Sample Political Science Paper on Gerrymandering

In America, the concept of gerrymandering is used to mean the exercise of setting up
electoral boundaries with the objective of favoring certain political interests within legislative
jurisdictions. This practice usually gives birth to districts with winding or convoluted boundaries
rather than with areas which are compact. Gerrymandering occurs in each individual state in
America after every ten years following a census. It divides geographical areas with each district
within a state that have the same number of electorates. Contemporary issues, involvement of
the legislature, Supreme Court, executive, media, and society’s perception of gerrymandering
makes it clear that the practice of redistricting individual states for political purposes is the main
cause of polarization and divisions within the American political system.
The Happenings
Gerrymandering has always been considered as a political tool which is controlled by the
governor and state legislators to advance their own political interests. A party that is able to
control the governor’s office and the state’s legislative bodies has a strong position in
redistricting the boundaries to its own advantage and to the disadvantage of its political opponent
(Callidas 1413). The primary objective of redistricting by political parties in the demarcation
process is to gain control of a state’s congressional and legislation representation including the
maintenance of that control for a long time that can withstand fluid political changes in a state’s

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population. Even though gerrymandering is sometimes considered as unconstitutional, it has
helped most elections to become representative since it does not necessarily increase political
polarization and does not work to the advantage of the incumbent. Furthermore, it is also able to
recreate districts by taking advantage of the power of racial minorities to support certain
nominees who are also minorities which help dilute the minority vote.
Contemporary Issues
In contemporary America, the issue of gerrymandering is clearly highlighted in the lead-
up to the 2012 elections when the Republican Party introduced a program known as the
Redistributing Majority Project (REDMAP). It was a program that was intended to acknowledge
that a party that was in control of a particular state’s legislature should have the power to set their
legislative and congressional boundaries premised on the United States census of 2012 (Callidas
1415). This initiative was to ensure that the party had control of that state for the next ten years
until the next census. This type of program made the Republican Party to have significant gains
from the elections of 2012 that spread across several states. Most of the district maps during this
period were dominated by the Republican advantage that was a creation of partisan
gerrymandering. However, it created several legal implications from voters and parties in the
courts and Supreme Court level. Many Democrats considered gerrymandering as a major
hindrance that they came across during the US Mid-Term elections of 2018.
Legislature, Supreme Court and Executive Involvement
Since the Twentieth Century federal courts in America have been of the opinion that
extreme cases of gerrymandering are unconstitutional. However, these courts have been
struggling on how to define types of gerrymandering and the standards that should be applied in
determining which types of redistrict maps should be regarded as unconstitutional. However, in

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the late 1990s the US Supreme Court determined that racial gerrymandering was an infringement
of constitutional rights. In this respect, it upheld decisions which touched on redistricting based
on racial considerations. Even with this decision, the Supreme Court has still struggled in
defining partisan gerrymandering and as to when it occurs (Callidas 1417). In this regard it made
an ultimate decision that partisan gerrymandering is a political question that cannot be justified
and therefore, cannot be dealt with by the federal court system. This means in essence that the
judicial system is powerless when it comes to partisan gerrymandering that is practiced by
political parties. However, it has clearly made a distinction between racial and partisan
gerrymandering. It has criminalized racial gerrymandering and, therefore, protected the rights of
minority groups.
The Supreme Court, therefore, left the issue of gerrymandering to Congress and the states
for them to come up with solutions of preventing partisan gerrymandering. Some states have
been able to create redistricting commissions which are independent with the objective of
reducing political influence in the process. On the political front, the Republican Party in both
Carolina districts and Pennsylvania was found guilty, by both Supreme Courts, of committing
partisan gerrymandering that was not in line with the constitution (Callidas 1417). The
Pennsylvania map was later reconfigured to create congressional delegations that were evenly
split. This act gave the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania to have more congressional
representation which helped the party to later flip the House of Representatives. On the other
hand, there was no reconfiguration in North Carolina, a matter that gave the Republican Party an
edge during the mid-term elections of 2018. The lack of action by the North Carolina Court
system helped a skewed representation to take effect. However, it should be noted that several
states in America find partisan gerrymandering as unacceptable by the passage of legislation

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through ballot measures which require the institution of non-partisan commissions in
anticipation for the 2020 gerrymandering cycle.
The Media
The media has great impact on the issue of gerrymandering since it influences the
perceptions of voters with respect to partisanship. Media information is usually partial when it
comes to political issues. The media has become a great impediment to democratic decision
making by virtue of perpetuating its own ideologies to its readers. Most voters are greatly
influenced by the media be it print, electronic or social media (University of Pennsylvania).
People form opinions which influence their ideological inclination through their interactions with
their social networks and the media. It is in this regard that gerrymandering is either perpetuated
or discouraged by the type of media in which one interacts with.
American Society’s Perception
The American society including lawmakers and voters from all political affiliations are in
agreement against an end to extreme partisan gerrymandering. This general agreement was
initially highlighted in 2018 when a large number of voters passed several crucial anti-
gerrymandering reforms in states such as Michigan, Colorado, and Utah. However, bipartisan
opposition to this practice is deep-rooted.
On the other hand, public opinion in the last few years indicates that the American people
are of the same opinion as that of their elected leaders. Opinion polls that were conducted in
2017 and 2019 indicated that over 70% of voters from both political divides agree that the
Supreme Court should place restrictions on gerrymandering (University of Pennsylvania). The
poll that was conducted in 2019 also revealed that over 55% of voters in America with partisan
inclinations view the practice in a bad light due to its divisive attributes (Brennan Center for

