Thursday, January 26, 2017

This Video Overview Succinctly But Thoroughly Explains Redistricting And Gerrymandering In The USA

I watched a video today which spells out very clearly and accurately the electoral problems in the US based on our redistricting process.  (It's below.)

I say this as someone who knows a little bit about redistricting

I blogged the Alaska Redistricting Board that met from 2011 through 2013.  I learned a lot about redistricting both in the Alaska and in the US.

Among the things I learned (and are echoed in the video):
  • Whoever controls the state governorships and legislatures generally gets control of redrawing the maps.  That includes the congressional districts (this doesn't matter in states like Alaska where there is only one member of congress) and the state legislative districts
  • There are a number of different ways to gerrymander (make the maps so they favor your party):
    • "The first method is called the "excess vote." It is an attempt to concentrate the voting power of the opposition into just a few districts, to dilute the power of the opposition party outside of those districts that contain an overwhelming majority of the opposition's voters. [Sometimes called 'packing.']
    • The second method is know as the "wasted vote." This method of gerrymandering involves diluting the voting power of the opposition across many districts, preventing the opposition from having a majority vote in as many districts as possible.
    • Finally, the "stacked" method involves drawing bizarre boundaries to concentrate the power of the majority party by linking distant areas into specific, party-in-power districts."  (I originally posted this list on a blogpost on Anchorage redistricting.  It comes from Matt Rosenberg.)  
  • The Republicans were much more sophisticated and foresightful before 2010 and had captured a large majority of state governorships and legislatures.  Thus they controlled redistricting in most states.   This resulted in the House of Representatives having far more Republicans than the number of Republican voters would likely have produced if all districts were fairly drawn.
  • These lopsided districts limit the likelihood Democrats will retake the majority in the House of Representatives.  Some long shot ways Democrats can win in these districts:  
    • get out the vote of people who generally don't vote, and do so in huge numbers.
    • enough Democrats move into the Republican districts to even the lopsided-ness
  • Unless Democrats capture enough state governorships and legislatures, the Republicans will be able to keep control after the 2020 census redistricting.
  • The US Senate's two Senators per state is itself a form of gerrymandering which gives the many smaller states a lopsided influence in the Senate.

Here's the video, it gives a great overview of what's wrong.

If all the people who marched last weekend and are organizing to resist the Trump administration want to make a real difference, I'd suggest they take a good look at redistricting in their states and how to either change the system or get more seats on the redistricting board. Here are some starting resources.

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