Redistricting Showdown

August 25, 2017 • Volume 27, Issue 29
Should partisan gerrymandering be eliminated?
By Jane Fullerton Lemons

Introduction

Former lobbyist Russ Tidwell is helping minority-rights groups sue Texas (Cover: AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Former lobbyist Russ Tidwell is helping minority-rights groups sue Texas lawmakers over Republican-drawn voting maps that the groups say illegally disadvantage Hispanic and black voters. A potentially landmark Supreme Court case this fall could rewrite the rules on how legislative districts are drawn. (Cover: AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The Supreme Court has long rejected legislative districts drawn to give one racial or ethnic group an advantage in state and federal elections. But the court has never set standards for deciding when districts drawn explicitly for partisan political purposes are unconstitutional. That could soon change as the court prepares to hear a potentially landmark Wisconsin redistricting case this fall. At stake is the balance of power in state legislatures and the right to draw the next set of congressional boundaries, based on the 2020 census. Redistricting abuses — known pejoratively as gerrymandering — have sparked outrage for disenfranchising voters and unfairly helping political parties maintain power. Some districts redrawn into contorted shapes — such as Pennsylvania's “Upside-Down Chinese Dragon” and Illinois' “Rabbit on a Skateboard” — have provoked particular scorn. Experts say Democrats had the upper hand in gerrymandering for years but that Republicans have had the edge since 2010. Meanwhile, the Census Bureau is struggling with funding, untested technology and political pressure as it prepares for the 2020 count.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Reapportionment, Redistricting, and Representation
Aug. 25, 2017  Redistricting Showdown
Feb. 25, 2011  Redistricting Debates
Apr. 11, 2008  D.C. Voting Rights
Feb. 16, 2001  Redistricting
Aug. 12, 1994  Electing Minorities
Feb. 15, 1991  Redistricting: Drawing Power with a Map
Feb. 05, 1982  Reapportionment: Year of Decision
Sep. 30, 1964  Reapportionment Struggle
May 03, 1961  Reapportionment in the Courts
Oct. 29, 1958  Unequal Representation
Oct. 10, 1950  Representation in the United Nations
Jan. 03, 1950  Legislative Apportionment
Nov. 08, 1938  Proportional Representation
May 13, 1929  The Census and Reapportionment
Dec. 06, 1927  Apportionment of Representatives in Congress
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Campaigns and Elections
Census
Federal Courts
Party Politics
Party Politics
Reapportionment and Redistricting
Reapportionment and Redistricting
Voting and Suffrage