How does gerrymandering help one party get more seats in the legislature rather than gain more total votes?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Gerrymandering does nothing to get more actual votes for a party.  Instead, it tries to create legislative districts in such a way that the votes that the party does get result in the greatest possible number of seats in the legislature.

Let us say, for example, that there are two adjacent legislative districts with populations of the same size.  In one, Party A has 70 percent of the vote and Party B has 30.  In the other, Party A has 40 percent of the vote and Party B has 60.  Each party will typically win one district.  But now let us say that Party A gets to draw the lines.  They have a clear incentive to gerrymander.  This is because the two-district area as a whole is 55 percent for Party A and 45 percent for Party B.  If Party A can draw the lines so as to divide its voters evenly between the two districts, it will win both of them every time.  This is why gerrymandering is useful.  It can optimize the distribution of votes so that the same number of votes for a party can lead to a larger number of elected officials for that party.

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