Map monsters: "Gerrymandering 101"

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"Zombie," a blogger known for documenting through photographs the nauseating obscenity of festivals and protests in the Bay Area, is documenting a political and geographical form of obscenity: The gerrymander, the deliberate drawing of district lines for political advantage.

The first of two recent posts -- Gerrymandering 101 -- explains what gerrymandering is, why it's done, and the different types of gerrymanders:

This essay explains in no uncertain terms how manipulating district boundaries can lead to a complete subversion of true representative government....

You may have wondered how America overall tends to prefer conservative policies (pollsters like to say "We're a center/right country") yet we often have a liberal or at least Democratic majority in the Congress. How can this be? Gerrymandering. It's so powerful that it has at times fundamentally altered the political slant of our government.

Zombie includes some simple but effective illustrations, explains how gerrymandering can backfire (as it did in the 2010 election), and notes an additional factor promoting the practice: the racial "packing" mandated by the Federal Voting Rights Act, which has created some of the most bizarre "map monsters," as Zombie calls them.

In part 2, we're given a look at the ten most gerrymandered U. S. House districts, with evocative names like "rabbit on a skateboard" and "water skier checking email on his Blackberry" plus a bonus set of 20 districts that shouldn't even be legal, as they are not contiguous (they use bizarre over-water boundaries to satisfy -- technically -- the contiguity requirement).

Zombie challenges Republicans, with the upper hand in the upcoming decennial redistricting, to do better than the Democrats in drawing compact, reasonable districts. In a representative government, voters choose their representatives. In gerrymander-land, elected officials choose their constituents. True representation begins with fairly drawn districts.

Oklahoma's congressional districts are pretty good by comparison, probably because they were a compromise between a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature. It's tough because the Oklahoma City and Tulsa's metro areas are each too big to fit in a single district, so some of each metro area has to be joined to more rural areas adjacent. The plan also took into consideration the location of Oklahoma's four principal military installations (Fort Sill, Vance, Tinker, and Altus AFBs) -- districts 3 and 4 each cover two of them. While the lines had to be drawn so that the districts had exactly the same population (+/- 1 person), they managed to stick close to county boundaries, which makes the districts simpler to understand.

What are your nominations for the most gerrymandered Oklahoma legislative districts? Leave a comment below.

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2 Comments

Will said:

Interesting link: an enthusiast of the R statistics package uses it to ask the question, "What if, instead of minimizing population variance across districts, we aimed to minimize the mean distance between each resident and their district center?"

The results are interesting, that rural census tracts are combined with urban and suburban, but in the states he tries, the party balance doesn't change all that much.

http://dsparks.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/k-means-redistricting/

Another interesting attempt at mathematical redistricting: http://bdistricting.com/

The A Team said:

The state of Oklahoma itself was conceived and born from the act of gerrymandering.

Oklahoma really should have been two states, the state of Seqouyah, comprised of Indian Territory in the eastern half of the state and another state comprised of Oklahoma territory in the western half of present day Oklahoma.

Theodore Roosevelt was president at that time and as a Republican he did not favor the creation of two separate states, Oklahoma and Sequoyah that were both bound to be strongly democratic. Two states would mean twice the number of democratic senators and representatives, something that the Republican president was definitely against. Eastern politicians pressured then US President Theodore Roosevelt against admitting two Western states (Sequoyah and Oklahoma) into the Union, fearing this would disproportionally diminish Eastern states’ political influence.

The Sequoyah Constitution was published on October 14, 1905 with an election on November 7. 65,352 votes were cast, and 56,279 were for the ratification of the constitution. Only 9,073 were against. A copy of the constitution, along with the results of the votes, were sent to U.S. Congress. However, Congress would not even consider it.

Built into the treaties signed with the five major tribes was a clause stating that the Indian Nations could not be included or forced to become part of any US state without their approval. Legally, the tribes were correct in assuming that they could start their own state; however, as with all other agreements and treaties, the powers that be saw no problem with ignoring or breaking various treaty rules and regulations.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 14, 2010 12:12 AM.

Maps of the 2010 Oklahoma election was the previous entry in this blog.

Links elsewhere 2010/11/14 is the next entry in this blog.

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