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Gerrymandering 101

By Liam Hoare and Samantha Delman

Fair Districts PA is an organization that works to combat the prevalence of gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. According to Fair Districts, “Democracy means voters choose their politicians. Current Pennsylvania law lets politicians choose their voters.” Fair Districts emphasizes the flaws in the current redistricting system in Pennsylvania. As aforementioned, the census occurs every ten years, and afterwards voting district lines are redrawn based on changes in population.

The largest issue in Pennsylvania politics is that it is legislators themselves who are responsible for redrawing those district lines, and the party in power has a great deal of influence over the way the maps are ultimately drawn. This is exacerbated when one party controls the legislature as well as other crucial positions, such as the governorship. Due to an increased sphere of influence, the party in power can use demographic information from the newly updated census to draw district lines strategically. When redistricting is done unfairly to benefit one party or another and functions to maintain control, this is called gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is defined as “the political manipulation of electoral district boundaries with the intent of creating undue advantage for a party, group, or socio-economic class within the constituency.” Gerrymandering can occur both with Congressional districts, which serve to determine the districts for electing representatives to the US Congress, as well as with State Legislative districts. Fair Districts PA describes the State Legislative district map as the districts that “define who represents you in the PA House and Senate. There are 50 PA Senate districts and 203 PA House districts.”

Throughout this project, we have decided to focus on the gerrymandering of US Congressional districts, rather than the gerrymandering of State Legislative districts for the sake of clarity. With the approval of the 2023 Congressional district map, moving forward, Pennsylvania will have 17 members of the US House of Representatives, each of whom represents one of the 17 colored districts in the map here, and will simultaneously continue to have 2 Senators in Congress on behalf of the state, totaling 19 electoral votes. Regardless, both of these redistricting processes are controlled by Pennsylvania legislators, which can contribute to corruption within the system and lead to concerns on both sides of the aisle about the potential for gerrymandering based on the party in power at the time.

Liam Hoare is a gay Miami native currently studying Political Science at UPenn with an interest in race and ethnic politics.

Samantha Delman is a Georgia native with a passion for freelance journalism, photography, and social media content creation as a tool for political communications and voting rights activism.

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