GERRYMANDERING, A GUIDE TO STEALING AN ELECTION

Gerrymandering, the drawing of political boundaries to give your party a numeric advantage over an opposing party is often difficult to explain. However, one user from Reddit has posted an ingenius graphical representation of the basic concept of gerrymandering.

Assume that we have a country of 50 people. 30 of them belong to the Blue Party, and 20 belong to the Red Party. And just our luck, they all live in a nice even grid with the Blues on one side of the state and the Reds on the other.

If the country is divided into five districts, with each district to send one representative to the House to represent the people, in ideal situations we would want the representation to be proportional: if 60% of our residents are Blue and 40% are Red, the 5 seats should be divided in a similar way (3 to Blue, 2 to Red).

So if citizens of the country live in a neatly ordered grid, it’s easy to draw up 5 neatly ordered districts: 2 for the Reds , and 3 for the Blues. This would be considered “Perfect Representation”.

However, if the Blue Party controls the state government and they get to decide how the lines are drawn, rather than draw districts that neatly align vertically, the Blue Party decides to draw them horizontally, so that in each district there are 6 Blues and 4 Reds. This is shown in grid 2 above, “compact but unfair.”

With a Blue majority in this state, each district elects a blue candidate to the House. The Blues win 5 seats and the Reds don’t get a single one.

In real life, this is the type of situation that many opposition parties face. When the elected government consists of members belonging mostly to one major party, the division of political boundaries could end up much like the unfair situation in grid 2 above.

What if the Red Party controls the state government? The Reds know they’re at a numeric disadvantage. But with some creative boundary drawing — the type you see in grid 3, “neither compact nor fair” — they can slice the Blue population up such that they only get a majority in two districts. So despite making up 40 percent of the population, the Reds win 60 percent of the seats.

Do you think it is safe to have one party be put in charge of government for so long?

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