Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States Politics

North Carolina Congressional Map Ruled Unconstitutionally Gerrymandered (nytimes.com) 409

An anonymous reader shares a report: A panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina's congressional map on Tuesday, condemning it as unconstitutional because Republicans had drawn the map seeking a political advantage (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). The ruling was the first time that a federal court had blocked a congressional map because of a partisan gerrymander, and it instantly endangered Republican seats in the coming elections. Judge James A. Wynn Jr., in a biting 191-page opinion, said that Republicans in North Carolina's Legislature had been "motivated by invidious partisan intent" as they carried out their obligation in 2016 to divide the state into 13 congressional districts, 10 of which are held by Republicans. The result, Judge Wynn wrote, violated the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection. The ruling and its chief demand -- that the Republican-dominated Legislature create a new landscape of congressional districts by Jan. 24 -- infused new turmoil into the political chaos that has in recent years enveloped North Carolina. President Trump carried North Carolina in 2016, but the state elected a Democrat as its governor on the same day and in 2008 supported President Barack Obama.

North Carolina Congressional Map Ruled Unconstitutionally Gerrymandered

Comments Filter:
  • Wow, really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by VitrosChemistryAnaly ( 616952 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @11:43AM (#55901339) Journal
    Purposely changing election maps in order to effectively disenfranchise citizens is unconstitutional? You've got to be kidding me.

    In all seriousness, I do hope that something like this will be implemented in its stead:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com... [washingtonpost.com]

    ...however, I'm not holding my breath.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      Sure. But this stuff has been going on so long that it's part of history class. Even the term gerrymander goes back to the earliest days of our republic.

      That said, the fact that a state (or a voter) went for Obama and then Trump is no proof of nefarious meddling.

      This idea that the system is broken because it produced a result you don't agree with is even MORE dangerous to democracy than gerrymandering.

      Short of a simple geometric algorithm, any attempt to redraw districts will generate objections. Both parti

      • Re:Wow, really? (Score:5, Informative)

        by imgod2u ( 812837 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @12:27PM (#55901737) Homepage

        The actual evidence they used (had you RTFA) is to measure the number of registered Democrats/Republicans in a State in aggregate and then compare it with congressional seats.

        It's not going to be exactly equal but you'd expect a State with 70% of the population as registered Democrats compared to 30% Republicans to roughly have a 7:3 (or 6:4, even 5:5) mix of elected Congress-people.

        Instead, NC has a heavy 10:3 ratio of Republican vs Democrat Congress-people. And it moved this way after the maps were redrawn after the 2010 census.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Wycliffe ( 116160 )

          >

          It's not going to be exactly equal but you'd expect a State with 70% of the population as registered Democrats compared to 30% Republicans to roughly have a 7:3 (or 6:4, even 5:5) mix of elected Congress-people.

          No, I would not expect that at all. If political affiliation was equally distributed across the state, then with 70% democrats, you would expect every district to go democrat every time. But because we know that democrats tend to clump in cities and districts are divided by population not area, I would expect democrats to win most of the small area districts and republicans to win most of the large area districts. In some ways slight gerrymandering can actually give better representation for everyone so

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Expect... Like expecting Hillary to carry states Obama won?

          Expectations have the problem of being wrong.

      • Re:Wow, really? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by VitrosChemistryAnaly ( 616952 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @12:48PM (#55901993) Journal
        I didn't bring up political parties, Obama or Trump. My objection to gerrymandering goes beyond my political beliefs.

        And just because this stuff has been going on for a long time doesn't make it right. Just because the party that I may support is directly benefitted doesn't make it right.

        This idea that the system is broken because it produced a result you don't agree with is even MORE dangerous to democracy than gerrymandering.

        The results with which I don't agree is that citizens are effectively disenfranchised regardless of who wins. And when did I ever say that I didn't support the party that directly gained from the redrawn districts?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by jebrick ( 164096 )

          Studies(https://fivethirtyeight.com/tag/gerrymandering/) have shown the party primary system does more to cause the issues with the extremes of both parties. Gerrymandering is some of the problems. Gerrymandering plus voter suppression makes it worst. An open primary system would solve a vast majority of the problems.

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

        Short of a simple geometric algorithm, any attempt to redraw districts will generate objections. Both parties will seek to alter the result to benefit them.

        Divide the state up into sections for as equal a percentage of population as possible, grouped along county lines. If a county holds a large city or in some other way is unbalanced relative to other counties, then that county is split to equal out the numbers. This also has the benefit of equally weighing each person's vote.

