Tuesday, July 29, 2014

This is what America would look like without gerrymandering

Center for Range Voting

We've written about gerrymandering here on Vox — we've described some of the worst examples, and potential reforms that might prevent it. But what would a world without gerrymandering look like? Check out the map above, in which each colored district has a roughly equal population, for a glimpse.

The map was created by the Center for Range Voting, which was founded by math PhD Warren Smith and engineer Jan Kok to float innovative election reform proposals. To make it, they used what they call the shortest splitline algorithm. Basically, they used the shortest possible line to cut a state into two halves with roughly equal populations. Then they did so again, and again, and again, until they had the proper number of overall districts.

The map above crosses state borders, which is impossible in our current system. But the site also features maps for each individual state. Check out the difference between today's ludicrously gerrymandered North Carolina House map — featuring twisting, snakelike districts that stretch across the state — and the Center's version:

Screen_shot_2014-05-08_at_12.56.00_pmNcmap

Top: NationalAtlas.gov. Bottom: Center for Range Voting

But it's important to note that, because of their simplicity, these maps don't take several things into account. They don't try to keep historical neighborhoods or regions intact, don't try to ensure representation of racial minorities, and don't pay any attention to striking a balance between political parties. Still, they provide quite a contrast to the maps we have today.

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