In 1812 Massachusetts Governor Gerry Elbridge passed legislation to change senatorial districts and secure the positions of Federalist Party candidates. His new, seemingly random, change in district lines was thought to look like a salamander, as portrayed in a cartoon titled “the Gerry-Mander” in the Boston Gazette. Although the simple cartoon has long been forgotten, its clever name stuck; it has come to describe yet another way American politics have become a corrupt power struggle. By redesigning a state’s districts, politicians are able to reapportion Democratic and Republican voters to make the state appear to lean a certain way. Gerrymandering is unfair by definition, because it is used to distort the wishes of America’s voters.

After the tumultuous 2016 election, many dismayed Clinton-supporters suspected an unfair playing field. After analyzing last year’s 435 House races and 4,700 state House and assembly seats, The Associated Press found 80% of states to be skewed towards the right using unfair district maps. Of the 24 most populous states, almost 75% had U.S. house districts that collectively voted Republican, when in reality individual voters were split down the middle. This illustrates a distinct, unfair advantage created by policy makers. Houses are supposed to fairly illustrate the collective opinion of every individual, because district lines were originally created to provide equal representation.

Many Democratic voters live in populated areas, so they can easily be sorted out of areas necessary for a Republican to win. This advantage was used in 2016, as Republican policy makers were able to ensure Donald Trump’s victory long before the campaign. New York University also conducted a similar statistical study from 2012-2016, and came to an identical conclusion. As John McGlennon, a professor of government and public policy at the College of William & Mary, states, “The outcome was already cooked in, if you will, because of the way the districts were drawn.” This problem originally stems from when Republicans fared well in the 2010 elections, which gave them an upper hand in the decennial revision of district lines.  

This month, the Supreme Court has heard two gerrymandering cases against a “Republican-drawn” map in Wisconsin and a Democratic-drawn congressional district in Maryland. Historically, justices have avoided such cases because they inevitably become too political. Although such political considerations can be frightening in the modern day political environment, the legality of gerrymandering needs to be addressed, now more than ever.

Since metaphorical lines are so clearly drawn between parties, physical boundaries need to ensure that voters are not silenced by policy makers. Political scientists have developed complex methods to ensure “partisan symmetry,” or districts that yield the same numbers as the overall population. As the courts are better able to prove unfair advantages caused by gerrymandering, elections will revert to the decision of citizens rather than policy makers.