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.
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 Gerrymandering, Gerrymandering in Florida, More on Gerrymandering and Computer-Generated Districts, Computer-Generated Electoral Districts Redux, Gerrymandering as Computer Game and U.S. Electoral District Ballot Initiatives.)
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.