By Jackie Brewer
February 12, 2023
The United States was founded on the principle of democracy, the idea that each person should have a say in societal rules and regulations. To have true democracy, each person’s vote must be counted equally—but this is not the case in the United States. Voter suppression policies, which discourage or stop specific groups of people from voting, and voter dilution tactics, which limit the effectiveness of some demographics’ votes, prevent equal representation in a myriad of ways, from burdensome voter I.D. requirements, to preventing volunteers from handing out water to voters standing in line to vote in 100-degree weather. However, no voter dilution tactic is more pervasive throughout the U.S. than gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is the process of manipulating voter district boundaries to cosolidate particular voters into one area, which can affect the political outcome within the electoral district. By controlling electoral districts, a party can secure a win without the majority of votes by redistributing the opposing party’s voters into separate districts, thus decreasing the value of their votes. The graphic below depicts five districts before gerrymandering and after. 
Prior to 1960, racial gerrymandering, which prevented Black and Latino people from voting, was common; however, in Gomillion v. Lightfoot, the Supreme Court held that gerrymandering on the basis of race was unconstitutional, and that race cannot play a predominate role in redrawing district lines. Both Democrats and Republicans engage in gerrymandering, but in the last 10 years it has been employed more aggressively by the Republican party. Some Democrat-leaning states, such as California, Washington, and New Jersey, have enacted reforms to ensure more neutral districts through bipartisan gerrymandering. In contrast, Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, vetoed a redistricting map from Republican senators in order to replace it with his own plan, which gave Republicans an advantage in 20 of the 28 districts. The new Florida map virtually guarantees Republicans victory in the upcoming midterm election, despite only 51% of the population voting for Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate in the 2020 election, and less than 50% of the population voting for DeSantis, who ran as a Republican for governor in 2018.
Florida is a clear example of the threat gerrymandering poses to democracy in the United States. Fortunately, extreme cases of gerrymandering have drawn attention to the issue, and Congress has begun to take note. On August 14th, 2021, Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic Senator from Minnesota, introduced Senate Bill 2747, The Freedom to Vote Act. The Bill aims to ensure equality in voting by expanding voter registration and voting access. The Bill also sets forth criteria for congressional redistricting, the process of drawing new district boundries for congressional representation, and prevents redistricting mid-decade, only allowing maps to be drawn every ten years, based on census data.
The Bill requires that any state redistricting plan must not favor any political party. To ensure neutrality, any new map must be tested by computer modeling, go through statistical analysis on the advantage to each party, be compared to other modeled maps, and examined by other relevant information such as who designed to map. The Freedom to Vote Act also creates a private civil right of action where any person can challenge the map for lack of neutrality. This right of action creates accountability on the part of politicians to draw neutral districts which was not previously present and allowed highly partisan gerrymandering. The Freedom to Vote Act is still being debated but its passage would be a step in the right direction to truly democratic voting; however, the Act would not prevent all gerrymandering. The Bill only curtails gerrymandering for federal elections. State congressional elections could still be affected by gerrymandering, as seen in Florida. The only way to curtail this level of gerrymandering is to pass reforms at the state level, like those passed in California and New Jersey. Unfortunately, the way to pass these reforms is to elect officials against gerrymandering, which becomes increasingly difficult as pro-gerrymandering officials redraft maps. Gerrymandering is a vicious cycle, used by parties to hold onto waning power; however, attention to these tactics can decrease voter support to stop these issues and help end the cycle.
 See Block the Vote: How Politicians are Trying to Block Voters From the Ballot Box, ACLU (Aug. 18, 2021), https://www.aclu.org/news/civil-liberties/block-the-vote-voter-suppression-in-2020 (describing the various law and techniques for preventing easy voting); see also The Associated Press, Judge Declines to Block Georgia’s Ban on Giving Food, Waters to Voters, NBC News (Aug. 19, 2022, 2:17 PM), https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2022-election/judge-declines-block-georgias-ban-giving-food-water-voters-rcna43974.
 Christopher Ingraham, This is the Best Explaination of Gerrymandering You Will Ever See, Washington Post (March 1, 2015), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/03/01/this-is-the-best-explanation-of-gerrymandering-you-will-ever-see/.
 Jackie Brewer, Illustration of Gerrymandering (2022)
 See Gomilion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339, 341-42 (1960) (holding that an Alabama statute meant to dilute the power of Black voters through gerrymandering violated the due process clause).
 See David Leonhardt, Gerrymandering, the Full Story, NYTimes (Sept. 30, 2022), https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/30/briefing/gerrymandering-maps-districts-republicans-democrats.html?searchResultPosition=1 (noting that in four states, Republicans ignored court orders by continuong to use maps found to be illegal on the ground of unfair gerrymandering).
 Gina Castro, In Florida, Extreme Gerrymandering and People Arrested for Voting, Center for Pub. Integrity (Oct. 6, 2022), https://publicintegrity.org/politics/elections/who-counts/in-florida-extreme-gerrymandering-and-people-arrested-for-voting/.
 Freedom to Vote Act, S. 2747, 117th Cong. (2021), https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/2747.
 See id. at tit V. (clarifying that redistricting should be undertaken in accordence with the cencus data collected every ten years).
 Id. at tit. V. § 5003(c)(2)(A)-(D).
 Id. at (3)(A)-(E).