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Redistricting, a Devil’s Dictionary

Posted on Nov 6, 2011
YouTube / propublica

By Olga Pierce, Jeff Larson and Lois Beckett

(Page 2)

Hijacking: If there’s an incumbent you don’t like, you can make their re-election difficult by putting them in a district with another incumbent to contend with. If you don’t like either incumbent in the newly drawn district, even better, because only one can be re-elected. If the two incumbents are from your rival party, you can force a costly primary battle, weakening your likely opponent before general election.

Cleveland, Toledo: Which brings us to the curious case of Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich. Ideological kindred spirits, friends, and now incumbents in the same oddly-shaped district. A district the Republican state legislature appears to have designed by drawing a straight line connecting the two representatives’ homes, 110 miles apart, in Toledo and Cleveland. Republicans in Ohio’s state legislature have defended the new district maps, saying they don’t break any laws.

Kidnapping: Most politicians have geographic political bases; places they came up in politics where they have supporters, political allies, donors and name recognition. But what if their home address ends up in a different district than their base? That can make re-election tough, as North Carolina Congressman Brad Miller is about to find out. A new district boundary adopted by the state legislature there elegantly sweeps out to cut his home in Raleigh out of his old district. Republicans in the state have said that gaining congressional seats is a goal of their redistricting effort.

Gerrymandering: Taken together, all of these handy techniques are known by this most famous redistricting term. In 1812, a Massachusetts governor named Eldridge Gerry was blamed for a redistricting plan designed to weaken the influence of the opposition Federalist party. The map, drawn to favor the Democratic-Republicans, included a long, squiggly district wrapped around the other districts like a salamander. The district, immortalized by a famous political cartoon, was dubbed the “gerry-mander.” (This was not fair to Gerry, since he was was not actually responsible for the map.) Gerrymandering has become the term of choice for all misbehavior in redistricting, but particularly refers to districts drawn in bizarre, wandering shapes for the benefit of particular politicians. A special subset of this is the sweetheart gerrymander, where incumbents of different parties collude to draw districts that make sure everyone stays in office.


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ProPublica correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the City of Rochester was split into multiple districts. In fact, the city proper is entirely encompassed in the 28th congressional district. The urban area as defined by the U.S. Census, however, is split into four districts. This post has been updated accordingly.

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By Robert757, November 7, 2011 at 10:06 pm Link to this comment
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I wonder if a more fair election district map could be obtained if drawn by strictly fixed rules ex: every district must have the same shape,maybe a square or hexagon, with the size adjusted so each has equal population. If the starting point of the grid was also defined, perhaps the location of the state capitol building, the map could be drawn by computer program, leaving no room for maneuvers for political advantage by the party in power.

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By ardee, November 7, 2011 at 6:23 am Link to this comment

Blueokie, November 6 at 7:56 pm

I havent the faintest idea of what you are so angry about. But, then, I think that you do not know either.

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By Lafayette, November 7, 2011 at 4:31 am Link to this comment


This article is very comprehensive and well worth the read.

It shows adeptly how we have allowed our political system to be “gamed”. And, frankly, we should be have permitted such manipulation in the so-called Greatest Nation on Earth.

The list of machinations: Redistricting, Media Messaging Manipulation, corporate money for candidate campaigns, the illicit Supreme Court judgment that decided corporations have the same “freedom of speech” as individuals, revolving doors at Federal oversight agencies, cronyism (like nepotism), etc., etc., etc ... ad nauseam.

Regardless of the party, Left or Right, we have made of America a Banana Republic. And it is time to right that wrong by means of a profound reformation of the country employing Progressive Values as a political guideline. Which needs a national debate.


So, here is my contribution to that debate.

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By Blueokie, November 6, 2011 at 7:56 pm Link to this comment

Ardee- Really, more than one state?  Thank heavens there is someone like you to
point out the painfully obvious to those not blessed with your intelligence and
insight.  I suppose the qualifier, “those of us in the region”, somehow managed to
slip past that monstrous IQ.  Thank goodness a lowbrow like myself forgot to
uncheck the notify box so that you could beam down on me with your wisdom.

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By ardee, November 6, 2011 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment

This is, I believe, more of a symptom than a sickness. Both parties do the same thing when in the majority, nor is this limited, as some poster’s seem to believe, to one state but is a universal across our nation.

Yet another example of why we need more than the current two parties running things for their own self interest instead of the interests of the people they supposedly represent.

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By Blueokie, November 6, 2011 at 12:58 pm Link to this comment

Nice article to introduce just how the Imperialist Corporatist Party with their
Republican arm and their Dim-ocratic arm working in tandem have replaced a
representative republic with the facade of such.  As well as cleaning out the
rampant corruption in this system, doing away with the anachronistic Electoral
College must be considered of equal importance.  For those of us in the region
nothing that happens in the White Peoples Banana Republic of Profound Stupidity
(some call it Texas) is much of a surprise.

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By SoTexGuy, November 6, 2011 at 11:23 am Link to this comment

Yeah! redistricting for Party Unity and Preeminence.. that’s the Texas way for sure!

What else could have possibly given that Clown Perry and the worst face of the Republican party their decade long dominance?

All for the best, right?


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