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A Visual Explanation of Gerrymandering

A Visual Explanation of Gerrymandering

The Washington Post recently published this simple but very effective visual explanation of Gerrymandering: How to steal an election: a visual guide

Gerrymandering -- drawing political boundaries to give your party a numeric advantage over an opposing party -- is a difficult process to explain. If you find the notion confusing, check out the chart above --  adapted from one posted to Reddit this weekend -- and wonder no more.

Suppose we have a very tiny state of fifty people. Thirty of them belong to the Blue Party, and 20 belong to the Red Party. And just our luck, they all live in a nice even grid with the Blues on one side of the state and the Reds on the other.

Now, let's say we need to divide this state into five districts. Each district will send one representative to the House to represent the people. Ideally, we want the representation to be proportional: if 60 percent of our residents are Blue and 40 percent are Red, those five seats should be divvied up the same way.

This is a great example of using data visualization to explain a complex process. The use of the matrix of squares to represent people simplifies the context and keeps the audience attention focused on the groupings.


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Reader Comments (2)

Here are online maps I produced of some congressional districts with such bizarre shapes they likely are gerrymandered. The Michigan example is one of the worst offenders.

Each map shows the congressional districts for a single state and highlights one district. There are maps for 21 states. In other words, gerrymandering is a wide spread problem. While some of these highlighted district seats are held by democrats, most of these seats are held by republicans.

Gerrymandered voting districts at any level of government are a fundamental evil since gerrymandering allow politicians to chose their voters instead of allowing voters to chose their politicians.

You can help educate people about gerrymandering by reposting this message. Or just post one of the example map links. No one can look at these maps with thinking there is something basically wrong with drawing voting district lines like those that are highlighted on these maps.

For more information, please click “Map Tips” in the upper left corner of the map. Be sure to click the READ ME First button and find out about house bill 1102 which would require each state to have an independent commission that would be in charge of drawing congressional district boundaries. The states that already have an independent commission for this purpose are Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana and Washington.

Alabama 2nd

Arizona 3rd

Colorado 1st

Connecticut 1st

Georgia 11th

Illinois 11th

Kentucky 1st

Louisiana 6th

Maryland 7th

Massachusetts 8th

Michigan 11th

Missouri 5th

New Jersey 12th

Ohio 7th

Pennsylvania 17th

South Carolina 2nd

Tennessee 3rd

Texas 2nd

Virginia 10th

West Virginia 2nd

Wisconsin 3rd
March 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph Elfelt
While the first is "perfect" representation, it's perfection is wholly dependent on what happens after blue wins.
In any democracy, this is 'perfect'. But there is no protection for the rights of the red voters.

In other words, once blue wins, the tyranny of the majority begins. We have been taught, in the US, that 'majority rules'. In reality, the Constitution protects the rights of the minorities, and the smallest minority is that of an individual.

So while voting laws cannot be crafted to properly protect all minorities, the Constitution was designed to protect the rights of the largest number of minorities as possible, by deflecting the concept of "majority rule".

Your infographic does a good job of EXPLAINING, but it only helps pursue the goal of the tyranny of the majority.

In a sense, your final infographic on why gerrymandering is somehow 'bad' actually crafts an argument for why it may be good. It actually DOES protect the minority.

You should do an infographic on Kenneth Arrow's theorem on why democracy doesn't, and can't, logically work. That's more meaningful.
March 30, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRM

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