Gerrymandering is the purposeful manipulation of the boundaries of districts and regions in order for a particular party to gain a political advantage. Wikipedia has a great graphic that describes how this works.
How to Detect Gerrymandering by Using Math
On October 3, 2017, a piece by the New York Times titled How the New Math of Gerrymandering Works was published. It isn’t too complex so I’ll give a brief explanation of how it works.
Suppose in district 1 of some state, 100k democratic votes were cast while 200k republican votes were cast, and 160k votes were needed in order to win the district.
This means that the Democrats wasted all 100k votes (since they didn’t win), while the Republicans wasted 40k votes (since they only needed 160k). So, district 1 wasted a net of 100k – 40k = 60k democratic votes. The efficiency gap is defined to be the ratio of this net number of wasted votes to the total number of votes. In this case, that is 60/300 which is a 20% efficiency gap in favor of the Republicans.
The calculation above has been simplified to just one district. This would have to be tabulated over all districts that are electing some political official to get the total efficiency gap. Once calculated, it should not be more than 7%, as lower than this value should be expected due to randomness. Above that value suggests a high chance that gerrymandering is taking place.
The Supreme Court of the United States heard a case on gerrymandering on the day this article came out. I was very interested in the outcome, as I believe this to be an important, non-partisan issue. The result of that case came back in June.
SCOTUS Decision on Gerrymandering
To my dismay, the decision I wanted did not arrive. It would have been very nice for SCOTUS to have ruled gerrymandering unconstitutional, but it did not.
Also to my dismay, I found that gerrymandering is not non-partisan as the Supreme Court voted along ideological lines. The 5 conservative, Republican appointed justices, voted that gerrymandering cannot be limited by federal courts.
What Can Voters Do?
This post is one part of the several different aspects of corruption in government. For a long time, I’ve been paying attention to Represent.Us. This site does a wonderful job of explaining all of what I find important in fixing our broken system. It involves conservatives, moderates, and liberals joining forces to fight corruption.
One of the things I will try and do is to slowly go through some of the important points in the American Anti-Corruption Act. Gerrymandering was the first.
If you have 12 minutes, please check out this video and learn something about what is wrong with our country and what you may be able to do to win back our lost republic.