A Classic Gerrymander

In North Carolina, the Senate Redistricting Committee adjusted the boundaries of a state-Senate district to include a senator’s new house.

More from the Fayetteville Observer.

Comments

Wow.

Meh, seems totally trivial, just as trivial as when Ossoff violated the requirement during his unsuccessful run in Georgia. What exactly is the principle at stake that is violated so significantly by an action like this?

A "classic" gerrymander is not about residency requirements for local legislators, but about manipulating electoral results on the scale of entire local populations.

And frankly, this is the lawful way to go about it, which respects those residency requirements instead of arguing that these district borders don't matter, as some tried to do in Ossoff's case.

+1

I will state the obvious. That map is ridiculous. But it has to be ridiculous every time, regardless of a D/R/I after their name and state or representation, on not subjectively only when one side or the other does it. Either everyone gets to and no one screams bloody murder or no one gets to and we come up with some other rule.

What Ossoff did in Georgia and Clinton did in NY ages ago is patently ridiculous as well on its face, and should be treated with equal scorn.

Does Georgia state law require federal House candidates to live in the district they intend to represent? If not, the question of where Ossoff actually lived is irrelevant, as long as he maintains a domicile somewhere in the state of Georgia.

It's irrelevant from a legal standpoint.

"from the legal standpoint"

Exactly. Ethically democratic to a healthy system where representatives are part of the communities they represent? Hell. No.

> Exactly. Ethically democratic to a healthy system where representatives are part of the communities they represent?

Residency requirements are very literally the opposite of democratic. If the electorate decides to vote for out-of-locale candidate X, you're explicitly limiting their power.

That doesn't mean there's not an argument to be made. The Constitution is pretty much nothing but a laundry list of limits on the electorate's power. But defending these requirements by saying they're democratic is explicitly incorrect.

If the electorate decides to vote for out-of-locale candidate X, you’re explicitly limiting their power.

The electorate never 'decides' that. You'd need a legal mechanism for that candidate to present himself. At which point the question is why is he not running in the locale in which he lives.

"The electorate never ‘decides’ that. You’d need a legal mechanism for that candidate to present himself. At which point the question is why is he not running in the locale in which he lives."

As the above post emphasizes, district boundaries do not always enclose an area that is commonly understood to be a discrete "community" or "locale." Ossoff lost but he wasn't, as far as I can tell, a carpetbagger but instead chose the district based on the fact that he grew up there, had continuing ties to the community and was only living less than two miles outside of the boundaries of the district. If laws were changed to allow people to run for a district if they live within a few miles of the border, it would largely eliminate dirty tricks or silliness like the above where boundaries are redrawn to include or exclude individual houses.

Forgive my ignorance, why would it matter what district a senator lived in?

He's a senator in the state Senate, where each district elects its own senator. Moving to a new district would cost him his seat.

Importantly he still owns his old house. As per the article this stops him easily moving district if he was to attempt to challenge the incumbent there.

Laws requiring representatives to live in a district are for the protection of incumbents, who fear competition.

State senators are in subdivided districts. This is not a US Senator.

Another example of much-vaunted democracy. The voters didn't have any say on the issue and won't have.

And almost none of them care that the district boundaries were adjusted by a couple of blocks. And neither would you except to offer some bitter point.

When a politician does something shady and the paper neglects to mention what party said politician is from

that means ...

... it means that either the article got changed by the time I looked at it, or some commenters here are rather bad at reading.

... you can't read.

"Democratic state Sen. Ben Clark of the Rockfish area in Hoke County has been critical of gerrymandering — the practice of drawing election maps with odd shapes to benefit one political side and harm the other.

This past week, Clark received what critics might call a gerrymander that benefits him."

I don't read
I only look at the pictures

It explains so much.

>"what critics might call a gerrymander"

This is how you know what party it was.

When a Dem does something sleazy, the paper will not say he did something sleazy. Only that "critics might have a problem with it."

Usually they say "conservative critics" -- they are clearly slipping here.

Read the article. NC redistricting is controlled by the Republican legislature. They redrew the map to put the house in District 21 so he couldn't run against them in District 19 where the new house is (was?).

"Clark lives in District 21. He also recently built a second home in eastern Cumberland County in Meredith’s District 19. The new home spawned speculation that Clark would move there to run against Meredith. Clark said he has no plans to do so.

Still, this past week as the Republican-controlled legislature worked on revisions to the state House and Senate district boundaries, the Senate Redistricting Committee adjusted the boundaries of the proposed Senate
21 to encompass Clark’s new house."

Note that the state Senate is Republican-controlled, but took this action to benefit a Democrat. Bipartisanship can reign when it's everyone's personal convenience at issue.

It's true that gerrymandering is often a form of log-rolling, where Dem and Rep incumbents mutually agree to create districts that favor incumbents.

But libert makes a good point above, this may've been a case where the Republicans are trying to prevent a district-switching challenge. I don't know enough about the local details to judge.

