Posts Tagged ‘Gerrymandering’

How to undo legislative gerrymandering?

July 9, 2019

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It’s not an accident that Democrats won a majority of votes for state assemblies in Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin, but Republicans won a majority of the legislative seats.

It’s because legislative districts were intentionally drawn by Republican state legislatures to give Republicans an advantage.  You can comply with the Supreme Court’s “one man, one vote” ruling and create legislative districts with equal population, and still draw the lines so as to give one party an advantage.

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Both parties have done this through American history.  The word “gerrymander” comes from Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, whose party, the Democratic-Republicans (forerunner of today’s Democrats), drew up a strangely-shaped state senate district in 1812 to dilute the voters of the rival Federalists.

But Republicans during the last round of redistricting after the 2010 census used big data and computer analysis to lock in their control of legislatures in key states.  Democrats would have to do much more than win a majority of the votes to take back control.

They complained to the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court turned them down, in a 5-4 decision.  Chief Justice John Roberts said the court can’t take up the burden of drawing legislative district boundaries for the states.

But Justice Elena Kagan pointed out that there is an accepted procedure for doing just this.  It consists of having a computer process draw up many different maps of legislative districts of equal population that are geographically compact and respectful of existing boundaries, and then allowing the state legislature to choose one of them.

If the state and federal courts do not do something about gerrymandering, who will?  State legislatures elected in gerrymandered district are unlikely to change the system that put them in power.  Congress? State legislatures draw congressional district boundaries, too.

But the fact is that the Supreme Court is not going to change its decision until and unless a new justice is appointed and maybe not even then.

What remains for Democrats is to try to get a large enough vote to offset a rigged system.  Or propose amendments to state constitutions to set up a fair process for drawing legislative districts.

LINK

Chief Justice Roberts OKs Minority Rule by Doug Muder for The Weekly Sift.  Hat tip to him for the chart.

How the GOP locked in control of Congress

October 12, 2016

Democrats stand an excellent chance of keeping control of the White House and a reasonable chance of regaining a majority in the Senate, but it’s a foregone conclusion that Republicans will retain control of the House of Representatives not only for the next two years, but for the next 10 years or more..

That’s because of a successful plan, code-named REDSTATE, that Republican operatives implemented starting in 2010.  By targeting money at key state legislative races, they ensured Republican control of state legislatures in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida.

rat666c-838x621Then they used Big Data to draw legislative and congressional districts in such a way as to guarantee Republican majorities, even when Democrats won a majority of the state’s popular votes.

David Daley described this in his book, Rat-F**ked: How the Democrats Won the Presidency But Lost America.   I haven’t read the book, but I’ve read an excerpt and interviews, to which I link below.

Gerrymandering goes back to the early days of the Republic, and has been used by Democrats and Republicans.  What’s new about REDSTATE is the use of Big Date—detailed demographic information and computer analysis—to make gerrymandering more precise and impregnable than ever was possible before.

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The U.S. Congress without gerrymandering

January 19, 2016
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The map above shows U.S. congressional districts as they are today.

The map below shows U.S. congressional districts as they might be using a computer-generated algorithm to make the districts compact.

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How redistricting foils majority rule

April 1, 2013

The first two charts below show how Republicans used redistricting to tilt election results in Michigan.

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The two charts are in an excellent series of articles by Bloomberg News on how gerrymandering enables Republicans to win a majority of House of Representatives seats even in states where they get a minority of the votes.   The concluding article proposed a solution, a non-partisan commission to draw election districts, as was done in California under Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Click on the following links to read the articles.

Republicans Foil What Majority Wants By Gerrymandering

Republicans Win Congress as Democrats Get Most Votes

California Nonpartisan Districting Ousts Life Incumbents

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The game of gerrymandering

January 16, 2013

Democratic congressional candidates nationwide got a million more votes in 2012 than the Republican candidates did, but the Republicans have a 238 to 201 majority in the House of Representatives.  Conservative and right-wing organizations focused on state legislatures, and gerrymandered district boundaries to give the advantage to Republicans.

Some of the techniques are shown in the video:

  • Cracking.  If a community votes for the other party, break it up among many congressional or legislative districts so they are a minority in every one.
  • Packing.  If your supporters are geographically scattered, extend and distort the district boundaries to gather them in.
  • Bleaching.  If members of a minority group vote for the other party, gerrymander them out of your district.
  • Hijacking or kidnaping.  Change the district boundary to separate the other party’s candidate from her neighbors and require her to seek votes in a distant community.

Gerrymandering is used by both parties, and it is wrong no matter who does it.  But at the present moment in history, it is the Republicans who need it to retain national power.

Click on the following links for more information.

House Seats vs. Popular Vote by ProPublica.

The Hidden Hands in Redistricting by ProPublica.

How Dark Money Helped the Republicans Hold the House and Hurt Voters by ProPublica.

Gerrymandered Congress vs. majority rule

November 10, 2012

During the 2012 congressional elections, Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives received a majority of the total popular vote, but Republicans retained their substantial majority of seats in the House of Representatives.

cult mapHow is this possible?  The main reason is gerrymandering — drawing of congressional district boundaries so as to give one party an advantage.  Republicans and Democrats both do it.  What’s possibly the weirdest district in the United States—Maryland’s third—was drawn to benefit a Democratic incumbent.  But at the present time it is Republican gerrymandering that has skewed the congressional election results the most.

Another factor is the creation of districts in which minority groups are in the majority, so as to make sure minorities are represented in Congress.  This means African-American and Hispanic voters, most of whom usually vote Democratic, are concentrated in just a few districts.   The Democratic Party would be better off if African-Americans and Hispanic voters were distributed over more districts, where their votes could be combined with the votes of non-Hispanic white liberals.

To my mind, this is just as bad as a Presidential election in which one candidate gets a majority of the popular vote, but another gets a majority of the electoral vote.

gerrymander067It will be hard to correct his on the state level.  No party that is in power will voluntarily reduce its chances of winning elected office.  The answer will have to be a grass-roots movement to amend state constitutions to allow for non-partisan commissions and court review of district boundaries, based on objective criteria for compactness and respect for historic jurisdictional boundaries.  You probably could program a computer to draw up congressional districts, and do a better job than now.

Until the gerrymandering problem is addressed, I think it would be a bad idea to change Electoral College representation as as Maine and Nebraska have done so that all but two electors are chosen by congressional district [1] instead of statewide.  If that had been in effect, Mitt Romney would have carried Pennsylvania and Ohio even though Barack Obama won a majority of the popular vote there.

Click on Why Americans Actually Voted for a Democratic House for an explanation of how gerrymandering distorted the 2012 election result.

Click on Narrowing In on Absurd Gerrymanders for an explanation of how GIS software is used to gerrymander congressional districts, and how it could be used to create fair districts.

Click on The Redistricting Game for a report on a computer game that shows how gerrymandering works.

Click on America’s Most Gerrymandered Congressional District for background on Maryland’s Third District.

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