Political Gerrymandering and the Courts

By Bernard Grofman | Go to book overview

14
Comparing the Compactness of California Congressional Districts Under Three Different Plans: 1980, 1982, and 1984

Thomas Hofeller and Bernard Grofman

Gerrymandering is the drawing of boundaries of districts, so as to advantage candidates of one political or racial group at the expense of another. While ill-compactness has often been proposed as the hallmark of a gerrymander, we believe that it is better seen as a potential indicator of gerrymandering. In our view, analysis of ill- compactness must be coupled with an analysis of the political (racial) consequences of boundary manipulations if it is to be relevant to a determination of probable partisan (racial) gerrymandering ( Grofman , 1983a; Niemi et al., 1990).

Gerrymandering is based on the wasting or weakening of the votes of what is usually the minority political party or racial interest group. This is accomplished by packing minority voting strength in a limited number of districts, and/or by fracturing smaller areas of concentrations of minority voting strength and submerging them in districts with just enough majority voting strength to render them ineffective. Usually both of these methods of dilution are present in gerrymanders involving large numbers of districts. The gerrymander does not require the construction of irregularly shaped districts in all situations. There are many instances, particularly in racial gerrymandering, when very compact districts can, if cleverly drawn, result in plans that are dilutive of minority voting strength.

While irregular boundaries can result from an attempt to follow

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