The Classic Gerrymander

How does a minority party manage to win majorities in so many states? Easy, you just construct the most convoluted districts possible to ensure your guy can’t lose. (Oh, and make it extremely difficult for minorities to vote.)

Now it would be unfair of me to lay all these sins at the Republicans alone, but as the above map shows, they can be quite creative.

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50 Responses to The Classic Gerrymander

  1. Chris Peterson says:

    While every incumbent should have a picture of Elbridge Gerry on the wall in their office, it would be certainly appropriate for the Republican party to change their logo to a salamander; having spent the last few decades sculpting the political map to their minority’s obvious advantage. Hats off to their ingenious, although insidiously undemocratic, silent political coup, but it sure makes laughable the claim that their political stranglehold on the state legislatures, along with the House of Reps, is the will of the American people.

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      Let me assure you, Chris, that Democrats have Gerrymandered as effectively as Republicans have. In fact, a case can be made that Gerry was a Democrat (at least before the modern Democratic Party started writing Jefferson out of their history, a very recent development).

      Whatever people do to try to get politics out of the drawing of district boundaries, politicians will bend it to their advantage. Let’s not pretend to be shocked when we find politics at work in politics.

      • Chris Peterson says:

        Ain’t nobody here shocked, and I certainly didn’t claim it was only the Republicans doing it. But outside of those areas where cracking, packing, or hijacking won’t work for them, it’s been a concerted plan of theirs’ for some time now. Democrats may have gerrymandered “as effectively” at times, and in certain places, but nowhere near the organized scale of the modern Republican party.

  2. Greg Goodknight says:

    The shape of a district has nothing to do with making it difficult for anyone to vote whether they are a minority, or not.

    Maybe this will alert Democrats to the issue of Gerrymandering, 204 years after the first Gerrymander and one of the classic editorial ‘toons.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering#Etymology

    Imagine the possibilities in California… oh, wait, it looks like Democrats already have.

    • Chris Peterson says:

      Arguing that it’s anywhere possible that the best Republican strategist could gerrymander CA into a red state is like arguing that someone could gerrymander Alabama blue.
      And you’re absolutely right: gerrymandering has nothing to do with depriving people of their right to vote. But once you have gerrymandered a state legislature to being Republican, when the majority are Democrat, you can pass laws making it harder for minorities to vote. That’s what happened in WI, where a party that is 48% got 61 seats in a 99 seat legislature, and started attempting to suppress the minority vote. Thank god the Republicans, who are being forced to redistrict, don’t own all the courts…yet.

      • Greg Goodknight says:

        “Arguing that it’s anywhere possible that the best Republican strategist could gerrymander CA into a red state”

        Thank goodness that wasn’t my argument.

        Regarding WI, their State Ass’y has been majority GOP for all but two years going back to ’95, and their Senate has been GOP most of that time.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_party_strength_in_Wisconsin

        • Steven Frisch says:

          “Imagine the possibilities in California… oh, wait, it looks like Democrats already have.”

          Except of course they have not.

          Prior to 2008 state and federal districts in California were drawn through a partisan political process. That changed with the passage of Proposition 11 in 2008 and Proposition 20 in 2010. The process for drawing districts was taken away from the legislature (and the courts where it regularly needed up) and given to a Citizens Redistricting Commission, which re-drew the maps for the 2012 election.

          The CRC draws districts based on a clear set of mandates and goals set by the US Constitution and the voters will as expressed by the Propositions. It include population equality, complying with the Voting Rights Act mandate, geographic continuity, geographic integrity (meaning they try to keep political units like cities and counties together), compactness and the principe of nesting (meaning as much as practical they try to keep districts together–for example trying to make two assembly districts equal one senate district.)

          This system has worked extremely well and could be a model for the rest of the country to finally overcome the politicization of redistricting processes.

          Although at the time many Democrats opposed these Propositions (along with the many Conservative Republicans) many reform minded Democrats (like me) voted for it, and since its passage it has been very effective in removing the politics from the process and creating smart, compact contiguous districts.