Wikipedia: The Supreme Court revisited the concept of partisan gerrymandering claims in Vieth v. Jubelirer (2004).[12] The justices divided, and no clear standard against which to evaluate partisan gerrymandering claims emerged. Writing for a plurality, Justice Scalia said that partisan gerrymandering claims were nonjusticiable.

So there you go: gerrymandering, if not done for race reasons, is legal. The jurist Scalia, who's name has graced the George Mason University law school (with a rather awkward acronym A.S.S) says so.

Scalia is right, just like the Court doesn't adjudicate which rules of order may be adopted by the Senate. If the State legislature wants to draw districts as concentric circles around the capital, that's their call, subject to the limitations of the federal and state Constitutions and statutes. Democracy presumes that we can govern ourselves.

Scalia is wrong, as usual.

The whole point of gerrymandering is to defeat the ability of voters to govern themselves, by tilting the field so that majority preferences cannot overcome entrenched minorities.

Scalia is wrong, as usual.

Find the constitutional provision Scalia misinterprets.

Apparently, the Supreme Court is going to take another crack it. Looks like they may consider trying to define a standard this go around.
Gill v. Whitford
https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/7/11/15949750/research-gerrymandering-wisconsin-supreme-court-partisanship

They need to eliminate Baker v. Carr and the entire edifice which grew out of it, then start over.

At the end, voters are the ones responsible.
If they vote for him, it means voters did not care about this poppycock.

No, it means this minor issue (moving the district boundary a tad) did not over-ride every other reason you might vote for the representative in question.

The term gerrymander is named for Elbridge Gerry, who, among other things, was a delegate from Massachusetts to the constitutional convention in Philadelphia. He was one of only three delegates (including George Mason) who refused to sign the constitution. Gerry's reasons for not signing included "no adequate provision for a representation of the people". In 1812, during his second term as governor of Massachusetts, the Republican-controlled legislature (Gerry was a Republican) created district boundaries designed to enhance their party's control over state and national offices, leading to some oddly shaped legislative districts. Although Gerry voiced displeasure with the highly partisan districting, he signed the legislation anyway, thus forever linking him to gerrymandering.

Republicans didn't exist in 1812. The party wasn't founded until 1850-ish

The Republican party did not exist in 1812. The first election they contested was 1856.

It's rayward, the actual facts aren't really relevant.

You are confusing the early Republican Party that opposed the Federalist Party with the anti-slavery Republican Party founded in 1854. It never ceases to amaze me how ignorant Americans are of their own history.

That's generally referred to as the Jeffersonian Republican party or sometimes the Democrat-Republican party because it was the precursor to both modern parties.

Anyway you're a twit. Calling Gerry a Republican, was pedantically correct but you obviously meant it to link him to the modern Republican party. Which is why everyone was correcting you.

"You are confusing the early Republican Party that opposed the Federalist Party with the anti-slavery Republican Party founded in 1854."

So what you're saying is that we're confusing Not the Republican Party referred to and relevant to this article and conversation with the one you made up that is actually referred to as the Democratic-Republican Party. I suppose it does surprise me a bit you choose to make a point so easily found completely and utterly false. And then double down on it.

Have they no shame.

The worst part of gerrymandering is not the ridiculous maps: It's the fact that we've reached a point where we can make a legislature highly unrepresentative without looking this obvious.
I look, for instance, at the US congress map for Missouri, districts 1,2 and 3. The total number of votes, if added up and divided by party, gives the Democrats a 60-40% advantage. But careful selection of who goes where gives us relatively clean lines that magically create one of the safest democratic seats in the nation (Lacy Clay has been there for decades, and the seat was filled by his father since the 60s), while the other two are relatively safe republican seats. I could make another set of compact districts that has seats that are far more unsafe, and where on average, democrats would win 2 seats, which is what you'd expect give the way the area votes.

It's this kind of thing that makes the US system arguably the least representative among western democracies, but it's pretty hard to change that from the bench, and there's no way in hell that legislatures would vote to change this, so we are kind of stuck.

A state constitutional amendment adding an appendix to the constitution consisting of a practice manual for district construction can work. You enact it and then defend it in federal courts. One more vote on the federal Supreme Court might be enough to end Baker v. Carr. (And if Congress and the President mail some knives to federal appellate court judges, all the better).

The way that the UK avoids this is that the non-partisan boundary commissions for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland produce reports recommending new constituency boundaries based on a number of factors, partisan advantage being explicitly excluded from consideration. The report is then voted on as a whole by parliament and can either be accepted as a whole or rejected as a whole, parliamentary rules of procedure is that no amendments are permitted, the entire set of recommendations must be voted on as a whole.

That particular method has been attempted and has failed in this country. One of two things happens: (1) it decays into an insider conspiracy against the public interest, with boundaries drawn to protect incumbents or (2) it is captured by the Democratic Party.

There are solutions, but a nonpartisan commission is not one.

