Updated: May 29, 2021
What is Gerrymandering?
Gerrymandering in the United States is a practice of rearranging the boundaries
of electoral districts. The word gerrymander was used for the first time in the Boston
Gazette on 26 March 1812. This routine is being practiced for quite some time. Infact it
has been practiced since the government was formed and the reason given behind the
practice was that it was meant to strengthen the power of a political party, which would only benefit the country in the long run; so, it was meant to benefit the party
and the country.
Without a doubt, gerrymandering is common practice, which is used to
increase the power of a political party, and this is public knowledge. In some instances,
political parties conspire or even team up to protect their candidate by engaging in
Up until now gerrymandering or manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency
to favor one party or class was deemed unconstitutional. But over the years the
debate over gerrymandering is changing in a fundamental way of thinking of independent
commissions. The New York Times has described the twin techniques of
gerrymandering as “packing and cracking”. These techniques are used to redistribute
votes by redrawing boundary lines between different political parties.
The term gerrymander was never definitely legally recognized. Historians widely
believe that the Federalist newspaper editors Nathan Hale, and Benjamin and John
Russell were the main masterminds, who shaped the word “Gerrymandering” for the first
time. The word gerrymander was used numerous times in Federalist newspapers in
Massachusetts, New England, and nationwide during the remainder of 1812.
Gerrymandering, in my opinion violates the equal protection laws as in the case of Davis
v. Bandemer (1986). In this case the Supreme Court held that partisan gerrymandering
violated the Equal Protection Clause, but the court could not agree on the appropriate
constitutional standard against which legal claims of partisan gerrymandering should be
evaluated. The court Justice White debated that partisan gerrymandering occurred when a
redistricting plan was enacted with both the intent and the effect of discriminating against
an identifiable political group. Justices Powell and Stevens said that partisan
gerrymandering should be identified based on multiple factors, such as electoral district
shape and adherence to local government boundaries. Justices Connor, Burger, and
Rehnquist disagreed with the view that partisan gerrymandering claims were justifiable
and would have held that courts should not recognize such claims. Lower courts found it
difficult to apply Bandemer and only in one subsequent case, Party of North Carolina v.
Martin (1992), did a lower court strike down a redistricting plan on partisan
gerrymandering grounds. The U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged the harms
of Gerrymandering but has been unsuccessful in their attempt to outlaw it.
The Supreme Court revisited the concept of partisan gerrymandering claims in Vieth v.
Jubelirer (2004). The justices divided in their opinion and no clear standard against
which to evaluate partisan-gerrymandering claims could be made. Justice Scalia said that
partisan gerrymandering claims were not justifiable. A majority of the court continues to
allow partisan gerrymandering claims to be considered justifiable, reason being the
divergent views of the Justices on how such claims should be evaluated. Justice Anthony
Kennedy, challenged lower courts to find means to control partisan gerrymandering.
This topic is still up for debate but it violates the Equal Protection Clause, which is totally
unconstitutional and for that reason alone this practice needs to be stopped immediately.