What Would America Look Like Without Gerrymandering?

Christopher Ingraham: “Some state legislatures are more brazen about [gerrymandering] than others. Maryland’s districts, drawn by Democrats, are one particularly egregious example. North Carolina’s, drawn by Republicans, are another.”

“From a technological standpoint it’s fairly straightforward — a software engineer in Massachusetts named Brian Olson wrote an algorithm to do it in his spare time … Olson’s algorithm creates ‘optimally compact’ equal-population congressional districts in each state, based on 2010 census data. It draws districts that respect the boundaries of census blocks, which are the smallest geographic units used by the Census Bureau. This ensures that the district boundaries reflect actual neighborhoods and don’t, say, cut an arbitrary line through somebody’s house.”

“To see what this looks like in practice, compare this map of our current congressional districts (top) with one we stitched together from Olson’s output (bottom).”

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  • Vista-Cruiser

    I’m tired of Democrats complaining about gerrymandering. Had we gotten our voters out to the polls back in 2010, WE, not the Republicans, could have done most of the gerrymandering.

    • pisher

      Much as I agree it’s our fault that happened, the solution is not to do what the Republicans do in reverse.

      We need fairly drawn districts, not districts carved out into bizarre shapes to create as much ideological purity as possible–and rewarding candidates in those districts purely on how well they pander to the far-right base.

      Look what it’s done to them.

      We don’t want that happening to us.

    • did you work on getting out the vote?

      • Vista-Cruiser

        xian: Since you ask, yes I did, and I’ve done so for Democratic candidates in every election beginning in 1996.

        In 2010, I used a week and a half of vacation time at work to volunteer on a Democratic campaign. That’s even though our candidate was something like eleven points behind in the pre-election polls. The volunteer coordinator felt that I was effective over the phone so he mostly had me do phone banking.

        On election night, we were prepared for the worst, but our candidate actually eked out a win. He was one of the only Democrats in the entire U.S. to outperform his pre-election poll numbers.

        • excellent.mlet’s encourage more folks to follow your lead.

        • pisher

          Admirable, but I don’t really believe our problem is bad GOTV operations. We’re fine in that area. It’s that so much of our base loses interest between Presidential elections.

          You can’t MAKE people vote. Enthusiasm and voluntarism are important, but they don’t solve all the underlying problems.

    • NonSequitur

      Of all the things democrats complain about this is what you’re upset with? You need to reevaluate priorities.

  • CA_Guy

    It looks like Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas are the currently the fairest states.

  • Tony C

    Not that I advocate against it but the civil rights act actually mandates some gerrymandering based on race requiring the establishment of minority majority districts.

  • realnrh

    So the question is, what’s the resultant expected Congressional breakdown, giving each district to the party that won the net presidential race? Does it actually bring the Congressional representation closer to the results we’d get from an actual national proportional distribution? Democrats won more total votes for Congress, so if the map produces a Republican hold, then it’s not actually doing anything to make a more representative result.

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