[Excerpt] “In my most recent column, I expressed concern about the effectiveness of the constitutional decision rules that currently govern gerrymandering – the redrawing of electoral districts in a manner that favors the incumbent majority at the expense of those out of power.

Briefly, the Constitution has not been interpreted to prohibit redistricting with an eye toward advancing the interests of the political party in power. But it has been interpreted to bar legislators from redistricting on racial grounds – at least in most circumstances.

The problem is that voters from certain racial groups tend to vote overwhelmingly for a single party. Thus, one way to gain partisan advantage in racially diverse states is to dilute the voting power of racial groups who tend to vote for the other party. This is accomplished by either “packing” voters from these groups into districts the other party is going to win anyway, or “cracking” them into a number of different legislative districts so that they fall somewhat short of a majority in each one.

As matters now stand, redistricting that results in such packing and cracking is constitutional if a court finds that its “predominant purpose” was merely to secure partisan advantage. But it is unconstitutional if a court finds that racial motivations predominated.”

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Concord Monitor

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This article is part of the series Constitutional Connections by John M. Greabe and was originally published by the Concord Monitor.