Gerrymandering has become a catch-all for what’s wrong with the American political system. The way we draw legislative districts takes the blame for partisan polarization, uncompetitive elections, marginalizing minorities and even rigging elections in favor of one party or the other.
Gerrymandering has received so much scorn lately, you could be forgiven for thinking all our political problems would be solved if we could only end the practice.
Of course, you’d also be wrong.
The way we draw political boundaries does have major implications for our democracy, but there’s no simple fix to the challenges attributed to gerrymandering. Over the next two months FiveThirtyEight is diving deep into the effects of gerrymandering and the complexities and tradeoffs of reform. We’re calling the effort “The Gerrymandering Project.” We’ll have articles, podcasts, interactive maps and videos. Much of that will come early next year, but today we are launching the podcast piece of the project: a six-part audio documentary in which we travel around the country to see what’s broken, and why it’s so damn hard to fix it.
In the first episode, which you can find in our Politics Podcast feed or play above, I sit down with David Wasserman, a FiveThirtyEight contributor and House editor for the Cook Political Report, to discuss some of the basics of redistricting: What is a district? Who gets to draw them? And what are the different types of gerrymanders?
In subsequent episodes we hit the road and head to Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arizona and California to hear from map drawers, lawmakers, reformers, lawyers and average citizens frustrated with the process.
Each state’s episode explores a key complaint about the redistricting process. In Wisconsin, we look at partisan gerrymandering — one party getting more representation than its vote share would suggest. In North Carolina, we report on racial gerrymandering and the debate over how best to represent minorities through the redistricting process. In Arizona, we ask what happened to competitive elections and look at what that state did to foster them. In California, we see what happens when voters try to remove politics from the redistricting process altogether.
We’re excited to share all this with you, as we all seek a better understanding of one of the building blocks of our democracy. To get a primer on gerrymandering and hear why redistricting matters, click play above or subscribe to our Politics Podcast feed. Check back Thursdays for new episodes.
And while you wait for the next episode, be sure to subscribe to our Gerrymandering Project Facebook group. It’s a place to share your experiences with and opinions about gerrymandering. We’ll be having conversations every week there.