Skip to main content

I know anyone who's messed around with DRA a lot knows that there are certain patterns in gerrymanders that can be seen across different maps. The other day I was wondering if it were possible to codify the different types of districts that you see in Democratic and Republican maps. What I discovered is that it is much easier to codify the decision making options available to partisan mapmakers than it is to codify the different types of districts it results in due to varying demographics between states. While I may at some point later attempt a diary that semi-comprehensively lists the different types of districts, below the fold is my best attempt at distilling the theoretical decision making process of partisan mapmaking. Any feedback is welcome. Sorry if it's a bit too theoretical.

While the districts may look different because of differing geography and demographics, partisan map makers basically have a dualistic choice to make when dealing with territory that is strong for their party, territory that is strong for their opponent's party, and territory that is swingy.

The options for dealing with the opposing party's areas of strength are:
Swamping it by putting it in with enough territory that favors their own party that the overall district will support their candidates.
Packing it into one district that will go as strongly for the opposing party as possible so that the territory can be kept out of districts the mapmaker wants for their own party.
Swamping is always preferably to packing from a partisan perspective where it is possible to do without weakening the party's own districts too much because packing concedes a district to the opposition.

The options for deal with your party's areas of strength are:
Diluting it by connecting it to swingy areas or areas that favor the other party.
Compacting it by attempting to maximize their own party's strength in the district.
The decision to dilute or compact depends on the party's strength in the area and the strength the mapmakers want the districts to be. If the party is substantially stronger in the area than the mapmakers want the district to be, it makes sense to dilute the area. If the party's strength in the area is only barely where the mapmakers want it to be, or the opposing party has enough strength in surrounding areas to make diluting the area impossible or impractical, it makes more sense to compact the area.

The options for dealing with swing areas are:
Absorbing it by drawing it in with areas of strong support for their own party to create a districts that still favor their party but don't "waste" as many votes.
Packing it into a district that will be swingy.
As with the opposing party's territory, absorbing is preferable to packing where possible, as a safe (or at least strong) district is preferable to a swing district. Partisan map makers should try to avoid putting swing territory into districts that favor the other party.

Finally, except when a district fits perfectly with a community of interest, there are two ways a map can treat a community of interest:
Splitting it between two or more districts that are connected to areas that are either swingy or favor the opposite political party as that community of interest. When splitting is done to swamp one of the opposing party's areas of strength, it is called cracking. There's no preexisting term for splitting to dilute the district down to the strength you think is necessary for your own party's district, but for the purposes of this diary I'll call it spreading. The extreme version of splitting is typically a baconmander.
Combining it with other communities of interest that favor the same party. This can be done either to pack the opposing party's areas of strength into a vote sink or create a district that favors the mapmaker's party in otherwise hostile territory.
Many districts can be a hybrid of the two.

This diary has been posted to DK Elections, an official Daily Kos sub-site. Please read the DKE Mission Statement. DKE's focus is on electoral politics rather than policy. Welcome aboard!

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site