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Gerrymandering

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"Gerrymandering"

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NY8

The Redistricting the Nation website has a bunch of cool tools to let you learn about gerrymandered congressional districts. Unfortunately, the whole enterprise seems to be of a piece with the national media’s obsession with overstating the importance of gerrymandering. It’s important to recall that gerrymandering doesn’t cause political polarization. Nor has gerrymandering made House seats less competitive.

There are also real limits to the strategy of squinting at districts and deciding that the squiggly ones aren’t compact enough and therefore represent abusive redistricting. Their computer model doesn’t like the NY 8, my home congressional district. But those who know the city can tell you that the district does a pretty good job of incorporating whole coherent neighborhoods in a reasonable way. It’s not clear why the fact that some of these neighborhoods aren’t adjacent to each other is all that damning.

I think it’s definitely true that there’s something unseemly about people deliberately peering over a map and deciding “well, we’re going to make X black districts and Y latino districts.” But the compactophiles’ preferred alternative of a US House of Representatives that’s nearly all-white would be even more unseemly. The correct solution to this problem is to have larger, multiple-member districts and do elections with a single-transferable vote. But even though that would be preferable, our current system for electing House members works pretty well. A lot of the things that people think are wrong with gerrymandering would be better-addressed through the campaign finance system.

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