In November 2012, the American electorate voted to give Democrats unified control of government. President Obama won re-election with a majority of the vote, Senate Democrats increased their seat count, and Democratic candidates for the House won the popular vote. However, because of the way in which districts are drawn, Republicans easily maintained control of the House.
This article is the culmination of hundreds of hours of research and work. I want to demonstrate why I firmly believe partisan gerrymandering by itself can be held responsible for Republicans keeping the House. The year 2012 was two-and-a-half years ago and Republicans clearly still would have won the House in 2014 without gerrymandering. Nonetheless, it is still relevant today, because despite the very real chance Democrats win the presidency and Senate, no serious prognosticator deems the House in play for 2016.
Past work by political scientists has aimed to show how the geographic clustering of Democratic voters is instead the cause of 2012's outcome, but this research is flawed. This work prioritizes above all else geometric compactness, defined by the minimization of district boundary length and the distance from any point to the center. This method inherently will produce a pro-Republican outlook that is not supported by other traditional redistricting principles. We should think of districts as collections of constituents, not abstract geometric shapes on a map that a computer can randomly generate.
I wanted to see what the outcome might have been if I drew the best possible map for each individual state using the free Dave's Redistricting App. Because I want to measure the partisan impact of gerrymandering, there are a few principles that must be followed. Rather than value compactness over everything else, it is paramount that these principles be balanced with respect to one another. In order of prioritization these are:
1. Ignoring partisanship.
2. Compliance with the Voting Rights Act's demand for majority-minority districts.
3. Utilizing communities of interest like shared culture, economic class, etc.
4. Minimization of unnecessary county and municipality splits.
5. Geographic compactness. Not mathematically minimizing district boundary length, but drawing districts so that they don't combine disparate parts of intrastate regions.
Head below the fold to learn so much more.