        • If a county holds a large city or in some other way is unbalanced relative to other counties, then that county is split to equal out the numbers.

          Umm ... this is exactly what the NC Republicans did. By splitting up the cities, thus dividing the urban vote, and then combining each urban section with rural and suburban voters more likely to vote Republican, they dilute the Democrat votes.

        • Divide the state up into sections for as equal a percentage of population as possible, grouped along county lines.

          There is a lot of variation in populations between counties. Counties are not a good starting point.

          There are mathematical measures for the compactness of a region. I would specify that each district must be as compact as possible while containing a nearly-identical number of voters. Hand over the census data to a computer or a handful of mathematicians, then wait for the results.

      • Re: Wow, really? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Gerrymandering is bad no matter who does it.

        But let's also not use false equivalents. The GOP once again is clearly the more immoral of the two.

        https://www.apnews.com/fa6478e10cda4e9cbd75380e705bd380

        TLDR statistical analysis shows that Rs abuse the system 4 time as often.

        Currently If you put an R next to your next to your name you are an immoral sack of shit who is willing to corrupt the most basic principles of our electoral system.

        *Note "R" not conservative.

      • It is even more complicated than that. Florida has a state law that mandates that districts be as geometrically compact as possible. But, Florida also falls under the Voting Rights Act which requires:
        1. a minority population is geographically compact and sufficiently numerous to be a majority in a single district;
        2. the minority population is politically cohesive;
        3. the majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it usually to defeat the minority-preferred candidate;
        4. under all of the circumstances, the mino
    • In all seriousness, I do hope that something like this will be implemented in its stead:
      https://www.washingtonpost.com... [www.washingtonpost.com] [washingtonpost.com]

      Whenever voting comes up the inevitable solution to 'fix' the elections follow. It maybe a great idea and the best idea ever to come up in civics and elections. You would go much further in convincing me that it's a great idea by implementing in your state. Elections are controlled by state and local governments and leading by example is a better way to prove your idea is good. I don't care what other countries do, they have no political stake in our elections and organize their elections according to their

      • Re:Wow, really? (Score:5, Informative)

        by imgod2u ( 812837 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @12:32PM (#55901799) Homepage

        So when it comes to Gerrymandering, most of the more "liberal" or even "purple" States have long had laws against it. Many (including CA) have independent councils that must have representatives from both parties in roughly equal proportion drawing the maps.

        Only a handful of States (which all happen to be battleground States for elections) have this kind of gerrymandering where the majority legislature controls the maps as well. And they almost all are Republican controlled.

        Democrats gerrymander too, don't get me wrong. But they haven't abused it to the extend like the Republicans in NC did. The State has 2.7M (as of 2016) registered Democrats and 2.0M registered Republicans. Yet has 10 R congressmen vs 3 D congressmen.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          Gerrymandering has been an issue since the start of the Republic. Even California has issues with it's redistricting. Great, they have an unelected commission to decide their districts. Which has been highly unfavorable to the GOP party even though it was initially promoted by the GOP in California. They risked their political power because they thought it a good idea. My initial point.

          I am not convinced the democrats have solved the issue particularly so because you now can have a democrat run against a de

        • Democrats gerrymander too, don't get me wrong. But they haven't abused it to the extent like the Republicans in NC did.

          Are you aware of any Democratic-majority states that were under the Consent Degree? (At least until Roberts court gutted the VRA last year).

        • Democrats gerrymander too, don't get me wrong. But they haven't abused it to the extend like the Republicans in NC did.

          That is because they can't. Gerrymandering works inherently better for Republicans.

          Political polarization is NOT symmetrical. If you go to the reddest of the red, say a rural county in Utah, it will still have only about a 70%/30% Republican/Democratic split. But you can easily find urban districts that are 95%/5% Democrat/Republican.

          So it is easier to concentrate Democratic voters into a few districts, leaving the Republicans to sweep the rest.

    • I prefer multimember districts with cumulative voting [fairvote.org] like they had in Illinois up to 1982.

      • I prefer multimember districts with cumulative voting [fairvote.org] like they had in Illinois up to 1982.

        I agree. Something like this would be much preferred. The problem with districts is that even if you get rid of gerrymandering, if every district is an equal split 70% one party and 30% the other party then that second party never gets any representation. In some ways, slight gerrymandering is actually preferred over perfectly equal districts but something like all candidates voted for statewide and take the top N with the most votes would better represent the minority parties.

    • It isn't, and the courts support it because, like in the case of NC and where I lived in Chicago for a while, the districts are minority majority in order to give us a voice. They are a good thing, and some judges think it is Constitutionally required. To do away with it harms minorities.

