Every 10 years, after U.S. census workers have fanned out across the nation, a snowy-haired gentleman by the name of Tom Hofeller takes up anew his quest to destroy Democrats. He packs his bag and his laptop with its special Maptitude software, kisses his wife of 46 years, pats his West Highland white terrier, Kara, and departs his home in Alexandria, Virginia, for a United States that he will help carve into a jigsaw of disunity.
Where Hofeller travels depends to some degree on the migratory patterns of his fellow Americans over the previous decade. As the census shows, some states will have swelled in population, while others will have dwindled. The states that gained the most people are entitled, under the Constitution, to additional representation in the form of new congressional districts, which (since the law allows only 435 such districts) are wrenched from the states that lost the most people. After the 2010 census, eight states (all in the South and the West) gained congressional districts, which were stripped from 10 others (in the Midwest and the East Coast, as well as Katrina-ravaged Louisiana).
The Long, Twisted History of Gerrymandering in American Politics
Outlandish districts created for electoral gain are a major force in the U.S. today, but they emerged out of a long tradition.
The creation of a new congressional district, or the loss of an old one, affects every district around it, necessitating new maps. Even states not adding or losing congressional representatives need new district maps that reflect the population shifts within their borders, so that residents are equally represented no matter where they live. This ritual carving and paring of the United States into 435 sovereign units, known as redistricting, was intended by the Framers solely to keep democracy’s electoral scales balanced. Instead, redistricting today has become the most insidious practice in American politics—a way, as the opportunistic machinations following the 2010 census make evident, for our elected leaders to entrench themselves in 435 impregnable garrisons from which they can maintain political power while avoiding demographic realities.