          So NO Democrats don’t use the redistricting process to secure and hold power, because they can’t, which is exactly the approach that should be imposed by the voters on Republicans in places like Texas, North Carolina and Florida.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            The art of the Gerrymander has become more nuanced, but the news of its death in California has been exaggerated.
            https://www.propublica.org/article/in-california-democrats-redistricting-strategy-paid-off

            One can easily find refutations of the above story from the anything-but-non-partisan Daily Kos and the Puffington Host.

            There will be another Census in 2020 and another bout of fresh shenanigans, all but assured when you have a commission of babes in the woods citizens and the wolves circling ready to help them understand what is really needed.

            Yes, the Commission has eliminated on the truly hallucinogenic boundaries but the devil will always be in the details.

          • Chris Peterson says:

            Your link has been factually debunked by far greater minds than your own.

            http://www.calbuzz.com/2011/12/why-the-propublica-remap-yarn-is-nonsense/

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            They were so proud of that analysis they didn’t put their names to it.

            Calbuzz is the work of a couple of partisan Democrats who were happy to help their status quo.

          • Chris Peterson says:

            So, your response is to attack who wrote it, and not what they said? Typical, but can’t blame you for that; there really is no other response.
            Tell me, have you ever, in your life, uttered the words, “Yeah, you’re right”?

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            The only “attack” was to note there was no attribution and yes, when I read a snarky hit piece like that without any specific attribution (one is left to guess it’s by one or both of the site’s owners) I see no need to take it seriously. Or you, for that matter.

  3. steve cottrell says:

    Bob:

    Have look at this one –– to the west of where I live in Florida. A real doozy:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida's_congressional_districts#/media/File:Florida_US_Congressional_District_5_(since_2013).tif

  4. steve cottrell says:

    The hell with it –– wrong link appeared again, but if you look at the 5th district map in the link, you will see one of the most creative Gerrymandering jobs ever created.

  5. gjrebane says:

    Bob, how again are the Republicans making it “extremely difficult for minorities to vote”???

    • Chris Peterson says:

      Really, Rebane? That’s an astounding question, which shows that you’re not aware of the more than obvious discouragement by Republican state legislatures of minority voters under the guise of “voter fraud, (of which there were only 4 documented cases in the 135M of the last election),
      nor any of the myriad of news reports showing the absurd number of voting machine reductions in places where predominantly minority voters reside.
      But, most likely, you’re just being disingenuous.
      I know of a few folks who are unaware of such things happening, but I don’t know of anyone who is aware of it, like yourself, yet feigns ignorance. (I take that back; there’s a few on this blog, alone.)

      • Greg Goodknight says:

        George, “extremely difficult” means having an ID.

        Republicans like George think there are non-citizens voting in the US, and want it to stop.

        Democrats like Chris want to think there aren’t a significant number of non-citizens voting and really don’t want to know differently because they expect they’re voting Democratic.

        http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/442638/noncitizen-voting-not-debunked

        • Chris Peterson says:

          That’s a pretty weak link to prove your point; even the author says, “I came away feeling that there is still too much uncertainty to draw strong conclusions.” There’s way more actual evidence to the opposite argument,(they’re called facts). And this doesn’t even include Trump’s latest charges:
          http://www.factcheck.org/2016/10/trumps-bogus-voter-fraud-claims/
          George, and Trump, may “think” there are “millions” of illegals voting, but it’s more likely that you’ve come full circle, back to where you need to defend your spokesperson on CNN the other day who said that “there are no more facts.” Seems to be the theme for your Tweeter-in-Chief.
          By the way, I’ve been an independent longer than you’ve supposedly been a Libertarian, but as a progressive, I take no offense to your false labeling. Beats the alternative any day of the week.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            “Progressive” as a label for leftist coercive Utopians is the ultimate in false labeling, and I was a libertarian when I voted for McGovern but didn’t know it yet.

            Progressive snark helped Trump get elected; doubling down for 2018 might have a downside. Your choice, toots.

