The Washington Post looks at how redistricting has changed the U.S. congressional electoral map so far. “As of Dec. 15, half of the 50 states have settled on the boundaries for 165 of 435 U.S. House districts. […] The Washington Post is using the number of Trump and Biden voters within old and new district boundaries, according to data collected by Decision Desk HQ, to show how the districts have changed politically. As more states finalize their maps, we’ll add them to this page to give a fuller picture of what to expect in the midterms.”
Gerrymandering in Texas
The New York Times and Texas Monthly look at the bizarre shapes in the new congressional electoral map of Texas, which gains two new representatives. Texas Monthly’s Dan Solomon: “Across the state, there will be one more majority-Anglo district than under the prior map, and one fewer majority-Hispanic one. The two new seats Texas was awarded for its booming population will be placed in Austin and Houston—and even though non-Anglo newcomers made up 95 percent of the state’s population growth the last decade, both districts will be Anglo-majority.” Kenneth Field has some thoughts. [Maps Mania]
Making Redistricting More Fair
A Surge of Citizen Activism Amps Up the Fight Against Gerrymandering (Bloomberg): “From North Carolina to Michigan to California, voting rights groups, good government advocates, data crunchers and concerned voices are finding new ways into the fight for fair representation, via informational meetings, mapping contests, testimony workshops and new technologies.”
Can Math Make Redistricting More Fair? (CU Boulder Today): “Clelland doesn’t advocate for any political party or for any particular redistricting proposal. Instead, she and her colleagues use mathematical models to build a series of redistricting statistics. These numbers give redistricting officials a baseline that they can compare their own maps to, potentially identifying cases of gerrymandering before they’re inked into law.”
Redistricting—and gerrymandering—is one of the blacker cartographic arts. With the release of data from the 2020 U.S. Census, and the changes in state congressional delegations—some states gain a seat or two, some states lose a seat, others are unchanged—new congressional maps are being drawn up for the 2022 elections. The Washington Post takes a look at proposed congressional district maps in Colorado, Indiana and Oregon, and what their impact may be.
CNN: “The Supreme Court has denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to block new congressional maps that could tilt several key races in Democrats’ favor from being used in the midterm elections.” The new map was imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after the state’s governor and legislature failed to come up with a replacement for the previous map, which the court had declared unconstitutional; see previous entry.
Meanwhile, last month Wired published a piece that looks at how experts used math and computer simulations to prove to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the congressional map exhibited partisan bias. It’s an interesting look at some interesting methodologies.
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: Philly.com’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.
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.
Gerrymandering isn’t just about congressional districts. Earlier this month, Vox’s Alvin Chang explored how school district borders are drawn—and whether they simply reflect existing neighbourhood racial segregation, exacerbate it, or reduce it. Because they can do any one of these things. [Dave Smith]
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.
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.