Gerrymandering & Redistricting

What is Gerrymandering?

Gerrymandering is the political act of drawing the boundaries for voting districts ways that favor one political party over the other. This practice has long existed our democracy. But with the advent of computer software and demographic databases that can predict how people tend to vote, gerrymandering can easily pack an opposing party into fewer districts, so that the remaining districts are more easily won by the party doing the gerrymandering.  When all three branches of a state are controlled by one party during the year following the U.S. census, gerrymandering has commonly taken place.  (See also Wikipedia entry on gerrymandering).

A gerrymandered voting districts can stretch and contort across the map like these examples from North Carolina. Stunning in its outrageousness.

Virginia’s house districts were gerrymandered to favor Republicans in 2011 

Further Reading:

This is How Gerrymandering Works, Laura Moser, NY Review of Books

This is the Best Explanation of Gerrymandering You Will Ever See, Christopher Ingrahan (Washington Post, March 1, 2015)

How Gerrymandering Impacts Virginia’s Elections, (VTVR.Com Oct. 17, 2017)

Blue Wave, Meet Red Wall, Mark Joseph Stern (article on how Gerrymandering in VA protected the GOP in Slate, Nov 8, 2017)

OneVirginia2021’s page with maps on Virginia’s gerrymandering problem and the battle for fair redistricting in 20121

Next Steps

Join the nonpartisan nonprofit OneVirginia2021 to get active on redistricting.

Watch the excellent documentary GerryRigged.


Ralph Northam ran for governor on the promise that he would veto any gerrymandered redistricting plan that the legislature would create after the 2020 census. By law, the entire country must redraw district maps (state houses and senates and U.S. congressional districts) to adjust for changes in population, with the intent that districts equally distribute the population. Whatever party is in control will have the advantage and could use that advantage to gerrymander the state again. If a redistricting plan was deadlocked after a governor’s veto, the courts might get involved, or a compromise might be reached that still retain a Republican advantage should they hold on to the house and senate in Virginia.

Bills in the January 2018 Virginia legislative session:

Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Fairfax, and Del.-elect Wendy Gooditis, District 10, are introducing redistricting reform bills.

One will make clear that legislative and congressional district lines can’t be drawn to protect incumbents or create safe districts for political parties. The other would create an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission, as several other states have.

To Dos

Action Kit to support these efforts found here on League of Woman Voters website. [Please comment on this blog post if you are interested in participating]

  • Write a letter to the editor
  • Research, set up and/or attend a meeting with Wendy Gooditis, Chris Collins, Dave LaRock to lobby for votes on redistricting and voting rights bills.

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