Tuesday, April 18, 2017

John Oliver and Vox examine gerrymandering

Gerrymandering and what to do about it have been very popular topics on my blog lately.  Two years ago, WXYZ on redistricting reform was the second most read post of blog year five and was the most read of all time for a month.  Last year, PBS Newshour examines gerrymandering in Maryland and North Carolina ended the sixth year of this blog as the eleventh most read post of the year, rising as high as sixth on the all-time list.  So I was excited to see two videos posted last week on this topic.  The first was Gerrymandering: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO).*

Lawmakers often reshape voting districts to shift the balance of political power. That's unfair to voters, even those of us with questionable judgment.
Newsweek reviewed this segment, concluding with Oliver's solution.
Oliver suggests that instead of politicians, districts should be redrawn by independent commissions, a practice which some states have already begun to implement. In 37 states, districts are drawn by state legislators.

“There is something very important at stake here," Oliver says. "Lawmakers should not be allowed to dilute our votes by drawing their own lines and essentially picking their own voters.”
As I've written in both of the previous popular entries on this topic, I'm in favor of this solution.

The same day, Vox posted The algorithm that could help end partisan gerrymandering, which could identify districts and maps that Oliver would find offensive.

We are living in the age of the algorithm. So why not apply data science to a decades old issue?
I'm all in favor of applying science to problems, so I like this idea, too.

*John Oliver was the subject of the two top posts for the sixth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News.  Oliver examining gerrymandering might just be an unstoppable combination.  Here's to hoping his interest results in reform actually happening.


  1. The graphic at the top illustrates an interesting vulnerability of gerrymandering. The two blue districts each have 9 blue precincts and 1 red one -- they're very securely blue. But the three red districts each have 6 red precincts and 4 blue ones. Each one could be "flipped" if just a couple of red precincts changed sides. They're vulnerable to any unexpected strong force that shifts voters from red to blue.

    Trump may be such a force, after being in office long enough that a substantial portion of his voters can see they were conned. The narrow margin in Kansas last week, and the possible win in Georgia today, suggest that.

    A majority created by gerrymandering may hold considerable power, but it's vulnerable. If undermined by a substantial nationwide shift in voter sentiment, it won't just be reduced -- it will implode.

    Great ending on the John Oliver video.

    1. That's what happened in 2006. It was a wave Congressional election that swept Democrats into less secure Republican seats. A similar wave election in 2018 could do the same thing. John Ossoff's strong showing last night in Georgia shows that it's possible.

      As for the ending, it's one of the reasons why Last Week Tonight won three Emmy Awards, Outstanding Talk Variety Series, Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series, and Outstanding Picture Editing for a Variety Series. Here's to the show repeating for this broadcast season!