Next year marks the 200th birthday of the term “gerrymander.” The word, which refers to the redrawing of a congressional district to one party’s advantage, was named for Maryland Governor Eldbridge Gerry. Gerry (pictured, right) has since been forgotten, but gerrymandering is alive and well.
With the findings of the 2010 U.S. Census now in the hands of the states, the various legislatures, judicial boards and commissions tasked with redistricting are still in the process of redrawing the next American congressional map. Despite some states’ attempts at fairness and transparency, the practice is not without controversy.
Last week, a U.S. District Court Judge rejected a redistricting map proposed by the Texas state legislature. The judge’s ruling leaves the Texas congressional elections of 2012 in a state of flux.
According to a report from Politico, Texas’ new map will either be drawn by a federal court in San Antonio, or by the Texas legislature, which can take another crack at redistricting when it reconvenes next year.
If you’re wondering how districts look when they’re designed through the gerrymandering process, here are 10 strangely-shaped districts throughout the country that are currently represented in the 112th Congress.
There is hardly a normal, natural shape in the bunch: Consider Florida’s Third District, snaking its way up to wrap around Jacksonville; or Illinois’ 17th District, which clings to the state’s west side like moss, and sneaks so far toward the center it encircles the city of Decatur.
When districts are gerrymandered without oversight and public input, it often leaves the map, and the resulting congress, in a strange shape that serves political parties at the expense of the voting public.
These images are courtesy of the National Atlas page, which has depictions of all 435 districts.
North Carolina, 3rd District
Virginia, 3rd District
Maryland, 3rd District
Illinois, 11th District
Texas, 19th District
California, 7th District
Illinois, 17th District
Pennsylvania, 12th District
West Virginia, 2nd District
Florida, 3rd District