Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Redistricting America

Every ten years, after the national census, states have to redraw their congressional districts in response to changes in the population data. Following the 2020 census each of the 435 districts in the House of Representatives represents 761,179 people. While creating these new congressional districts with equal populations the temptation for both the Republicans and the Democrats is to gerrymander - to create new districts which are less competitive.

According to a new interactive map from CNN the new congressional map has far fewer competitive districts than before the 2020 census. In fact according to CNN there are 17 fewer competitive districts (districts which neither Biden or Trump won by 5 percentage points or less). Texas republicans are mostly to blame for this, because they have gerrymandered their state so much that instead of 11 competitive districts there is now just one in the whole of Texas.

CNN's map showing What Redistricting Looks Like Across the Country allows you to compare the new electoral map with the map used in the last Presidential election. CNN has used the results of the 2020 election to show how competitive each district is on the new congressional map and how far Democratic or Republican the seat would have been in the last Presidential election. If you click on a state on the interactive map you can take a closer look at how that state's political map has been redrawn since the last election.

Earlier this year the Washington Post devised an informative and fun way to teach its readers about gerrymandering. In order to show how the redrawing of congressional districts often involves clear attempts to make districts easier to win for one party or another the WaPo released Gerrymanering Mini Golf. 

In the Post's Gerrymandering Mini Golf game you get to play one hole of golf on each of nine different congressional district boundaries. Irregular shaped borders are one of the key indicators of a gerrymandered electoral district. Irregular borders also makes an electoral district harder to play in a round of Gerrymandering Mini Golf.

Take Ohio's 1st Congressional District. This electoral district has been so gerrymandered by the Republican Party that its boundary has been contorted into an extremely irregular shape. This means that it is a very difficult hole to play in the Post's Gerrymandering Mini Golf. The Post has given this hole a par 5, which is a strong indication of how gerrymandered the district now is. 

As well as giving each congressional district a par score the Post has given each district a compactness score. As you progress through your round of Gerrymandering Mini Golf the Post's notes on each district do a good job of explaining the pros and cons of using compactness as a measure for determining how gerrymandered an electoral district has been.

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