The Future of Gerrymandering Teach-Out

Start Date: 02/24/2019

Course Type: Common Course

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One of the biggest challenges facing our democracy today occurs when congressional district lines that are drawn by elected officials to give one political party an unfair advantage over another. This is called "gerrymandering.” This Teach-Out explores the topic of gerrymandering, considering everything from its history of the original gerrymander, to past, present and future United States Supreme Court cases. You will hear from leading experts on gerrymandering as well as citizen groups who are on the front lines of redistricting debate. This Teach-Out originally ran in June of 2018, before the United States Supreme Court decided on the Gill v. Whitford case coming out of Wisconsin and while various ballot initiatives around redistricting reform were evolving. What’s new? This updated version contains all original content, plus updates from returning faculty instructors Nancy Wang and John Chamberlin, who examine the current status of the Gill v. Whitford case as well as other redistricting reform efforts (i.e. ballot initiatives, congressional action) from across the United States. If you previously participated in this Teach-Out, feel free to skip directly to the new update segment. The fundamental driving questions from the original Teach-Out remain the same for this updated version, have a look here: What is gerrymandering? What is happening now? Why is this such an important issue today and what does it mean for you? Why did the United States Supreme Court take up the gerrymandering case (Gill v. Whitford)? How has technology impacted the gerrymandering debate? What are states doing to address the issue? How can you implement change? A Teach-Out is: -an event – it takes place over a fixed, short period of time -an opportunity – it is open for free participation to everyone around the world -a community – it will be joined by a large number of diverse individuals -a conversation – an opportunity to give and take ideas and information from people The University of Michigan Teach-Out Series provides just-in-time community learning events for participants around the world to come together in conversation with the U-M campus community, including faculty experts. The U-M Teach-Out Series is part of our deep commitment to engage the public in exploring and understanding the problems, events, and phenomena most important to society. Teach-Outs are short learning experiences, each focused on a specific current issue. Attendees will come together over a few days not only to learn about a subject or event but also to gain skills. Teach-Outs are open to the world and are designed to bring together individuals with wide-ranging perspectives in respectful and deep conversation. These events are an opportunity for diverse learners and a multitude of experts to come together to ask questions of one another and explore new solutions to the pressing concerns of our global community. Come, join the conversation! Find new opportunities at

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Course Introduction

One of the biggest challenges facing our democracy today occurs when congressional district lines th

