When I just revisited the Represent.Us Supreme Court petition against gerrymandering that I announced twice recently, I found a count of 24,312 supporters with 688 still needed to reach the goal of 25,000. So, perhaps the originally planned Tuesday delivery has been postponed, or Represent.Us keeps gathering our votes to make a greater impact again later. Either way, you can still join the supporters of the petition. You may also ask yourself how an end to gerrymandering can be factually achieved, beyond the first step of just outlawing it. In other words, is there an alternative way of drawing voting districts that is decisively better for voters and democracy?
Well, actually, there is. There are complications, but these problems seem to already have been solved to the best degree possible. When one digs deep into the problem of partisan gerrymandering, that self-serving method which has politicians pick their voters rather than the other way around, one meets complexities which never seem completely resolvable. Basically, as long as we continue to run winner-takes-all elections, there will always be cases where you might argue that certain populations (racial, ethnic, rural, etc.) are disadvantaged electorally by their location. There is always going to be a trade-off between like voters being pooled in one district, so they get very few delegates, or them being scattered across multiple districts, so they can’t form a majority anywhere. Therefore perfect districting, that nobody will ever critique in regard to one district or another, is pretty impossible. Still, suffering gerrymandered districting intended to guarantee specific electoral outcomes (such as the widespread incumbent-protection racket of both major parties), is one thing. Merely having to accept a small residue of imperfection, when districts are drawn with the explicit goal of avoiding such electoral manipulation, is quite another.
Therefore, eliminating partisan gerrymandering is definitely a very worthy goal. The next question becomes: how? Well, people always tend to be partisan; so even when we avoid putting the foxes in charge of the henhouse (like when Republican or “Democratic” politicians draw the districts), human bias may always occur when people draw the district lines. Some politicians even use this as an excuse to keep their partisan gerrymandering alive, basically saying: nobody else will be more honest.
Well, there is an alternative. In these modern times, we have powerful computers and algorithms which can optimize districts without any human bias or preference, and which will produce districts with highly equal voter numbers and compact geographic shapes, and which won’t even draw lines down the middle of neighborhoods and residences. In fact, a program able to do this has already been written. Brian Olson, a Massachusetts software engineer, wrote a program to draw “optimally compact” equal-population congressional districts in every state, based on the 2010 census data. You can read more about it on washingtonpost.com. Odd that something like this would appear in the establishment-friendly Washington Post, I know; but then many politicians have mixed feelings about gerrymandering. So… it’s probably not too taboo a topic for our corporate media. Here is the link: This computer programmer solved gerrymandering in his spare time
Note 1: By the way, on its “WONKBLOG,” the Washington Post has also published a graphic which explains gerrymandering at a glimpse. It’s to be found in this article: This is the best explanation of gerrymandering you will ever see
Note 2: I contacted Represent.Us and was told the signatures and the Amicus Brief were delivered to the Supreme Court on September 5th. However, people are still welcome to sign the petition.
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