The U.S. Congress consists of two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives. On November 3, in addition to the president, a third of the seats of the Senate (35 out of 100) will be elected, as well as the entire House of Representatives with its 435 seats. This electoral process can lead to distortions of the voters' will: A party can win more seats for its state even if its political opponent has the majority of votes there.
Both Democrats and Republicans cleverly exploit the U.S. electoral system by cherry-picking their voters in order to win the election, even without a national majority. This is how it works:
The process of manipulating the majority ratios starts before the election: states usually determine how their district boundaries are drawn every ten years. In most cases, this decision is made by the respective state government. The nationwide regulations are minimal: districts must contain about the same number of inhabitants and form a coherent area. This is precisely where both sides take advantage of the U.S. electoral system.
Imagine you are governor in our fictional state and can divide it into three districts:
This active exploitation of the electoral system, in which districts are intentionally drawn to favour particular political parties is called "Gerrymandering". The name goes back to Elbridge Gerry. During the senate election of 1812, Elbridge, then Governor of Massachusetts, signed legislation for new district boundaries. One of them had the shape of a salamander.
"Gerrymandering" is as controversial as it is common. Courts repeatedly prohibit such demarcations. Yet once again, many districts in this election have curious shapes:
To what extent gerrymandering will be effective this election is still unclear. Nevertheless, a majority in the House of Representatives is a decisive factor in determining policy: Without a majority, a president can make little lasting change in domestic politics. In the last mid-term elections in 2018, the Democrats reclaimed the House of Representatives and then repeatedly thwarted the plans of U.S. President Donald Trump, especially with regard to spending. After all, Congress has budgetary sovereignty.
So far, the Republicans control the Senate, but the Democrats are figuring out opportunities here, too. The Senate must approve the appointment of all outstanding government offices - from minister to ambassador. This applies to the appointment of important judges. The 35 senatorial seats that are now to be elected, however, are not affected by strange demarcations. Here, the majority in the respective federal state decides.