Princeton Gerrymandering Project

Update - December 12, 2019

In North Carolina, a state court has allowed the General Assembly’s new congressional map to be used in 2020. The ruling comes after an expedited congressional redistricting process that took place with little citizen input
The original gerrymander elected 10 Republicans and 3 Democrats. The proposed remedial map is likely to elect 8 Republicans and 5 Democrats, even if the statewide vote is equally divided. The Court noted the imperfections of the process, but allowed the map to be used in order to prevent delays in the congressional primaries scheduled for March 3rd next year. And they qualified their decision by saying the state legislative and congressional maps will be replaced following the 2020 census.
The new maps represent a partial win for fair districting – and provide lessons for how to get a genuinely fair outcome in 2021. What will stop the "not enough time to redraw" argument from reappearing? In Raleigh’s News & Observer, we argued that the solution is a combination of citizens on the ground, and data on communities of interest. The laws of over twenty states urge redistricters to honor “communities of interest” when drawing lines. Communities of interest are defined as groups of people who share similar interests, and who may be affected in special ways by legislation. These interests can be racial, ethnic, religious, social, cultural, or economic, and North Carolina law explicitly requires that state legislative districts take these communities into account.
For example, the remedial Congressional map’s Districts 7, 8, and 9 split the Sandhills, a region in southern central North Carolina with sizable Black and Native American populations. Leaving the Sandhills region whole would create one Democratic-leaning district that represented those minority groups, while leaving two other districts to be Republican-leaning. Instead, the Sandhills were cracked, with parts joined to regions as far as suburban Charlotte, 150 miles to the west. The result? Three Republican-leaning districts.
Citizens can and should tell legislators about these communities. A new set of free online tools can facilitate this process. Here at Princeton, our students are developing, an easy way for citizens to draw and upload their communities. The Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group is also developing such a tool. Once a state has a database of many communities, honoring those communities can dilute the partisanship that dominated last month’s process - and leave legislators with no excuse for ignoring their constituents. 
Our hope is that the tools we are developing at Princeton will be used by local networks of reform organizations, citizens, and journalists to tell stories and give rapid feedback to legislators. We are interested in boosting the effectiveness of those networks in North Carolina - and nationwide. Together, we can help bring about fair districting in every state.
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