Pennsylvania Supreme Court Imposes New Congressional Map

New congressional districts for Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Supreme Court)

A major development yesterday in the case of Pennsylvania’s gerrymandered congressional electoral district map, which was thrown out as unconstitutional last month by the state’s supreme court. The legislature and governor having failed to submit a new electoral district map by the  court’s deadline, the court has imposed what it calls a remedial plan, drawing a new congressional electoral district boundaries for the state of Pennsylvania (court documents). These boundaries will take effect in the primary vote next May, but not next month’s special election.

The general consensus is that the map is more favourable to Democrats than the Democrats’ own proposals: under this map, for example, Clinton would have won the vote in eight seats to Trump’s ten; under the old map, she won the vote in six to Trump’s twelve. Republicans are already planning an appeal. The New York Times does a map-heavy deep dive into the new district boundaries: which areas they include and exclude, and their electoral implications.

Suddenly rendered moot, but still worth pointing to:’s  interactive comparison of congressional map proposals. There were a lot of them, before the court put its foot down yesterday, and this website is a similarly deep dive, analyzing each rigorously.

The Gerrymanderers

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.

The Times article points to a similar, earlier article that appeared in the October 2012 issue of The Atlantic and goes into even more depth: “The League of Dangerous Mapmakers.” [Leventhal]

Redrawing Congressional Districts in Pennsylvania

The New York Times

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 Gerrymandered Congressional District Map Ruled Unconstitutional

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.

Gerrymandered Congressional Districts

The Washington Post (2014)

In 2014 the Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham reported on the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the United States. The article was accompanied by an interactive map, showing the compactness score Ingraham calculated for each district—the more compact an electoral district, the less likely it’s a gerrymander. [Dave Smith]

(Gerrymandering—manipulating electoral district boundaries for political advantage—has been a frequent topic here on The Map Room. Previous entries include ‘There Is More to Gerrymandering Than Ugly Shapes’The New York Times on GerrymanderingGerrymandering in FloridaMore on Gerrymandering and Computer-Generated DistrictsComputer-Generated Electoral Districts ReduxGerrymandering as Computer Game and U.S. Electoral District Ballot Initiatives.)

‘There Is More to Gerrymandering Than Ugly Shapes’

On the liberal political blog Daily Kos, Stephen Wolf argues that it takes more than a weirdly shaped electoral district to make a gerrymander:

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.