In the 2012 election, Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives nationally got 1.5 million more votes than Republican candidates but the Republicans emerged with a 33-seat majority in the House. Why? Because of gerrymandering. That’s when politicians draw voting districts to favor one political party or another.
The practice is nothing new; politicians were doing it back in the 1800s. But gerrymandering has reached a whole new level in recent decades. Computers have done more than simply streamline an old-fashioned process. Hedrick Smith is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has studied the issue.
"The software of computers has now gotten so sophisticated that strategists for either party can go in and they can analyze the voting records or voting patterns literally neighborhood by neighborhood or street by street and they can figure out in great detail exactly where to draw the lines to their maximum advantage,” Smith says.
In this episode, we’ll hear about some stunning gerrymandering feats, and how reformers across the nation are trying to restore the power of your vote.
- Look at the 2011 map of North Carolina congressional districts that a federal court declared unconstitutional. (The NC General Assembly redistricting website provides detailed information on the process used to arrive at that map, which is still being contested in court. That case, McCrory v. Harris, will be heard by the US Supreme Court December 5, 2016.)
- Find out more about Hedrick Smith’s project Reclaim the American Dream. (In particular, here’s the section on gerrymandering.)
- Read about the independent redistricting effort Tom Ross led in North Carolina and look at the new map they created.
- This site details the REDMAP strategy.
- Find out more about POLIS: The Center for Political Leadership, Innovation and Service at Duke University.