A New Twist
The bipartisan gerrymander is a new twist on the partisan gerrymander. Rather than trying to gerrymander the opposing party's incumbents out of office, the political parties effectively strike a bargain in order to maintain the status quo. Also referred to as "incumbent protection," the parties cooperate to protect all existing incumbents and (where possible) to preserve their traditional constituencies.
The techniques used for a Bipartisan Gerrymander are essentially the same as those used for a Partisan Gerrymander, cracking and packing (see Messages from Mission 2). The goal of a bipartisan gerrymander is to eliminate unpredictability in potentially competitive districts. For instance, two adjacent competitive (50/50) districts might be redrawn so that each one is 70/30 for its respective party. The resulting districts all but guarantee re-election by an incumbent of each party (or a representative from the incumbent's party).
While this process avoids messy partisan fights in the legislature, bi-partisan gerrymandering may create other problems. By colluding in order to draw district lines that protect incumbents, the parties deny new candidates and also emerging constituencies the chance to participate in competitive elections. The lack of competition may lead to the stagnation of the political process. We hold elections precisely because the outcome is, or should be, unpredictable.
Case Study: Mission 3
A Bipartisan Gerrymander: California in 2000. The congressional redistricting plans put forward in California after the 2000 Census worked across party lines in order to entrench the electoral safety of the state's representatives. The cooperation between California's Democrats and Republicans was due in large part to the unique pressures the state places on its representatives, such as term limits. Additionally, California experienced its slowest population growth in 80 years, gaining only a single representative, and leaving its mapmakers with less wiggle-room than usual.
California's bipartisan gerrymander has been unusually effective: In 2004 incumbent political parties held on to all state and federal elective offices. In the 2006 elections only one district (out of 100 state and federal districts) changed party.
California Redistricting Resources
Texas considers new redistricting system
Redistricting Reform's Dead End
Incumbents get free pass: