The process of dividing of a state or other territory into authorized civil or political divisions, but with such geographical arrangement so as to accomplish a sinister or unlawful purpose, such as to secure a majority for one political party in districts where the result would be otherwise if they were divided according to obvious natural lines, or to arrange school districts so that children of certain religions or nationalities are brought within one district and those of a different religion or nationality in another district.

“The termgerrymander’ has been defined as a name given to the process of dividing a state or other territory into the authorized civil or political divisions, but with such a geographical arrangement as to accomplish an ulterior or unlawful purpose.”  Camden County Public Water Supply Dist. No. 4. v. Village of Sunrise Beach, 281 S.W.3d 893, 900 (Mo. App. 2009).

Political Gerrymandering

“The term ‘political gerrymander’ has been defined as the practice of dividing a geographical area into electoral districts, often of highly irregular shape, to give one political party an unfair advantage by diluting the opposition’s voting strength.”  Vieth v. Jubelirer, 541 U.S. 267, 271 n.1 (2004).

“The termgerrymandering’ is defined generally as the practice of dividing a geographical area into electoral districts, often of highly irregular shape, to give one political party an unfair advantage by diluting the opposition’s voting strength.  In In re Legislative Districting, supra, 299 Md. 658, 475 A.2d 428, writing for the majority, Chief Judge Murphy discussed the origin of the word, noting that it was given birth in 1812 following a cartoonist’s drawing of a Massachusetts legislative district that he described as appearing like a ‘salamander.’ An astute observer suggested that the district might more properly be described as a ‘gerrymander’ after then Governor of Massachusetts Eldridge Gerry who had a role, albeit a minor one, in the construction of the district.”  In re Legislative Districting of State, 370 Md. 312, 332 n. 14 (2002).

Racial Gerrymandering

“The Supreme Court in Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1993) defined racial gerrymandering as the deliberate and arbitrary distortion of district boundaries for racial purposes. It then held that the appearance of the anomalous district boundaries was sufficient to state a claim under the Equal Protection Clause for racial gerrymandering.  Shaw held when districts are drawn in such an extremely irregular fashion as to be unexplainable, other than being based solely on race, a claim under the Equal Protection Clause for racial gerrymandering can be stated.  Redistricting based solely on race affronts our sense of voter equality because it creates districts with residents who have little in common with each other except the color of their skin. It fails to take into account geographic and political boundaries, age, economic status, and the community in which the people live.  Redistricting based solely on race assumes that members of the same race think alike, share the same political interests, and prefer the same candidates at the polls, not because of shared community interests, but only because of their skin pigmentation. It is the equivalent of political apartheid. When a district is drawn in such a manner that it rationally can only be understood as race-based, then a cause of action arises under the Equal Protection Clause.  Thus, if an allegation of deliberate and arbitrary redistricting based solely on race is not contradicted by the State, then it must be determined whether the redistricting plan is narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest.”  DeWitt v. Wilson, 856 F. Supp. 1409, 1412 (E.D. Cal. 1994).

Federal courts are also authorized to ensure that the districting process remains free from constitutionally prohibited racial discrimination. Thus, a plaintiff pursuing a racial gerrymandering claim under the Equal Protection Clause states a justiciable claim when he alleges that race was the predominant factor motivating the legislature’s decision to place a significant number of voters within or without a particular district.  By showing that the legislature subordinated traditional race-neutral districting principles to racial considerations, a plaintiff triggers strict scrutiny, shifting the burden to the State to demonstrate that its districting legislation is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling interest.”  Shapiro v. McManus, 203 F. Supp. 3d 579, 591-92 (D. Md. 2016).

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