          • Michael Anderson says:

            Greg, your proggie snark comment reminds me of an old joke from the early 2000s…

            “Every president-elect after John F. Kennedy was assassinated has at first enjoyed the exultation and adulation of receiving the mantle to lead our great nation…but then sometime in between the Electoral College vote and Inauguration Day, a small group from the intelligence community, to which the newly-minted president-elect has not previously been introduced, leads him into a nondescript room and shows him a most unusual film – it is of President Kennedy being assassinated from the POV of a camera that has never been revealed to the public. The film ends and one member from the group looks at the president-elect and asks very simply ‘do you have any questions?’ The president-elect humbly says nothing and they all file out of the room, ready to jointly carry out the nation’s business.”

            Given that Trump is not even willing to receive the daily Presidential Brief in good faith, will this meeting even be able to take place? Will the necessary information be imparted to our dear president-elect? Inquiring minds are dying to know.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Golly Mike, let’s compare what Trump has asked for versus a standard procedure for disk backups…

            Do you do incremental backups, or do you take a complete image every day?

            Trump asked for differences going forward… how is that different?

            Since I didn’t vote for Trump I’d appreciate not having to be the devil’s advocate in the future, so please, keep the cheap shots to a minimum in the future.

            I do appreciate the irony of Clinton being ahead of Trump in yet another metric: Hillary had more faithless electors than Trump. Oh! It burns!

    • rl crabb says:

      Here’s some info on the subject, although according to current standards, if you don’t like the source it must be a lie… http://prospect.org/article/22-states-wave-new-voting-restrictions-threatens-shift-outcomes-tight-races

  6. Greg Goodknight says:

    Is it voter suppression or just a hankering to follow the constitution to have just one election day?
    “The Congress may determine the Time of chusing [sic] the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”

    I personally try to choose a source that the audience would accept… the above is a quote from the wikipedia but they let just about anyone contribute…

    • Chris Peterson says:

      “I personally try to choose a source that the audience would accept”

      Sometimes you rise to the level of pure comedy. Good one.

      • Greg Goodknight says:

        Chris, you most always sink to a level of hostile irrationality, but it isn’t funny.

        I trusted the wiki to accurately quote the Constitution… does that meet your standards?

        BTW the wiki reference was something of a family joke
        http://www.bbc.com/news/world-38238312

        • Chris Peterson says:

          Although I would never presume to compare myself to Publius, I have no doubt that, if you and I had lived in the time of the Constitution’s ratification, you would be on the side of New York’s governor and arguing for staying with the Confederation of States.

          And taking one line of our Constitution to show the intent of it’s meaning is really absurd. It not only fails to take into account the many amendments since added, but it neglects the sovereign rights of states to determine their own election schedules. Funny that conservatives like to argue the rights of states when it suits their purpose, except when it doesn’t. They will argue states rights to suppress the vote, and then the Constitution to impede the timeline, when neither is in anyway reflective of the spirit of the document.

          It is a document that endeavors to GIVE powers to the people, not restrict them. Such is the fundamental difference between today’s liberal and conservative mindset. (One would think a Libertarian would understand this.)

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            I have no doubt you are wrong about a great many things, Chris.

            One is that the Constitution, outside of the first 10 and some of the other Amendments, cedes powers to the Federal government, not the other way around. Those ol’ enumerated powers that the Feds have been given, and not all the ones they’ve given themselves.

            “The Congress may determine the Time of chusing [sic] the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”If there is text in the Constitution that conflicts with that, by all means, quote it, don’t just gesticulate wildly in an assertion of freedom to ignore plain text.

          • Chris Peterson says:

            The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.”

            Article I, Section 4, Clause 1

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            Chris, that doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with the date for a Presidential election, does it?

            That applies to Senate and House seats only. Yes?

            Cue the Final Jeopardy! theme while Chris looks harder rather than admit Greg seems to have been right

          • Chris Peterson says:

            Sorry Greg, I thought you were still with us on the subject of whether state legislators were making it harder for citizens to vote. I completely forgot about your usual mind-drift into areas you erroneously think you’re more educated in.

