Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Against Racial Gerrymandering

For those of you who are at least 25 years away from your last Civics or American history class, to "gerrymander" is to shift the boundaries of voting districts in an effort to strengthen a particular group, party, or candidate.
In the early 1800's, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry shifted several districts into a shape that reminded one reporter of a salamander.
Here's the original Tinsdale cartoon that grew out of the exchange:

Here is a more recent example from an anti-gerrymandering site that I picked at random. (Meaning that any discussion of race necessarily involves multiple disclaimers.)

North Carolina's congressional districts once looked like this (they shift a lot, due to the courts.....)

If you need a closeup of the red district, here you go.....Due to population shifts, court decisions, it has probably changed several times since this map was generated. But this shape is my favorite. It grabs every African-American neighborhood possible. The idea is that the only way minorities will have Congressional representation is to draw irrational boundary lines around them. Others argue that instead of every North Carolina district taking African Americans into consideration, only one district now does so. Check this out:

You might notice that the shapes of districts #6 and #7 reach out and grab certain regions. Kinda like Fort Worth reached out and grabbed the American Airlines headquarters several years ago, but for different reasons.
Here's where my beloved Law of Unintended Consequences kicks in, and why I believe voting districts should be race-neutral....

In the Alabama Democratic primary, Obama won the popular vote 300,143 votes to the Clinton's 222,897. But the delegates are awarded by district. Disproportionate numbers of Obama supporters were packed into only one or two districts.

Way to go, guys.

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