The Geography of Gerrymandering in the United States

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Gerrymandering is considered to be normal political practice, and yet it is a practice that disturbs many working in the political arena. Gerrymandering has been criticized by President Obama, who encouraged change to the system to better reflect the American people and the values they hold.

Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing or re-drawing congressional boundaries to benefit a specific political candidate or party. The district boundaries exist to determine the delegates that are sent to the U.S. Congress and are drawn by the predominate party to better favour their candidates. The process of redistricting often lumps voters together who will support a particular party.

The Washington Post recently took a look at how gerrymandering has affected politics in the United States.  Maryland and North Carolina are two instances where the district boundaries have been drawn to include or exclude certain demographics of voters. Maryland’s districts were drawn by the Democrats, while North Carolina’s favor the Republicans. Some states put the task of redistricting into the hands of a third party while others have put in regulations to keep one party from drawing the boundaries unfairly.

gerrymandering-north-carolina-map

There is a new movement to take the human bias out of the gerrymandering process by using a complex computer algorithm to draw political lines. The computer program was created by a software engineer named Brian Olson and is based on the census block system used by the U.S. Census Bureau. This process means that district boundaries are organized and drawn using geography and census data as opposed to biased human opinion or political greed. This makes the districts more compact and easier to track in addition to equalizing voter influence.

Critics of the system (many of them politicians) say that minority voters’ influence will be compromised if an algorithm is used instead of neighborhood-by-neighborhood district boundary drawing. Proponents of the computer-based system say that an unbiased computer program is better than the blatant political scheming that is currently the norm when it comes to gerrymandering.

More: This is actually what America would look like without gerrymandering, Washington Post, January 13, 2016