Gerrymanderers may soon be sent packing for doing too much cracking


Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his cohort of Republicans might have gone too far in redrawing their State’s political boundaries to their advantage. Last November, a federal district court declared these maneuvers, called gerrymandering,* unconstitutional. However, as discussed in this Chicago Tribune article, the Supreme Court might consider overturning the ruling—these gerrymanders being partisan, not racially discriminatory.

One of the most infamous of all gerrymandered districts—1992’s 12th Congressional District in North Carolina-is pictured here. It became known as the “I-85 district” due to being no wider than the freeway for stretches that connected the desired populations of voters.

North Carolina’s 12th was a kind of in vitro offspring of an unromantic union: Father was the 1980s/1990s judicial and administrative decisions under the Voting Rights Act, and Mother was the partisan and personal politics that have traditionally been at redistricting’s core. The laboratory that made this birth possible was the computer technology that became available for the 1990s redistricting cycle. The progeny won no Beautiful Baby contests.

— North Carolina Redistricting Cases:  the 1990s, posted at Minnesota Legislature Web Site

You may wonder, as I did, how gerrymandering works. The latest issue of Nature explains it with their graphic on “packing and cracking” here. Also, see the figures on measuring compactness. Mathematicians approach this in various ways, e.g., the area of the district compared to with that of the smallest polygon that surrounds it (called the convex hull). Quantifying the fairness of boundaries creates a great deal of contention–which measure to use being chosen for greatest advantage of whomever is wielding the figures.

Partisan gerrymandering, if not outlawed, will be catalyzed by the 2020 census. Keep an eye on this.

*A word coined in 1812 when Massachusetts’s Governor Gerry redrew a district north of Boston into the shape of a salamander.

  1. No comments yet.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

css.php