Cities Lose in the Most Gerrymandering Decade in American History

A new report suggests that several states' legislatures do not reflect actual majorities, and it's cities that are losing to gerrymandering.


According to the Washington, DC-based Campaign Legal Center, in the three elections held since 2011 redistricting, there is enough evidence to show that current district plans show more partisan gerrymandering than in any other decade in modern American history.

For the third time this decade, we saw huge skews in favor of either Democrats or Republicans in plans across the country ... Everyone in America suffers from an unrepresentative and unfair democracy that encourages self-interested politics," wrote author Ruth Greenwood.

Greenwood, deputy director of redistricting at CLC, is part of the litigation team representing the plaintiffs in Whitford v. Gill, a case in which Wisconsin federal court ruled that the state assembly plan is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. If appealed, the federal court's decision would be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps this year.

The CLC report, which most recently analyzes the 2016 election, shows states that have been affected by partisan gerrymandering at state legislative and congressional levels. Charts comparing the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2012-2016 detail the estimated "average efficiency gaps" for state congressional plans. For 2016, CLC used a specific estimate based on the presidential vote since state-by-state certified results are not available yet.

How Decisions are Skewed with Bipartisan Gerrymandered Control

The long and the short of it is policies that are not supported by the majority can be enacted, and policies with overwhelming support of the majority may never reach legislatures. This happens in states with some of the highest average efficiency gaps, like Wisconsin (12.2 percent) and Rhode Island (12.6 percent).

Greenwood cited that a majority of Wisconsinites are in favor of raising the minimum wage, but because Republicans control 12 more state assembly seats than they would under "fair maps," the minimum wage issue has not reached legislators.

Similarly, in Rhode Island where Democrats control nine more seats than they should under "fair maps," legislators raised the state's gas tax against the people's will -- according to CLC.

Partisan gridlock has resulted in low voter turnout, among other things, said Greenwood.

Cities in Peril in Representation

CityLab reporting on gerrymandering concluded that its cities -- not suburbs and rural areas -- that are losing the most power at the state and federal levels.

But it's not just about cranking up low voter turnouts.

"It’s the intractable problems of economic inequality and racism that keep getting in the way," wrote Brentin Mock.

Measures that cities put in place to make voting possible for all residents can be curtailed by states:

Gerrymandering is one of the "classist and racist viruses implanted in the electoral system," according to CityLab.

Download the CLC bipartisan gerrymandering report on its website.

Read the full CityLab story on the Atlantic's website.

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