            By the way, the line of the Constitution that you quote is about “electors”, meaning those chosen as a result of the electoral college; NOT citizens, and that. indeed, is a set date. You really need a reading-comprehension coach, or a good dictionary; one of the two, if not both.

          • Chris Peterson says:

            Your whole argument, and that of others who came up with it, is a thinly-veiled attempt to force all voters to jam the polling booths on election day; something that is aimed at. once again, suppressing the vote, since y’all know that we not only don’t have the facilities to pull off such a feat, but you have already grossly limited the voting machines for predominantly minority districts in a bald-faced slap to our democracy. This will no doubt continue as the dwindling number of conservative holdouts find themselves backed into a smaller, and smaller, corner.
            The writing is on the wall, Greg. Perhaps you need someone to read it to you.

          • Greg Goodknight says:

            “By the way, the line of the Constitution that you quote is about “electors”, meaning those chosen as a result of the electoral college; NOT citizens, and that. indeed, is a set date. You really need a reading-comprehension coach, or a good dictionary; one of the two, if not both.”
            -Chris P.

            The quote regarding Electors is this:

            “The Congress may determine the Time of chusing [sic] the Electors”

            What we were doing on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November was indeed “chusing the Electors”, wasn’t it?

            If you need help, just ask.

          • Chris Peterson says:

            Absolutely! Now you’re catching on. On that date in Nov. we tally up all the votes, whether they were cast early, or by absentee from points across the globe or reasons of handicap or convenience, and *chuse* the electors. (Your boy Scalia would be so proud that you’re finally catching on.)

            If I need help, I’ll ask someone who knows what they’re talking about. (I’ll let you know what they say.)

  7. Michael Anderson says:

    Wow! Thirty-five responses and counting…R.L., your gerrymandering post seems to have struck a cord.

    After having read this copious exchange between Chris and Greg, I’m struck first by their dual restraint at largely avoiding ad hominem attacks. We seem to be making progress, which is great. Secondly, I have this sinking feeling that we are going to be re-traveling an already well-worn path regarding much needed political reform in the United States. Here’s some cogent points, just so I can catch up:

    1) The antiquated Electoral College is not a “brilliant” way of preventing mobocracy. Unless we can guarantee the individual integrity of each state’s voting system, this system is hopelessly obsolete. We need only look to the disastrous ruling in Shelby County v. Holder–and the following Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals striking of electoral changes made in North Carolina, as well as the Wisconsin federal court’s suppression of votes in Milwaukee County, just for a handful of examples, there are many more–to realize that our nation’s electoral problems have left a giant hole in it’s democratic legitimacy. Oh, and none of those problems exist in California, just so we’re clear. Zero.

    2) Messaging is a disaster. Up is down and right is left. Trump has destroyed reality. Satire is all we have left to counter 1984.

    Voter suppression is the new black. Our good friend George Rebane has called for the repeal of the 17th Amendment in his RR blog and Todd Juvinall, along with his Tea Party “patriot” friends, want to overturn Reynolds v. Sims (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynolds_v._Sims). George publishes low-information maps of the 2016 presidential contest on his blog and says “boy howdy, look at all that red.” Oh yeah, all that red, which is mostly dirt. In Todd and George’s world, it’s not “one person one vote” it’s “one dirt clod one vote.” Disgusting.

    And so it goes…

  8. Greg Goodknight says:

    That is the most tortured bit of logic I’ve seen from you, Chris. So, the election day is just the day to count the votes… not the day to cast the votes. The act of counting is the choice.

    So, the voters casting ballots a week before election day have not actually done their part to “chuse” electors… that doesn’t happen until the tally is released after the poll is closed. Were there more people with a decent science education here I’d make a serious Schroedinger’s Cat joke.

    Congress has defined the Tuesday after the first Monday as election day, and, for many years you couldn’t vote if you couldn’t make it to the poll that day. For some reason, people actually took the following literally:
    ““The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”

    What it doesn’t say is ““The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the DAYS on which they shall give their Votes; which DAYS shall be the same throughout the United States.”

    • Chris Peterson says:

      Hold onto your hat, spud, here comes a cold wind in your face.