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Justice). In 2018, the opinion polls were complemented by legislative and citizen action where
five states in the US passed redistricting reforms. Three of those reforms were adopted by
citizens through the ballot. All the reforms were bipartisan in nature that constituted over 60% of
Republican (University of Pennsylvania). These facts indicate a unified view over the issue of
Do Political Parties Agree on the Issue?
For many years politicians from both parties have been on record condemning partisan
gerrymandering by focusing on its fundamental anti-democratic tendencies. This agreement is
evidenced through their concerted action of 2017 with the involvement of the Supreme court
(Brennan Center for Justice). Leading Democrats and Republicans joined together and called on
the Supreme Court to ban extreme partisan gerrymandering. A case in point is when Senators
Sheldon Whitehouse and John McCain filed a petition supporting democratic voters in opposing
the Wisconsin’s map. They regarded partisan gerrymandering as an instrument that was used for
political interests to distort democracy. In the same manner, many state and federal legislators
from both parties are also on record of filing petitions that condemned the constitutional
violations caused by the redistricting system.
Gerrymandering in other Countries
The practice of gerrymandering is not only found in the US but other countries as well.
The most prominent country that has exhibited this practice is Pakistan. In this country,
legislative districts are drawn to disenfranchise others and entrench the political elites. In
Pakistan it is common for a few privileged voters to elect the Chief Minister. And in another
district, tens of thousands of voters are not able to elect a single representative in the same
assembly (Hussain). Those tens of thousands of voters are members of a certain ethnic minority

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group which is the most persecuted in that part of the world. In Pakistan, gerrymandering is also
used by the ruling elite to consolidate and maintain their position in society.
Impact on Government Legitimacy
Gerrymandering has an impact on a government’s legitimacy in that it does not represent
the popular will of the people. It is a major contributor to wasted votes which ware not used in
electing a candidate. This because the vote was either found to have surpassed the minimum
threshold that is needed for victory or the candidate that was voted for lost (Mann). The shifting
of geographical boundaries, the incumbent party clusters opposition voters in a few districts that
they will win already thus wasting these votes. In this regard, the emerging government lacks
any legitimacy because it does not represent the will of the people.
In my opinion gerrymandering should be treated as an anti-democratic practice that needs
to be eliminated from any political structure of a government. It is a practice that is intentionally
used by the ruling elite to either disenfranchise voters or to perpetuate the interests of a ruling
class. It is divisive in nature and creates a polarization effect in society. In this regard, the best
way of handling the issue is its elimination and replacement with appropriate democratic
structures which are based on equity and respect for the constitutional rights of all members of
the society. However, it needs the reformation of political parties and how citizens in a country
are governed and how they choose their representatives. B y reforming the electoral system, the
concept of fairness and equity should be embraced so as to eliminate aspects of gerrymandering
which breed inequality and unhealthy political competition.

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Gerrymandering in the US is a practice that not only has a polarizing effect on the society
but also causes divisions and segregation of minority groups. The concept of gerrymandering
has pervaded the political landscape of America because of political interests of the dominant
parties. It has been used as a means of consolidating and maintaining power so as to control both
the legislative and congressional representation. This practice has become difficult to abolish
because of a lack of appropriate laws to define it. However, the American people have seen its
negative effects are always in the process of limiting its influence in the American society
through various legislations and popular actions. The media has also played a part in
perpetuating this practice by influencing the perception of the citizenry with regard to this
practice. However, this practice has a significant impact on the legitimacy of any government.
This is because it has the effect of disenfranchising a certain group of people and, therefore,
lacks the mandate of the people. It is in this regard, that a majority of the American people from
all walks of life are taking up action in an effort to reduce its impact on the society.

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Works Cited

Brennan Center for Justice “Americans Are United Against Partisan Gerrymandering.” Brennan
Center for Justice. 2019
Calidas, Douglass . "Hindsight Is 20/20: Revisiting the Reapportionment Cases to Gain
Perspective on Partisan Gerrymanders". Duke Law Journal. 57 (5): 1413–1447. 2008.
Hussain Sajjad. It’s Not Just the U.S. with a Gerrymandering Problem — Look at Pakistan.
Institute for Policy Studies. 2018
Mann Thomas. We Must Address Gerrymandering. Time Magazine. 2016.
University of Pennsylvania. Information gerrymandering’ poses a threat to democratic decision