dan Urman discusses what this case could mean for future elections
  • The Washington Post examines what redistricting looks like elsewhere in the world.

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