Gerrymandering 101

How United States elected officials have legally rigged elections years before they even happen.

Partisan gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan or incumbent-protected districts.

Packing and Cracking

So, how is it actually done? Using computer modeling and sophisticated data algorithms, legislators in the majority PACK & CRACK voters of the opposing party. 

Packing means putting as many of the opposing party’s supporters into as few districts as possible. Thus, that party wins big in those districts, but it doesn’t win many districts overall. Cracking means scattering the rest of the opposing party’s supporters into districts where they have no chance of winning.

Wisconsin is an important case in point. In 2010, the Republicans won a big electoral victory, taking 60 of the 99 seats in the State Assembly. After the 2011 redistricting, they created “the worst partisan gerrymanders in modern American history,” according to the Whitford plaintiffs. Then in 2012, there was a 430,000 vote swing in the Democrats’ favor, but the Republicans still came back with 60 seats. Despite the Democrats’ big win in the election, the Republicans still had an overwhelming majority of seats.

Still not sure you get it? Lead plantiff in the case, Bill Whitford, sat down with NBC News to help unpack what exactly gerrymandering is and how it can be fixed.