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Periodically, there are news stories about gerrymandering. There are cases currently before as well as cases recently decided by the Supreme Court. There's also the issue of the party in power getting to redistrict after each 10 year census.

Much as I try, I can't find anything that describes existing laws that empower gerrymandering. Can anyone provide some sources?

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  • What would a law that "empowers" gerrymandering be? At its root, gerrymandering is just what people call a redistricting plan that they don't like. Sometimes people propose laws to prevent gerrymandering. I've never heard of a law empowering gerrymandering. And if you are looking for state law, you need to say which state.
    – Brythan
    Feb 8, 2018 at 19:02
  • politics.stackexchange.com/questions/12804/… is pretty closely related
    – user9389
    Feb 8, 2018 at 19:22
  • @Brythan: The party in power is in charge of redistricting. They don't get that power out of thin air. As for proposing laws to prevent gerrymandering, that's circular logic. Such laws would not be needed unless others were in place. Feb 8, 2018 at 21:20
  • Oops, never mind. James K provided the info that I need. Feb 8, 2018 at 21:21
  • It's not really "laws that empower gerrymandering" as much as it is "lack of laws which prevent gerrymandering".
    – Joe C
    Feb 8, 2018 at 22:08

1 Answer 1

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The power to Gerrymander is the power to draw district boundries, and this power is described in the US constitution, Article 1 Section 4

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

In other words, States can run their own elections, subject to Congressional oversight. So State legislatures use the power stated here to set district boundaries. As they have the power to determine boundaries, there is the temptation to use that power to partisan benefit.

There is the power for Congress to intervene, but only through passing Laws. For example, In 1842 Congress passed a law that prevented States from electing their representatives "at large". This was modified further in 1967 Therefore Congress has passed laws that require congressional districts to be drawn. And re-apportionment following a census means that re-districting must also happen.

So two laws that empower Gerrymandering are the US Constitution and 1842 Apportionment act.

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  • Thank you for the detailed explanation. It didn't occur to me to look at the Constitution. My bad. Cheers! Feb 8, 2018 at 21:22

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