If we want to understand how Congress works, we should start with the election of its members.
Getting elected takes a lot of a representative's time.
The way in which the districts they run in are drawn goes a long way to determining how successful they will be.
The Constitution provides that each state will have two senators, which is easy to determine, and that seats in the House of Representatives will be allocated on the basis of population, which is less so because state populations process in which the 435 House seats are reallocated among the states after each ten- States whose populations grow gain seats, which are taken from states with declining populations.
Most of the winners are in the Sun Belt states of the South and Southwest.
Since areas that lose population will also lose representatives, how you count the population becomes critical.
Democrats in 2000 proposed using a more precise statistical sampling technique that would allow census workers to get a better estimate of hard tocount portions of the population such as poor people and immigrants.
Republicans were worried that this would increase the population of Democratic districts and thus increase their representation.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution and the legislation on the books required that the census reflect an actual count of the population.
The districts within the states have to be redrawn to keep them fairly equal in population.
Americans should be represented under the principle of "one person, one vote" and that the districts average size of a house district in the year 2010 was 710,767.which is carried out by the state legislators and can turn into a bitter political battle.
The process of drawing district lines to benefit one group or another can result in some extremely strange shapes by the time state politicians are through.
There are three kinds of errymandering.
Democrats might draw districts that would split a historically Republican district and force an incumbent Republican to run in a new, more liberal district in order to concentrate as many opposition-party voters as possible.
It is possible for a party to win a majority of seats in the legislature while losing the popular vote.
The Republican success in the 2010 elections gave the party control of the process in a majority of states.
Democrats tried to use their greater vote total as an indication that they had a popular mandate, but it was not enough to control the House.
Democrats needed a five percentage point win to take the House back because of the way the districts were drawn.
It looks like their margin of victory may be closer to 7 or 8 points which could support a majority of 35-40.
The Democrats gained control of the state legislative level, which will give them a say in how the districts are drawn after the 2020 census.
Democrats took seven governorships, flipped six legislative chambers, and added about 300 state-level House and Senate seats.
The effects of extreme gerrymander were too much for the judicial system.
In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court redrew the map to equalize the seats between the party, since the previous Republican map had made it possible for the Democrats to carry about half of the statewide vote but win only five of the 18 seats.
Pro-incumbent gerrymander is a second kind.
This happens when legislators agree to create districts to improve the electoral security of the current members of both parties.
District lines can be drawn to favor or disadvantage an ethnic or racial group.
For a long time, states in the Deep South drew district lines to keep black voters out of Congress.
The Voting Rights Act was supposed to make it easier for African Americans to vote.
States that had a history of discrimination were subject to federal supervision to make sure their voting laws did not discriminate.
The drawing of district lines has been used to increase the likelihood that African Americans will be elected to Congress.
The formation of majority-minority districts is supported by both Republicans and minority political activists.
It makes it easier for nonminority districts by taking Democratic voters out of the pool of voters in other districts.
"Earmuffs" is the name of the district.
The courts struggle to find a "fair" set of rules for drawing district lines because politicians and racial and ethnic group leaders continue to jockey for the best district boundaries for their own interests.
Congress never updated the Voting Rights Act after the Court struck down part of it.
A lower court had found that a Texas map was discriminatory.
The Court ruled that Texas Republicans did not intentionally draw their districts to disadvantage minorities, and they let most of the map stand.
It is very difficult to prove intentionality in the future because of the remaining protections.
Since race is a suspect classification, a law that uses race to treat citizens differently is subject to strict scrutiny, and the law must fulfill a compelling recent cases the Supreme Court declared that race cannot be the main factor in drawing congressional districts.
The qualifications for Congress are easy to meet.
State laws vary on how long or when a member must live in the state he or she wants to represent.
If you are running for the House, you have to live in the actual district.
You don't need to have graduated from high school to serve in Congress.
It's hard to imagine why anyone would want to be a part of that institution, let alone spend the money, resources, and public effort necessary to win, given the low esteem in which Congress is held by most Americans.
Some members of Congress want to serve the public.
They are more likely to run for office from a sense of personal conviction and commitment to act in line with strongly held values.
After graduating from Harvard with a political science degree, Al Franken went on to make his name as a comic writer and performer on Saturday Night Live.
In his second term, accusations of sexual misconduct from earlier in his career arose and he resigned from the Senate.