What Is Gerrymandering?
Gerrymandering, the partisan drawing of voting maps, has always been a part of American politics. The term itself dates back to 1812 and incorporates the name of Elbridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts, who signed a bill approving voting maps that favored his party. At the time, the Boston Gazette suggested that the contorted shape of one district resembled a salamander. Thus, we now use the term gerrymander to refer to voting districts specifically created to advantage one political party over another.
See a YouTube video: What Is Gerrymandering and What Does It Mean for Me as a Voter? (5 minutes, 48 seconds) and view a 1-hour, in-depth panel discussion on fair redistricting.
Why Is Impartial Redistricting Important?
The way that district boundaries are drawn can determine or strongly influence who gets elected. At different times, both the Democratic and the Republican parties have used gerrymandering to their advantage. Redistricting with Fair Maps helps to ensure that our legislative bodies reflect our changing population and that each citizen’s vote counts equally. Fair districts can lead to:
- More accountability to constituents because fewer seats are “safe” for members of one party.
- More time and money spent addressing real legislative priorities, rather than litigating court challenges and redrawing maps that courts found to be gerrymandered.
- More respect for communities of interest. Ballotpedia defines communities of interest as “groups with a common set of concerns that may be affected by legislation. Example of communities of interest include ethnic, racial, and economic groups.” These groups are most negatively impacted by unfair maps since they are often unable to elect representatives who support policies that will align with the interests of these groups of people. Maintaining communities of interest ensures their ability to lobby effectively for those interests.
- More voters who feel that their votes matter.
- The League of Women Voters - Wake sent observers to the North Carolina General Assembly during the redrawing of district maps in November 2019, "and while it (the process) appeared transparent on the surface, it actually yielded very little information for the public." As a result Wake members researched what has been learned about successful fair map drawing in other states, and produced their report, "Transparency in Redistricting: Recommended Best Practices." To learn more, read the report here.
What Is LWVHC Doing and What Can You Do?
The LWVHC Redistricting Team is working with LWVNC Fair Districts NC to get reasonable redistricting reform in place for the 2021 redrawing and end unfair maps in our state. If you are a LWVHC member interested in joining the Redistricting Team, please contact the Fair Districts coordinator.
What You Can Do —
- Submit a letter to the editor of your local paper. See Letter to the Editor Writing Guide.
- Contact the Senator and Representative that represent you in the North Carolina Assembly. See contact information for your state Senator and Representatives here, and for your federal Senators and Representative here. Please note that most redistricting issues fall within the purview of state rather than federal governments, with some exceptions such as the For the People Act.