©2018 by Foreign Policy Press

Is Gerrymandering As Much Of An Issue As Democrats Say?

October 31, 2019

The issue of gerrymandering has been a hot-topic in the Democratic Party and one that has all Presidential Candidates unified in their position on it. 


The Democratic position is that partisan gerrymandering is not only wrong, but that the mechanics of gerrymandering have been so badly abused by the Republican Party that is borders on, if not directly is, unconstitutional.



​There is little dispute over the existence of partisan gerrymandering and that parties redraw districts to discriminate against opposing parties and their potential voters.


There is also a consensus that, at least to a minor degree, gerrymandering has the capacity to distort the results of an election. This was explored by Samuel Wang, who used computer simulations whilst looking at post-2010 Congressional elections to simulate results based purely on 'linear' districting lines. 


Wang concluded that partisan gerrymandering does produce a distorted result which often is in favour of the party that conducted the gerrymandering. 


However, these findings were caveated with the assertion that the extent to which these election results were distorted is not dramatic. Further, Wang emphasised that whether such distortions would even occur in all elections is not guaranteed. 


Therefore, the extent to which partisan gerrymandering actually impacts election results is not a settled matter in the slightest. 


Add to that the studies carried out by Professor Jowei Chen, an expert in districting and gerrymandering in the United States. 


Chen's 2016 investigation into Congressional elections utilised computer simulations of the districting process to redraw district boundaries. 


Through the simulated election, Chen's analysis revealed that gerrymandering could potentially impact the result of the election, however, the net effect across the states is, at best, 'modest'.


Chen concludes by arguing that the partisan composition of the United States Congress is most aptly explained by non-partisan districting. This, in turn, suggests that any electoral bias that exists in Congressional elections is caused by factors other than the above-mentioned partisan gerrymandering. 


These findings are important and worthy of note, particularly with the 2020 Presidential Election well under way. The issue of partisan gerrymandering has already been brought up by several candidates as they perceive it to be used to the detriment of the Democratic Party. 


However, one must ask after exploring the findings within the relevant literature, is gerrymandering as much of an issue as Democrats make it out to be?


Author: Damien Brown

Damien Brown is a freelance journalist with a focus on US politics. 


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