Smart Rick Pildes at the Monkey Cage:
We have had only two redistricting cycles (2000 and 2010) in this transformed political terrain. When the stakes are so high that partisan control of the House might hang in the balance, more aggressive partisan efforts to gerrymander will, not surprisingly, flourish….
The modern era of regular decennial redistricting began in the 1970s, when every state began to have to redraw districts every decade, after the new census, to meet the equal-population requirements of the Supreme Court’s one-vote, one-person doctrine. Since then, we have not had a redistricting cycle with as virulent a combination of incentive and capacity to gerrymander.
What’s more, our politics are so polarized that partisan political conflicts have come to seem existential. Each party believes that, if the other gains control, the very identity of the United States will be compromised. The perceived stakes could not be much higher….
On top of these structural changes in politics, other more widely recognized factors contribute to making gerrymandering worse today. Technological changes make precision gerrymandering easier. Voters are far more polarized, which makes gerrymanders more reliable and enduring because voting patterns are more stable and easier to predict.
But while the ability to gerrymander successfully has improved, the transformation in the structure of our politics has changed even more dramatically. Control of our political institutions has been evenly divided over an exceptionally sustained period. And the nature of our hyperpolarized, existential politics has raised the stakes even more. It’s no wonder that we are seeing such aggressive partisan gerrymandering in so many places.