We've written about gerrymandering here on Vox — we've described some of the worst examples, and potential reforms that might prevent it (one of which was just upheld by the Supreme Court). 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 one possible glimpse. (Note that this map draws districts that cross state borders as well, which is impossible under our current system, but would end the overrepresentation of some small states.)
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.
If the map that crosses state lines is too far-fetched for you, the site also features maps using the shortest splitline algorithm for each individual state. For instance, 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:
The drawbacks of nice-looking maps
Districts drawn this way would solve one of the main objections to gerrymandering — that politicians rig the process to benefit themselves or their parties.
But it's important to note that because of their simplicity, these maps don't take several factors into account — factors many people think are quite important in ensuring good representation.
For instance, they don't try to keep historical neighborhoods or regions intact. They don't try to ensure representation of racial minorities. And they don't pay any attention to striking a balance between political parties, or ensuring that districts are competitive. "Pretty little districts," John Sides wrote at the Monkey Cage, "could actually be pretty terrible."