      It was the first Republican President who strayed from that format; wanting to be assured that his boys on the front lines of the Civil War were able to vote for their Commander-in-Chief. And I can only imagine the chaos you’d create in erroneously interpreting the Constitution to disallow it in states like mine, which vote by mail. (“We’re gonna’ need a bigger mail box, Harvey!”)

      At the root of your quandary is the reality of those who wrote the document in the first place. Hamilton himself, as Publius in Federalist Paper #85, quoted Hume: “To balance a large state or society Usays hee, whether monarchical or republican, on general laws, is a work of so great difficulty, that no human genius, however comprehensive, is able, by the mere dint of reason and reflection, to effect it. The judgments of many must unite in the work; experience must guide their labor; time must bring it to perfection, and the feeling of inconveniences must correct the mistakes which they INEVITABLY fall into in their first trials and experiments.” It is a clear admission on their part that, no matter how smart they were, or how much time they took, they could never get it right, thus the quest to forever to pursue “a more perfect union.”

      The Constitution, much to the consternation of the strict constructionists, IS a living document that the founders themselves set about changing, even before the ink was dry on the original draft.

      So; got a problem with early voting, absentee voting, or voting by mail, then by all means; challenge it in court. And good luck with that; it’s been in practice for over 150 years without any successful opposition. Arguing that the founders, back in a time before the modern work week or weekends, and when only white, male landowners could vote, would give a rat’s ass what day we vote on in the year two thousand sixteen is ludicrous and ultimately laughable.

      • Greg Goodknight says:

        Absentee voting for good cause (including active duty) isn’t the problem, Chris, nor is the issue strict constructionism. Can we agree not to just ignore passages because they don’t fit a current notion of social justice?

        I understand there are various challenges, we’ll just have to wait and see.

        Lincoln, by suspending the Bill of Rights, does not make it to the top of the presidential hit parade in my book, and dredging up “white male landowners” really misses the mark. This is about showing up once in a blue moon at a local precinct, signing in and voting. It isn’t just for white males.

        • Chris Peterson says:

          I have no doubt that we could go round in circles on this one until Bob kicked us off again, so let’s get down to brass tacks.
          In the first true election in 1792, the 15 states were given 34 days to choose their “electors”, meaning those who would cast a ballot in the Electoral College. Then in 1845, Congress chose the Tuesday after Monday thing so it wouldn’t interfere with the Sabbath or local farmers markets usually held on Wednesdays.

          So, my question is this: with unconditional early voting from 4 to 50 days in 32 states, conditional in another 21, and vote by mail in 3, why is it so important to you that we all try to jam into the booth on one particular day? It’s not only a hardship for some, but it’s costly to businesses, and as we have seen, it allows for some politicians in some states to limit access due to a supposed shortage of machines. The framers, and those in Congress in 1845, made every effort to accommodate the people in their desire to vote; so why the sudden urge to return to such an unworkable, and draconian, schedule? It certainly can’t be the koombya feeling we’ll all get by standing together in lines for 8 hours to vote.

  9. BradC says:

    A state department such as the DMV could handle voting. Everyone needs an ID to vote, the DMV distributes IDs. You want to vote- you get an ID, log in to the DMV website and vote – simple…

    • Greg Goodknight says:

      Brad, voting as a County function works, and if you really want corruption… make a central computer do all the work. Wasn’t it Stalin who made the observation that who does the voting isn’t in charge… it’s who does the counting.

      I’m happy with the voting machines in my local precinct… makes a paper record that you can see and review.

      • Chris Peterson says:

        We vote by mail here, it’s on paper, and there’s a very clear trail that you can track for every single vote. We can even look it up to see how our vote was recorded. Works fine.

    • Chris Peterson says:

      Great idea. Now all you have to do is make ID’s free. We already have a program here in Oregon where, when you get or renew your license, you’re automatically signed up to vote. But charging someone to buy what they need to vote is a poll tax, which has been illegal for a long time.
      It still doesn’t change the fact that, of the 135,000,000 voters in this last election, there were only 4 cases of illegal voting. Trumps claim of “millions” is idiotic.

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