Would one of the districts in your set be 50% black? I constantly see online complaints about gerrymandering, and I wouldn't mind seeing Congress becoming more competitive, but see very little recognition from critics that many of the most egregious gerrymanders come from (bipartisan) efforts to produce a majority-minority district. I definitely don't see critics calling to break up those districts.

Bullshit. Your example is solely true because African Americans vote 95%+ for Democrats. Combine that with the fact that they tend to live in urban areas (and, thus, generate a high Democrat density in some districts), and you get the situation you describe in ANY combination of districts where one has a higher than average concentration of African Americans.

Republicans should not have to suffer just because African Americans tend to be urban and give all their voted to Democrats.

America should adopt Brazil's proportional voting: the most voted get the offices.

So... you don't know that Brazil has a Senate?

Yet another indication that he's not really Brazillian.

You can compose a practice manual for drawing electoral constituencies which severely limits discretion over boundaries and distributes discretion to local municipal and district courts. One thing has to go for this to work: the insistence that constituencies be strictly equipopulous. That insistence is an invention of judges and should be disposed of.

It is time for open source algorithmic redistricting. It can be done, and publicly inspected for correctness.

Divide population by half, repeat recursively until N districts, is a good start.

It can be randomized by a starting coin flip (start North/South or East West) or two (recurse clockwise or anti).

This produces boundaries that don't bear any resemblance to man-made or actual geography and which can be pretty silly. But an algorithmic approach seems a lot more reasonable overall. I suggest bottom-up work better than top-down; there are several clustering algorithms which are attractive.

At the very least we might introduce rules which restrict the gamey-ness of the system? Perhaps a total boundary length to population ratio?

As I see it, any value judgement about neighborhoods reintroduced fudgeabilty. So discard that.

To go further, reapply the algo with new coin flips every 10 or 20 years.

Randomization is not a bug, it is a feature.

You will probably like the BDistricting tool discussed at the link below.

Where I'm at is that simplicity and transparency are more important than compactness. YMMV.

If you're so smart, do it. Indiana's redistricting was open to all, anyone could propose a map. I suspect other states were the same.

I was not so smart as to invent successive division, just to approve of it.

If anything is truly dumb though, it would be ignoring the existing body of work.

https://priceonomics.com/algorithm-the-unfairness-of-gerrymandering/

Good article. Because D's are so concentrated (because African Americans vote 95% D and are mostly urban), any algorithm redistricting that favors compactness is going to heavily favor Republicans.

We need to Gerrymander in order not to gerrymander!

Redistricting by diminishing halves (pdf)

http://cseweb.ucsd.edu/~dakane/COMAP07.pdf

Simply Incredible Thankyou so much

The best check against insider-gerrymandering would be a new right for every voter to choose their voting district, within certain limits, separate from the single point of their declared residence.

For example, let a voter pick any district within N miles of their residence or place-of-work, or any district bordering on their default-assigned district. (In this latter case, the more-aggressive the insider gerrymandering – creating long twisty districts – the more neighboring-options they'd be creating.)

We can call this method of voter self-defense 'votermandering'. Even if the process of choosing a non-default district is somewhat slow and cumbersome, it'd tend to dilute 'safe' districts and restore competitiveness over time. Sufficiently onerous incumbents, or exciting challengers, would pull votes from anywhere in the same natural local community-of-interest, without regard to arbitrarily-manipulated imaginary lines.

This adds a crushing amount of complexity and game-ability (is there a word for this?) that seems to outweigh any benefits.

I'm a fan of cumulative voting. If you have 25 state senators, one for each district, give everyone 25 votes. They can cast all 25 for one guy or mix and match as they see fit but the top 25 candidates in terms of votes get the seats. Then you have no issues of districts that have odd shapes or cut communities into pieces.

If that bothers you then split the difference. Give them 12 'at large' votes and one vote for their district. Then instead of 25 districts you can have only 13. Larger districts mean you start veering towards more normal looking shapes that include more natural communities of voters. Yes you could still create a strange shaped district but the incentives would be against it. Say California had only two districts. You could have two winding lines a mile thick and thousands of miles long 'woven' throughout the state, but that would mean it would cost a fortune to run a campaign. The state would probably divide into north and south which works for politicians running their campaigns and works for voters.

The point of this is what?

1. You eliminate Gerrymandering.

2. Voters choose their representatives rather than the reverse.

3. The districts you are left with mirror actual geographical divisions while at the same time preserving the idea of one man one vote (in other words districts are roughly equal in population).

The districts you are left with mirror actual geographical divisions while at the same time preserving the idea of one man one vote (in other words districts are roughly equal in population

m a fan of cumulative voting. If you have 25 state senators, one for each district, give everyone 25 votes. They can cast all 25 for one guy or mix and match as they see fit but the top 25 candidates in terms of votes get the seats. Then you have no issues of districts that have odd shapes or cut communities into pieces.

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