Per article 1, section 2 of the constitution, the number of Congressional Representatives in each state is determined by the census every 10 years, and the borders of those Congressional districts are determined by the states (1).
From the start, state politicians used their control of district boundaries to favor themselves. The term “gerrymandering” comes from an obviously self-serving district signed into law in 1812 after the 3nd decennial census (2, 3).
Gerrymandering allows politicians to select their voters instead of the voters selecting politicians. Gerrymandering is often cited as a key cause of the decline in our political discourse and collective political effectiveness (4, 5). Gerrymandering and the advantages of incumbency are considered to be largely responsible for the 90%+ reelection rates in Congress (6), despite 25%- Congressional approval (7).
There are efforts underway to fight gerrymandering through legislation, ballot initiatives, and court challenges (8, 9, 10) . The district boundaries in Maryland are currently being considered by the Supreme Court, with a ruling expected by the end of June, 2019 (11, 12).
Gerrymandering is made easier and even more effective using specialized graphical computing. By 2001 all states used computers for redistricting and there are many specialized systems available (13, 14).
In my view, computer-aided gerrymandering has greatly exacerbated our country’s problems. These engineered districts rob the Americans who live in them of their political voice. The incumbents don’t have to work very hard for their own party’s votes and they don’t have to listen to the other party at all.
Our district, the MD-04, has weird butterfly shape that pits about 50,000 Anne Arundel county Republican voters against about 200,000 Prince George’s county Democratic voters (15). Our left-vs-right policy differences are pretty well depicted by our left-side vs right-side addresses in that weird blob of land. Is this the best we can do?