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Gerrymandering Another way to avoid gerrymandering is simply to stop redistricting altogether and use existing political boundaries such as state, county, or provincial lines. While this prevents future gerrymandering, any existing advantage may become deeply ingrained. The United States Senate, for instance, has more competitive elections than the House of Representatives due to the use of existing state borders rather than gerrymandered districts—Senators are elected by their entire state, while Representatives are elected in legislatively drawn districts.
Gerrymandering (film) The A.V. Club gave "Gerrymandering" a C - and "Entertainment Weekly" gave the documentary a B+. Based on 9 (7 mixed and 2 positive) critic reviews Metacritic gave "Gerrymandering" a score of 49 out of 100. The Tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes shows that 40% of its approved critics gave the film a positive review with an average rating of 5.5 out of 10.
Gerrymandering Because gerrymandering relies on the wasted-vote effect, the use of a different voting system with fewer wasted votes can help reduce gerrymandering. In particular, the use of multi-member districts alongside voting systems establishing proportional representation such as single transferable voting can reduce wasted votes and gerrymandering. Semi-proportional voting systems such as single non-transferable vote or cumulative voting are relatively simple and similar to "first past the post" and can also reduce the proportion of wasted votes and thus potential gerrymandering. Electoral reformers have advocated all three as replacement systems.
Gerrymandering The 2012 election provides a number of examples as to how partisan gerrymandering can adversely affect the descriptive function of states' congressional delegations. In Pennsylvania, for example, Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives received 83,000 more votes than Republican candidates, yet the Republican-controlled redistricting process in 2010 resulted in Democrats losing to their Republican counterparts in 13 out of Pennsylvania’s 18 districts.
Gerrymandering In contrast to proportional methods, if a nonproportional voting system with multiple winners (such as block voting) is used, then increasing the size of the elected body while keeping the number of districts constant will not reduce the amount of wasted votes, leaving the potential for gerrymandering the same. While merging districts together under such a system can reduce the potential for gerrymandering, doing so also amplifies the tendency of block voting to produce landslide victories, creating a similar effect to gerrymandering by concentrating wasted votes among the opposition and denying them representation.
Gerrymandering If a proportional or semi-proportional voting system is used then increasing the number of winners in any given district will reduce the number of wasted votes. This can be accomplished both by merging separate districts together and by increasing the total size of the body to be elected. Since gerrymandering relies on exploiting the wasted vote effect, increasing the number of winners per district can reduce the potential for gerrymandering in proportional systems. Unless all districts are merged, however, this method cannot eliminate gerrymandering entirely.
Gerrymandering Gerrymandering is used most often in favor of ruling incumbents or a specific political party—the one drawing the map. Societies whose legislatures use a single-winner voting system are the most likely to have political parties that gerrymander for advantage. Most notably, gerrymandering is particularly effective in non-proportional systems that tend towards fewer parties, such as "first past the post".
Gerrymandering Gerrymandering also 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 Some countries, such as Australia, Canada, and the UK, authorize non-partisan organizations to set constituency boundaries in an attempt to prevent gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is most common in countries where elected politicians are responsible for defining constituency boundaries. They have an obvious and immediate interest in the outcome of the process.
Gerrymandering In the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries. The resulting district is known as a gerrymander (); however, that word can also refer to the process. The term "gerrymandering" has negative connotations. Two principal tactics are used in gerrymandering: "cracking" (i.e. diluting the voting power of the opposing party's supporters across many districts) and "packing" (concentrating the opposing party's voting power in one district to reduce their voting power in other districts).
Gerrymandering The effect of gerrymandering for incumbents is particularly advantageous, as incumbents are far more likely to be reelected under conditions of gerrymandering. For example, in 2002, according to political scientists Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, only four challengers were able to defeat incumbent members of the U.S. Congress, the lowest number in modern American history. 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.
Gerrymandering These findings are, however, a matter of some dispute. While gerrymandering may not decrease electoral competition in all cases, there are certainly instances where gerrymandering does reduce such competition.
Gerrymandering in the United States Gerrymandering in the United States has been practiced since the founding of the country to strengthen the power of particular political interests within legislative bodies. Partisan gerrymandering is commonly used to increase the power of a political party. In some instances, political parties collude to protect incumbents by engaging in bipartisan gerrymandering. After racial minorities were enfranchised, some jurisdictions engaged in racial gerrymandering to weaken the political power of racial minority voters, while others engaged in racial gerrymandering to strengthen the power of minority voters. Throughout the 20th century, courts have grappled with the legality of these types of gerrymandering and have devised different standards for the different types of gerrymandering. Various legal and political remedies have emerged to prevent gerrymandering, including court-ordered redistricting plans, redistricting commissions, and alternative voting systems that do not depend on drawing boundaries for single-member electoral districts.
Gerrymandering Until the 1980s Dáil boundaries in Ireland were drawn not by an independent commission but by government ministers. Successive arrangements by governments of all political characters have been attacked as gerrymandering. Ireland uses the single transferable vote and as well as the actual boundaries drawn the main tool of gerrymandering has been the number of seats per constituency used, with three-seat constituencies normally benefiting the strongest parties in an area, whereas four-seat constituencies normally help smaller parties.
Gerrymandering Members of opposition parties claim that the Group Representation Constituency system is "synonymous to gerrymandering", pointing out examples of Cheng San GRC and Eunos GRC which were dissolved by the Elections Department with voters redistributed to other constituencies after opposition parties gained ground in elections.
Gerrymandering In Hong Kong, although constituencies of district councils, the Urban Council, the Regional Council and the geographical constituencies of the Legislative Council have always been demarcated by the Boundary and Election Commission or its successor Electoral Affairs Commission, which is chaired by a judge, functional constituencies are demarcated by the government and defined in statutes, making them prone to gerrymandering. The functional constituency for the information technology sector was particular criticised for gerrymandering and voteplanting.
Gerrymandering Gerrymandering should not be confused with malapportionment, whereby the number of eligible voters per elected representative can vary widely without relation to how the boundaries are drawn. Nevertheless, the "~mander" suffix has been applied to particular malapportionments. Sometimes political representatives use both gerrymandering and malapportionment to try to maintain power.
Gerrymandering The primary goals of gerrymandering are to maximize the effect of supporters' votes and to minimize the effect of opponents' votes. These can be accomplished through a number of ways:
Gerrymandering In proportional-election systems, where political parties are represented in proportion to the total numbers of votes they receive, gerrymandering has little or less significance.
Gerrymandering Among western democracies, Israel and the Netherlands employ electoral systems with only one (nationwide) voting district for election of national representatives. This virtually precludes gerrymandering.