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How Politicians Win Without The Most Votes: Gerrymandering Explained

How Politicians Win Without The Most Votes: Gerrymandering Explained

A federal court ruled North Carolina’s gerrymandered congressional map unconstitutional on Tuesday, marking the first time in history a federal court has ruled against gerrymandering on a political basis.

The shapes of the gerrymandered districts were “motivated by invidious partisan intent” by Republicans in the North Carolina legislature, the court said. 

What Is Gerrymandering?

Gerrymandering refers to carefully constructing voting districts into odd and non-intuitive shapes in order to manipulate the demographics of the voting base in the district. Both Republicans and Democrats have used gerrymandering to add votes to a district in certain areas and whittle away votes in other areas in an attempt to influence election outcomes.

A panel of judges ruled that North Carolina’s congressional districts are unconstitutional because they violate the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

Federal courts have ruled against gerrymandering on racial grounds in the past, but this week’s decision marks the first time gerrymandering has been struck down on purely political grounds.

The issue of political gerrymandering reached the Supreme Court in the summer of 2017. 

Bipartisan Opposition

Gerrymandering has drawn opposition from both sides of the political aisle. Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse issued a joint statement condemning gerrymandering prior to the Supreme Court hearing.

“Partisan gerrymandering has become a tool for powerful interests to distort the democratic process,” the statement said.

A Supreme Court ruling against gerrymandering could have huge implications on the political power structure in Washington. Republicans currently control the White House and both houses of Congress, but the North Carolina ruling puts Republican congressional districts at risk in the 2018 election. Republicans currently control 10 out of 13 North Carolina House seats.

Market Impact

For investors, a shift in power back to Democrats could have major implications for stocks. The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSE: SPY) is up more than 28 percent since the 2016 election on investor optimism about the Republican agenda, including tax cuts and corporate deregulation. The stock market has historically performed best when Republicans control both the White House and Congress, according to S&P Capital IQ.

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