Ever wonder why Congress can maintain a 10% approval rating while still having an incumbent re-election rate over 90%?
Well, the answer’s pretty simple and it’s called Gerrymandering. It’s the process by which state legislatures map districts to guarantee victories for a number of their candidates, regardless of how voters feel.
A legislature held by Party A can deprive Party B of Congressional seats by two redistricting strategies, packing and cracking.
Packing means that they map a district containing a huge majority of Party B supporters, minimising their effect in the rest of the state. Cracking means that they make sure members of party B are in the minority of most districts by spreading them out between districts.
The result is some really funky looking districts.
Can you tell the difference between a gerrymandered congressional district and a Rorschach inkblot?
It's California's 20th Congressional district, where Rep. Jim Costa represents a solidly Democratic district linking the cities of Fresno, Sanger, Selma, and Lamont in the far south.
But it's actually New York's 9th congressional district, a solidly Democratic district represented by Yvette Clark, a hodgepodge of seemingly random parts of Brooklyn and Queens.
Represented by Democrat Frank Pallone, this elaborate district manages to connect Plainfield, Edison, New Brunswick and Asbury park for a solidly Democratic district.
Nope, It's Illinois' ludicrous, ear-muff shaped 4th District in the heart of Chicago, held by Rep. Luis Gutierrez which connects to largely Hispanic neighborhoods by way of Interstate 294.
Nope, it's North Carolina's 12th Congressional District, which packs as many of the state's Democrats into a single district as possible to keep them out of other districts.
Held by Democrats since 1903, the 3rd district — now a slightly retooled 5th — connects Jacksonville, Gainesville, Pine Hills and and Sanford.
Actually, Pennsylvania's 12 district, currently held by Republican Pete Rothfus. The 12th connects several cities and suburbs around Western PA, Dodging Pittsburgh but also leaving room to the west for the rural 18th district.
It's actually North Carolina's 3rd District, comprised of coastal, conservative, and rural communities and held by Republican Rep Walter Jones.
It's actually Maryland's nonsensical 3rd Congressional District, held by Rep. John Sarbanes, a heavily-Democratic district which finds a way to connects a bunch of random Maryland cities that aren't Baltimore.
It's actually Maryland's 4th District, held by Democrat Donna Edwards, which also connects a bunch of random non-Baltimore cities in Maryland. Maryland is a really weird state.
Another Maryland one! Democratic Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger holds by far the nuttiest district in all opf Maryland, which keeps with its predecessors in dodging Baltimore but linking several other urban, Democratic leaning areas.
It's Arizona's 2nd congressional district, held by Democrat Ron Barber but typically a fairly Republican seat. The reason for the odd shape — especially the slim line running along the course of the Grand Canyon — is that isolated Northeast region is the area of the Hopi tribe, while the surrounding area is held by the Navajo.
Actually California's 39th district, which skirts the city proper but connects a string of major right-leaning L.A. suburbs for Republican Ed Royce.
It's Massachusetts' 4th District, connecting a number of Democratic strongholds and held by Democrat Rep. Joe Kennedy III.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.