    • Re:Wow, really? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Strider- ( 39683 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @01:29PM (#55902413)

      Gerrymandering is one of the many reasons why I'm glad to live in a country where the establishment of electoral boundaries is done by a non-partisan organization, based on a set of rules and census data. The rules are basically:

      1) The riding must be as compact as possible
      2) Where reasonable, the boundaries should follow natural boundaries (rivers, bays, ravines, etc...) and/or major man-made boundaries (Major roads, highways, municipal borders, etc...)
      3) in urban centres, the boundaries should try and respect neighbourhood boundaries

      All in all, it actually works, and is part of the check and balances on the power of the politicians.

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        and/or major man-made boundaries (Major roads, highways

        The problem with using a road as a boundary is that it means someone just a few easy steps away can be in a different voting district. You want to keep people within easy access of each other in the same district, and separate the districts along actual transportational barriers. That means not roads unless it's something difficult to cross like a freeway.

        Using actual transportational barriers as a boundary also means these two houses with adjoining ba [google.com]

  • Automation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThosLives ( 686517 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @11:46AM (#55901357) Journal

    How is this not automated? Should just be a computer program that does "find the N points such that each point is the closest point to exactly P/N people."

    That is, make a Voronoi diagram on population, not geometric distance.

    No politics involved at all, but probably people wouldn't like it...

    • Re:Automation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by religionofpeas ( 4511805 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @11:56AM (#55901453)

      Why not simply add up all the votes over the entire population of interest ?

      • Each district is electing its own representative.
        • Each district is electing its own representative.

          Well, yes, but my point was to change the whole system. You give each party a certain number of representatives based on percentage of popular vote.

          If you want a local representative, then have a local election to appoint one, and give this person some jurisdiction over their own district.

          • Re:Automation (Score:5, Informative)

            by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @01:51PM (#55902643) Homepage Journal

            I'm running to represent Maryland's 7th district. It looks like a dragon coming out of a volcano [google.com], so I'd quite like to not see it changed much at all, except maybe to include the Starbucks in Mt. Washington because it's readily-accessible by public transportation and highway.

            The point is to represent these particular people in Congress. I've actually left campaign material on Elijah Cummings's door--I'm running for his seat and I used to live on his street, just a few blocks down. Andy Harris may lose his seat because Allison Galbraith is extremely popular in his own community--she lives right in the same neighborhood.

            We have local elections for local legislative districts, putting Delegates and State Senators in place to change State law. Congress changes Federal law. My jurisdiction includes the Baltimore Inner Harbor, and my constituents want me to lobby for Federal money to help restore the Chesapeake Bay due to simple environmentalism and its incredible economic value (lots of fishing, tourism, and the like going on there). Representatives of other districts have less focus on the Bay.

        • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

          There are lots of other places in the world that do what ThosLives suggests. One approach is to take all the votes, then setup representation that is proportional to the votes. Suppose a state with 10 representatives that gets 60% dems and 30% repubs and 10% green. You will have 6 democrats 3 republicans and 1 green. Then you need a way to pick individual representatives out of the pool. The trade-off is you get less accurate local representation, but it is immunte from gerrymandering and increases the

          • There are lots of other places in the world that do what ThosLives suggests. One approach is to take all the votes, then setup representation that is proportional to the votes. Suppose a state with 10 representatives that gets 60% dems and 30% repubs and 10% green. You will have 6 democrats 3 republicans and 1 green. Then you need a way to pick individual representatives out of the pool. The trade-off is you get less accurate local representation, but it is immunte from gerrymandering and increases the likelihood of multiple parties sharing power. That last one is real big in many European nations. (And many of those nations are similar in size to US states, so it can work on that kind of scale.)

            I vote for the candidate and not the party. I'm conservative, but not affiliated with the Republican Party. Most of the time I do vote Republican, but the candidate matters more than party. For example, I wouldn't vote for someone with credible complaints of sexual harassment unless the other candidate is probably guilty of a worse offense.

      • Why not simply add up all the votes over the entire population of interest ?

        The problem is in how you define the entire population of interest. Gerrymandering is the act of politicians (or political parties) having the power to choose the population that is most likely to ensure they get elected.

        • The problem is in how you define the entire population of interest

          No, that's easy. The population of interest is all the people that would fall under the jurisdiction of the chosen government.

    • I think the problem is how do you do it soley on population since areas are populated so differently? For the towns of 500-2000 that are a hundred miles away from two large cities, where do you put them? Here in Texas, do you combine some of San Antonio with Austin to get to your magic population number even though the demographics of each city is very different?

