The history of “gerrymandering” started during the term of Elbridge Gerry, the Governor of Massachusetts, when he approved an obscure redistricting plan ahead of the 1812 elections that helped Republicans hold on to power in the legislature. One of the redistricted districts that primarily consisted of a one party defendant was shaped as a salamander, which later gave rise to this political term (Keck, 2010). The term relates to the drawing of the boundaries of electoral districts in a way that gives one party an unfair advantage over its rivals, which gives rise to the disproportionate representation of Democratic and Republican parties (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2013). Historically, both parties have used this form of redistricting to keep their respective parties in congress and state houses.
The Supreme Court reviewed the concept of partisan gerrymandering when redistricting favors the incumbents in both the Democratic and Republican Parties in several critical cases. Later on, it became a salient practice in the 2000 redistricting process which created some of the most non-competitive redistricting plans in American history (Issacharoff, Karlan, & Pildes, p. 828)
In Gaffney v. Cummings (1973) the Supreme Court reviewed a Connecticut redistricting plan that had been held unconstitutional by the District Court. The plan had drawn roughly equal districts, but had taken into account municipal lines as well as political fairness resulting in a deviation in districts. The plan also was consciously and overtly adopted, followed a policy of political fairness. At the district level the court held, the deviations from equality of populations of the Senate and House districts are not justified by any sufficient state interest and that the plan denies equal protection of the law to voters in districts with the largest population. The court also found that the policies of partisan political structuring cannot be approved as a legitimate reason for violating numerical equality of the district’s population. The Supreme Court reversed the ruling and held that bipartisan gerrymanders are constitutionally acceptable.
In Davis v. Bandemer (1986), the Supreme Court held that partisan gerrymandering violated the Equal Protection Clause, but the court couldn’t agree on the appropriate constitutional standard against which legality claims of partisan gerrymandering should and should not be evaluated. Justice White said that partisan gerrymandering occurred when a redistricting was enacted with the both the intent and the effect of discriminating against an identifiable political group. Justices Powell and Stevens said that partisan gerrymandering should be based on multiple factors, such as electoral district shape, adherence to local government boundaries. Justices O'Connor, Burger, and Rehnquist disagreed and held that such claims should be dismissed (Issacharoff, Karlan, & Pildes, pp. 777-779).
Gerrymandering is often compared to redistricting which is...