As African-Americans overwhelmingly vote Democratic, Republicans want to cram the Democratic vote into as few House districts as possible. There are two ways to dilute that influence in the redistricting wars: “cracking,” or spreading black voters out across multiple House districts, and “packing,” or putting as many black voters as possible into the fewest number of districts.
Cracking the minority vote can easily run afoul of the Voting Rights Act’s 1982 amendment, which mandates that minority voters be able to choose their representatives.
Packing, on the other hand, gives black politicians a better chance at getting elected, while diluting black voters’ influence on other districts. While egregious packing can be challenged in court, it is harder to fight. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Republicans developed an “unholy alliance” strategy to exploit this sytem.
By packing Democrats into fewer and fewer House districts to protect a handful of black incumbents, Republicans are expanding their control over all 435 House seats by limiting Democratic influence to the smallest number of House seats possible.
“The Voting Rights Act has become one of Democrats’ biggest roadblocks to taking back the House,” said redistricting expert Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report. “This pattern of heavily minority districts and increasingly-whitewashed surrounding districts means Democrats could win the total vote for House by several points and still fall more than a dozen seats short of 218.”