Handsome, isn't he?
There are many myths
about our regular redistricting and
about gerrymandering, and they start here.
Myth: The Constitution tells us how to draw districts.
Fact: Not only doesn't the Constitution say how to draw
districts, it doesn't even require them.
We didn't always use them.
But we have used districting since early in our history
because it works much better than having Representatives
serve 'at large', representing the state as a whole,
which has a strong potential for corruption.
Districting gives the people of each district a particular Representative
who must raise their particular interests in Congress.
Section 3 doesn't repeal anything in the Constitution.
It adds something.
We don’t have to have districts at all.
This would be their first mention in the Constitution,
and it must be considered.
Myth: Because the Constitution doesn't mention districting,
we have no requirements to uphold when we redistrict.
Fact: The Preamble does mandate at least two things that affect redistricting:
How these affect redistricting shows up in clauses like the Apportionment clause, the Guarantee clause, the Equal Privileges and Immunities clause, the Equal Rights clause, the Poll Tax clause and others. It's a big issue the Constitution addresses in multiple clauses (see An Invalid Amendment by Statute, Self-Governance and the Income Inequality Question, The Representation Question, and One Person, One Vote. For Level 2, see Frozen Apportionment). The Constitution is read as one whole document. Taken together, what these clauses mean in redistricting is that Representatives must represent equal numbers of people, and that the people's priorities can't be distorted by the way we draw districts.
Then what's the problem?
Our redistricting process is easy to abuse.
Graphic, "How to Steal an Election", Steven Nass (as per Wikimedia Commons)
Image of gerrymander, Boston Weekly Messenger, 1812
Myth: Requiring compact, contiguous districts would end gerrymandering.
Fact: Gerrymandering is defined by its purpose. It means drawing districts
to gain an unfair advantage. A district could be perfectly square and still be a gerrymander. The distortion that makes a district a gerrymander is the distortion of a legislature's priorities by the way people are divided up into districts.
It especially affects elections.
We use a three-part process at the federal level:
This subsection discusses gerrymandering by districting. The Frozen Apportionment subsection discusses gerrymandering by malapportionment (not using Article I, Section 2's ratio to determine the number of Representatives each state will have).
The section footnote The Representation Question dissects a Supreme Court case, Evenwel vs Abbott, in which gerrymandering of state-level districting is attempted by enumeration.