NC Federal House Districts unconstitutionally gerrymandered

A 3-judge panel unanimously found that the NC legislature had unconstitutionally gerrymandered federal house districts for partisan purposes. This was apparently the money quote, from the Republican who oversaw redistricting processes:

This despite the fact that Republicans won a bare majority of votes.

I’m certainly hoping this decision stands, and I hope that over the next several years we see hyperpartisan gerrymandering relegating to the dustbin of history alongside grandfather laws and literacy taxes. However, I don’t have a lot of knowledge about its chances–do other folks have more insight?

I think that the decision has a chance to stand, because one of the reasons for determining that a violation occurred was that no “legitimate” state interest was identified as existing for the method of apportionment adopted. That, of course, simply means that legislatures will require a “fig leaf” reason when making their district boundaries for congresscritters.

We await the important SCotUS decisions on this.

I’m shocked! Shocked, I say!

The NC General Assembly plans to appeal to the Supreme Court, saying the two week deadline for new districts is too short. This is a tactic they’ve been using for about five years now, dragging their feet and dragging their feet and then saying, “Oh no, we don’t have TIIIIME to fix the mess we made!”

I have very little sympathy: they could have had a backup map in place already given the likelihood of a loss in court, and I am certain the state Democratic party would be more than willing to help them draw a map if they’re having trouble getting one done before the deadline. Shit, I’m pretty sure someone’s got an algorithm that could have a nonpartisan, high-vote-efficiency map ready within minutes.

I’m hoping the Supreme Court denies them the stay and forces new maps. My prediction, if the stay is denied, is that they’ll draw shitty new maps that don’t fix the problem, and then the judge will pull in a nonpartisan expert to draw maps.

More than five years. They learned it from Florida in 2000.

Other courts have met that stalling by doing the redistricting themselves. That may be what happens in NC. In Virginia recently, there was even a gerrymander-correcting redistricting *after *the election.

That is in and of itself an admission of bad intent – anyone who honestly wanted to create a straightforward map (i.e. conglomerate cities and counties into areas of roughly equal population) could do it in a few hours even if they had to use printed references and pencil-and-paper arithmetic.

Right, but Republicans took over in 2010 (I think). Before that, it was solid Democratic control–and believe me, I harbor no illusions about the Dems having been angels. My hope is that the courts put a stake through partisan gerrymandering once and for all.

“Your winnings, sir.”

“Oh, thank you. Thank you very much.”

There needs to be a neutral way with objective standards to do that, and sadly we don’t have anything obvious. Other states let nonpartisan committees do it, but even those depend on their members having good faith.

There are computer algorithms that can draw districts; the problem is, there are too many factors involved for any one of them to work “properly.”

Some people think the “solution” is to get rid of districts entirely, and have each voter vote for a party for the House of Representatives, with the state’s Representatives divided among the parties in proportion to the number of votes it received. You can get around the “you’re going to end up with districts where nobody is looking out for its interests” problem by having each party “nominate” someone for each district, put them in a preference order, and then, as each seat is won by a party, the candidate on the top of the list among the districts not awarded yet is considered elected. You can use any number of methods for determining the order in which the districts are chosen by the parties. For example, if a state with 10 districts goes 7-3 for the Democrats, give the Democrats numbers 1/7, 2/7, …, 6/7, 1, and the Republicans 1/3, 2/3, 1, then assign seats in numerical order, with the tie at 1 going to the Democrats first as they got the most votes. so the order would be DDRDDRDDDR. This has the added advantage that the shape of most districts is irrelevant.

The problem then is that if you have a candidate who’s generally hated by the electorate but is popular with his/her party, that person likely ends up getting elected regardless.

“the state legislator responsible for drawing the 2016 plan,” Rep. David Lewis, openly declared that he drew the map to advantage Republican candidates because he thinks “electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats.”

My solution is that if the state has n seats each party gets n spots on the General Election ballot and the top n vote-getters win.
And yes, there may be some strategy that the parties/candidates need to employ. Oh well.

My proposal, which I’ve never seen anywhere else (which probably means it’s either genius or, more likely, idiocy), is an adversarial system. The party with the most representatives submits a plan, which is evaluated according to a transparent point system–points for voter distance from district center, for low total perimeter, for efficiency, for adherence to municipal lines, or whatever.

The party with the second highest number of seats (but at least 5% of the total seats) then submits a competing plan. If the competing plan has AT LEAST 10% HIGHER SCORE than the first plan submitted, it wins; otherwise, the main party’s plan wins.

Something like this would admit that some level of bias is inescapable, but would temper that bias: if your plan is too obviously gerrymandered, then the opposition party gets to have their plan instead. The folks submitting the plan would therefore have a very strong motive to submit the least-gerrymandered plan they could.

but who sets up the point system to rank each plan? Most likely the party in power.

A court, or a nonpartisan or bipartisan commission. Obviously there could still be room for bias, but setting up the criteria separately from setting up the districts themselves would give a little more breathing room and make it easier to avoid bias.

There’s not a lot they can do if the criteria are too broad and generic to allow the sort of fine-tuning that distinguishes likely voters of one or the other party.

Example: Calculate a parameter for each district: area divided by perimiter squared (the square function puts both values in the same units and produces a dimensionless ratio, simplifying the definitions a bit). A few basic tweaks can be added (e.g. areas below 5% or so of the state’s mean population density don’t count toward area; boundaries that follow existing political or geographic lines are seriously down-weighted in counting toward perimeter) to cover odd situations. Any interested party may submit a map; the state legislature picks from the top three scores (of maps that pass tests for equal district population, Voting Rights Act minority representation, etc).

Would each voter have n votes, or do they only get one? In the former case, the majority party would likely get 100% of the representation, no matter how big their margin. The latter might work, but seems like the nth representative might end up with very few votes.

I like proportional schemes much better.

You know, Democrats would do a lot better if they would just pander to rural “white” voters so that they aren’t so easily concentrated during redistricting. :smiley:

A geographical algorithm, one that was race-blind and did not have as a goal the protection of minority ability to elect a representative – does that meet with everyone’s approval?

Or should we gerrymander to help minority voters elect a rep, but not anything else?