Map of the Day

Christopher Ingraham at Wonkblog with a look at American congressional districts in reality and if we used computer algorithms to create them for compactness instead:

NC even gets singled out since we are so gerrymandered currently:

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 11.35.35 AM

And Ingraham on why this matters:

Algorithms like this one prioritize compactness — that is, ensuring that voters are geographically close together. One of the telltale signs of gerrymandering is dramatically non-compact districts that squiggle and squirm out in all different directions — evidence of lawmakers trying to bring far-flung voters into a single district in order to achieve the partisan mix that best favors their party. Or, as Obama said: districts that let politicians pick their voters, rather than the other way around.

Many political scientists are skeptical about the merits of drawing districts based on compactness. Their general argument is that districts are ideally based on communities of interest — people who share a common demography, culture, class, etc. There’s no particular reason, they say, that grouping voters by geographic proximity ensures this coherent community any more than drawing lines according to any other metric. Moreover, algorithms can be biased too.

It’s a point well-taken. But “community of interest” is an incredibly squishy term. You can define it pretty much however you want. As I wrote in 2014, if you’re a politician in search of a figleaf justification for putting voters from disparate corners of the state into the same congressional district, you can always find one. Communities of interest are a great ideal, but in practice they’re so fuzzy that they open the door to all manner of redistricting shenanigans, as we’ve seen.

Would this solve all of our political problems?  Absolutely not.  But it sure would be far more consistent with the actual democratic values of this country.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Map of the Day

  1. rgbact says:

    Sure. someone go tell the black elected Democrats that will be out of jobs that they need to go back to electing white Democrats for the greater good of the party again..

    Anyway, Republicans are so far in the lead, gerrymandering is actually hurting now. Just dilutes the GOP caucus with more moderates.

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