Gerrymandering: Best Practices

BestPraticesThough admittedly not a very recent article, Redistricting: A Devil’s Dictionary by Olga PierceJeff Larson and Lois Beckett in Propublica gives an interesting summary of the insiders’ terms for tactics for manipulating Congressional District boundaries for partisan purposes. One gets the impression that anyone in the gerrymandering biz knows what all of these terms mean, and the article gives plain graphical examples of each of these outrages at work:

  • Cracking: Splitting up coherent populations so that an out-of-power point of view is diluted and ultimately lost among several unfriendly districts.  The chief reason cities tend to look like pie slices in gerrymandered states. (see my previous post on Texas)
  • Packing: If the math doesn’t work to dilute unpopular point of views with Cracking, gerrymander-ers can go the opposite way and concede a district or two to the out-of-power group by over-packing their supporters into a very few districts. This can have the counter-intuitive effect of making these districts even safer for the out-of-power group, as for example North Carolina’s 1st and 4th districts.
  • Hijacking: A new one to me, but when faced with popular rival incumbents, why not put them in the same district and force them to run against each other in a primary? Assuming neither incumbent moves, at least one will lose.
  • Kidnapping: Trying to draw a district so that a targeted incumbent’s political base is moved to another District. (A revealing term: is the metaphorical crime that the voters had “their” representative kidnapped, or that the representative had “his/her” voters kidnapped?)

In a twisted way, you have to respect the level of craft among gerrymanderers revealed in Propublica’s examples. But the fact that there even is an established craft and attendant terminology is sobering.

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2 Responses to Gerrymandering: Best Practices

  1. Pingback: Keystone State Gerrymandering | Fair and Sane Redistricting

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