’TIS GERRYMANDERING SEASON. As states come out with new voting district maps, we are urged to contact lawmakers about the maps’ problems. However, saying: “I want a fair map, no gerrymandering” is not effective because it’s too general. As a friend said to me, “I understand the best testimony is very specific to the proposed district, but I don’t know how one arrives at the knowledge of maps and demographics to write with such specificity.”
Here’s how. Anyone can do this, and it’s quick.
First, look at the map to see how many counties are sliced into 2, 3, or more voting districts. The more splits, the worse the map. A specific comment could say: “5 counties are each split into 3 separate voting districts, and another is split into 4. A fair map minimizes splits…” *
Next, look closer to home at geography you know. See where they drew the line(s). Do the maps respect communities and neighborhoods, or not? For example, Cincinnati, OH is split in half. The eastern half is in a district with seven rural counties. The city and the rural areas have little in common, not like the city would have if left intact in a single voting district. The map makers deliberately diluted the city’s vote. It’s textbook gerrymandering.
These examples should get you started.
When I started looking at maps in this way, things began to pop out, for instance, a low-income area split into different districts. Address the things you see. Identifying vote dilution is a good way to begin.
* Because voting districts must have equal populations, sometimes a county must be split, but map makers have choices. When they split a county into 3 or 4 voting districts, it rarely if ever involves legitimate mapping criteria.