When we talk about gerrymandering, about redrawing the political map to favour one’s own party at the expense of another, we talk a lot about the maps themselves. The mapmakers, not so much. Check out this New York Times article on the political consultants who do the redrawing; it focuses on the electoral map of Maryland, which like several other states’ maps is the focus of a court challenge. The process has become even more refined as more and more data becomes available to feed into the redistricting maw.
In gerrymandering news, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the state’s congressional district map earlier this week, ordering the 18 districts—which have been called some of the most gerrymandered in the United States—to be redrawn in time for the 2018 elections. The New York Times explores how the Pennsylvania map could be redrawn in two ways: “One is a neutral map, the kind that might be drawn by a nonpartisan committee. The other is an adventure in extreme gerrymandering that aims to maximize the number of Republican-held seats.” (See above.) Meanwhile, if you live in the state, you might want to take a crack at remapping the districts yourself. Draw the Lines, a project by a nonpartisan watchdog group called the Committee of Seventy, will be holding a contest to redraw the state’s districts later this year.
North Carolina’s congressional district map has been ruled unconstitutional by a panel of federal judges, the New York Times reports. Significantly, it’s because the map represented a partisan gerrymander, engineered to ensure a Republican stranglehold on North Carolina’s congressional delegation, rather than a racial gerrymander. Partisan gerrymanders have not previously been considered illegal; it’ll be interesting to see what the eventual and inevitable Supreme Court ruling on this (and other gerrymandering cases) will be.
Land does not vote and we can’t judge gerrymanders simply based on geometry. Districts aren’t just abstract shapes on a map, but collections of actual people and voters. Ultimately, the outcomes produced by a particular map matter far more than a map’s appearance. Comparing the actual congressional districts to plausible alternatives in Maryland and other states demonstrates both how gerrymandering is more complex than merely grotesque shapes, and that Maryland is far from the worst partisan gerrymander nationwide.