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Gerrymandering - Definition and Examples in Politics

Gerrymandering is the act of drawing of congressional, state legislative or other political boundaries to favor a political party or one particular candidate for elected office. The purpose of gerrymandering is to grant one party power over another by creating districts that hold dense concentrations of voters who are favorable to their policies.

The physical impact of gerrymandering can be seen on any map of congressional districts.

Many boundaries zig and zag east and west, north and south across city, township and county lines as if for no reason at all. But the political impact is much more significant. Gerrymandering reduces the number of competitive congressional races across the United States by segregating like-minded voters from each other.

Gerrymandering has become common in American politics, and is often blamed for the gridlock in Congress, polarization of the electorate and disenfranchisement among voters. President Barack Obama, speaking in his final State of the Union address in 2016, called on both the Republican and Democratic parties to end the practice.

“If we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a president. We have to change the system to reflect our better selves. I think weve got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. Let a bipartisan group do it.”

In the end, though, most cases of gerrymandering are legal. 

Gerrymandering often leads to disproportionate politicians from one party being elected to office. And it creates districts of voters who are socioeconomically, racially or politically alike so that members of Congress are safe from potential challengers and, as a result, have little reason to compromise with their colleagues from the other party.

The process is marked by secrecy, self-dealing and backroom logrolling among elected officials. The public is largely shut out of the process, wrote Erika L. Wood, the director of

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