    • Because Technological solutions can not solve People problems. And it has no chance against political ones.

      It has become a recent issue because of automation. We could have done this for more than a century. manually Just don't present the independent math guy with political affiliation as part of the data set. Automation, we could do for decades.

      But what political group would want to lose that attribute as a weapon? So humans did it... along with all their biases. But when humans were doing it, they

    • Lead by example. Do it and tell us how it works.

    • If it were automated we'd still be arguing over the algorithm to use, what inputs it should have, etc.

      I'd like to see a system that features some small number of competing algorithms, each of which must draw districts without using partisan voting patterns as an input, or any other trait that correlates strongly with partisan voting patterns (e.g. race). Maybe three different algorithms. During redistricting, each algorithm is applied to produce a map. Then a 50/50 bipartisan committee of human beings
    • This. But it needs to be coupled with a return of Congress to the people. These three parts need to be done together, through an Article 5 convention.

      Part 1: We need to return to the original ratio of 1 representative per 30,000 citizens. Yes, that is over 9000 representatives. They don't need to meet in person. Each of them can have an office in their district and a staff that also lives in the same district. They can exchange documents online, and vote online. They can deliver their fundraising sp

    • by MagicM ( 85041 )

      Consider an area that is to be divided into 10 districts. If the population is made up of 90% horses and 10% cows, and all cows live close to each other geographically, it would be nice (and "fair") to have 1 of the 10 districts be a cow-district with a cow-representative.

    • by TimSSG ( 1068536 )
      Because that would be illegal I refer you to the (VRA) voting right act. Because about 50 percent of Democrats will not regularly vote for black candidates; the VRA require black districts to be drawn up with about plus 20 percent Democrats.

      Tim S.

      How is this not automated? Should just be a computer program that does "find the N points such that each point is the closest point to exactly P/N people."

      That is, make a Voronoi diagram on population, not geometric distance.

      No politics involved at all, but probably people wouldn't like it...

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @11:47AM (#55901379)
    they went along with the Gerrymandering because the R's carved out some safe districts for them. If this keeps up (and if we don't let voter suppression happen) it'll change the political landscape drastically. The part that worries me is the Rs just got out from under that court order that lets them send poll watchers. I some how doubt the reason for that order (voter intimidation) really went away. I know in the last two presidential elections there were armed police stationed outside predominately black precincts... OTOH there's been motions to force paper trails nationwide.
  • I'm sure it more complex than x number of people per district but it seems like there could be some formula and consistency across all states or at least for each state.

    That said, I can see some easy troubles with this since states have difference population structures (and vastly different geographic sizes.)

    • Re:Automate it (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @12:14PM (#55901611) Journal

      It's difficult to do. The gerrymandered districts will have a similar number of people in them, but that's not the problem. Imagine you have 10,000 people voting for teams A and B, with a 50:50 split. It's possible to arrange 10 districts where each one will have 500 A voters and 500 B voters, but it's also possible to have 8 districts with 600 A voters and 400 B voters and two districts with 100 A voters and 900 B voters. In the first configuration, you'll end up with some tough campaigns and probably average 5 A seats and 5 B seats. In the second, you'll always have 8 A seats and 2 B seats. That's the essence of gerrymandering: you distribute your voters to maximise the number of seats.

      You can automate creating constituencies with even numbers, but that's also biased. The real solution is to move away from single-representative constituencies and closer to an electoral system where every vote counts.

      • Look at Wisconsin (Score:5, Informative)

        by AF_Cheddar_Head ( 1186601 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @01:40PM (#55902541)

        From this: https://www.brennancenter.org/... [brennancenter.org]

        "At a statewide level, Wisconsin is a quintessential battleground where races are often decided by only a few percentage points. Contrast that to the state assembly map the Republicans drew: In 2012, they won 60 of the 99 seats in the Wisconsin Assembly despite winning only 48.6% of the two-party state-wide vote; in 2014, they won 63 seats with only 52% of the state-wide vote."

        Don't get me wrong, this is not a partisan issue as both sides have historically tried to use gerrymandering to influence elections, it is just that lately the Republicans have been particularly aggressive and good at it.

  • So what's Constitutional Gerrymandering?
  • by ferguson731 ( 547854 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @12:22PM (#55901693)
    For example, check out the work of Moon Duchin and the Matrix Geometry and Gerrymandering Group at Tufts: http://sites.tufts.edu/gerryma... [tufts.edu] Chronicle of Higher Ed profile: https://www.chronicle.com/arti... [chronicle.com] And other mathematicians also: http://www.ams.org/publication... [ams.org]
  • by mpercy ( 1085347 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @02:24PM (#55902959)

    Remember back when Democrats were happily using racist assumptions that blacks could only get elected from majority-black districts, which they were all too happy to gerrymander into existence?

