Gerrymandering was once only the concern of map drawers and politics nerds. Most people didn’t know who their congressional representatives were, let alone the contours of their districts. But gerrymandering is having a moment. People don’t like it, and they want it fixed. It’s easy to understand why. As we’ve mentioned before, gerrymandering takes the blame for partisan polarization, uncompetitive elections, marginalizing minorities and rigging elections in favor of one party or the other. If you could solve those things by ending gerrymandering, why wouldn’t you?
Because it wouldn’t fix all those things. There’s little doubt gerrymandering has shaped our electoral outcomes, and current maps do benefit Republicans overall. But the conversation about ending gerrymandering frequently overlooks two important realities: 1. Gerrymandering has played a relatively small role in the growth of things like partisan polarization and uncompetitive elections, and 2. Drawing electoral maps is a game of trade-offs that will always leave groups of people unhappy.
If ending gerrymandering means creating maps that simultaneously enhance competition, don’t benefit either party, promote minority representation and keep cities, counties and communities whole, then it is impossible to end gerrymandering.