    The current Republican antics are a direct result of those racist efforts...and redrawing the districts will almost certainly dilute those majority-minority districts (again, which are racist constructs in the first place). And lots of folks will not be happy at all about districts drawn by "colorblind" algorithms that are simply trying to map equal numbers of people into right-sized districts, so the algorithms will have to be made "fair". Good luck with that.

    The Atlantic (2013)

    Acting under the legal strength and moral authority of the Voting Rights Act, the Democrats led the charge to draw so-called "majority-minority districts" -- ones packed so full of minority voters that they usually resulted in electing a minority representative, as intended. The number of minority representatives jumped exponentially from the 1960s through the 1980s, with the number of black House members increasing from five to 24 by 1989.

    But just in time for the redistricting in 1990, some enterprising Republicans began noticing a rather curious fact: The drawing of majority-minority districts not only elected more minorities, it also had the effect of bleeding minority voters out of all the surrounding districts. Given that minority voters were the most reliably Democratic voters, that made all of the neighboring districts more Republican. The black, Latino, and Asian representatives mostly were replacing white Democrats, and the increase in minority representation was coming at the expense of electing fewer Democrats. The Democrats had been tripped up by a classic Catch-22, as had minority voters: Even as legislatures were becoming more diverse, they were ironically becoming less friendly to the agenda of racial minorities.

    Newt Gingrich embraced this strategy of drawing majority-minority districts for GOP advantage, as did the Bush Administration Justice Department prior to the 1991 redistricting, even as GOP activists like now-Chief Justice John Roberts campaigned against the VRA because they opposed any race-based remedies. The tipping point was the 1994 midterm elections, when the GOP captured the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 35 years and Gingrich because speaker. Many experts on both the left and the right, from The Nation's Ari Berman and prominent GOP election lawyer Ben Ginsberg (who spearheaded the 1991 effort to maximize the number of majority-minority districts), attribute the Republican success that year to the drawing of majority-minority districts; indeed, African-American membership in the House reached its highest level ever, at 40.

    VRA districts undoubtedly played a role in the GOP takeover, but they were not the only factor, since Republicans made big gains that year in lots of places outside the South. But in the hardscrabble battles of the 50-50 nation, any advantage at all was embraced, and prominent Republicans like Ginsberg and Gingrich became the loudest proponents of drawing majority-minority districts.

  • by mpercy ( 1085347 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 @03:04PM (#55903337)

    Washington Post article on gerrymandering in California...

    "California just proved how cracking down on gerrymandering isn’t all it’s cracked up to be"

    For the fourth time in 12 years, not a single one of the state's 50-plus congressional districts switched parties. Just as in 2010, 2008 and 2004, every single seat returned to the party that previously controlled it.

    And if you exclude the post-redistricting election of 2012, only two California districts have flipped parties since 2004. That's two out of 314 individual races — 0.6 percent. (And one of the two was a fluke in which the GOP briefly held a blue-leaning seat thanks to two Republicans advancing to the general election in 2012.)

    So why do we bring this up now? Well, partly because it wasn't necessarily supposed to be this way again. Before the last round of redistricting, Californians voted for a redistricting commission to take the process out of lawmakers' hands.

    But in the end, California might be Exhibit A in the limits of redistricting reform's impact on competition. The state's population is very segmented, and drawing competitive districts isn't easy given the self-sorting that people have done.

    California's districts were actually drawn irrespective of competitiveness and partisanship. The commission decided not to even look at such data when drawing its districts, preferring to focus on what it called "communities of interest" and other demographics.

    Paul Mitchell, a Democratic redistricting expert based in California, said that means the results since then are no real surprise. “When you draw lines to keep communities of interest together, you wind up creating districts that, by proxy, are partisan — as partisan as if you drew them with party labels — because you’re drawing them with values that are definitive of partisan labels themselves," Mitchell said.

    And that's real the takeaway here. Gerrymandering is increasingly viewed as a political ill that must be dealt with. And there is generally considerable public support for redistricting reforms whenever they are on the ballot. But given our increasing tendency to live around people with whom we share a worldview, creating competitive districts often requires its own brand of gerrymandering that doesn't jibe with grouping people who share things in common.

You can tune a piano, but you can't tuna fish. You can tune a filesystem, but you can't tuna fish. -- from the tunefs(8) man page

Working...