Redistricting Games Let You Fight Gerrymandering

The Bipartisan Policy Center and its expert panel discussed possible solutions to hyper-partisanship in an interactive town hall. They often addressed the rampant use of creative redistricting, otherwise known as gerrymandering.

For a clearer mental image of our most irregularly represented states, Slate magazine’s jigsaw district game lets you race against time to reconstruct the tangled districts of six states. Interestingly, the demo state is Iowa, which is one of the few with an independent commission drawing districts based on population and terrain. The next states are in stark contrast to Iowa’s coherence. Hover over the completed state to see partisan population ratios.

Complex shapes warrant a complex formation process, one that is rarely explained well to the American electorate. For a better understanding of the pressures exerted on congressional representatives and mapmakers, enjoy The Redistricting Game from USC’s Annenburg Center for Communications.

The game creates fictional American states with typified congressional characters and diverse constituencies. Ethnicities and party affiliations pepper the map in various concentrations, challenging you with a gauntlet of ulterior motives.

In multiple levels of difficulty, participants learn about redistricting fundamentals, partisan gerrymandering, bipartisan gerrymandering, minority representation gerrymandering, and a hypothetical redistricting process proposed in the Tanner Proposal for electoral reform.

After breaking your brain balancing population with ethnicity and party, you are accountable to your colleagues in the legislature, the state governor, and nonprofit observers waiting to challenge you in the courts. Cutting out a representative’s home, failing to balance variables, and non-contiguous or non-compact boundaries are all reasons to redraw.

The game makes the point, however, that even when nonprofits mount a court challenge, the partisan status quo often lets confusing boundaries slide. The actual results of this system can be seen in Slate’s jigsaw.

Citizens both in and out of the district get a chance to rearrange the population parity of DC’s 8 wards within the present system, in this simple yet satisfying game from greatergreaterwashington.org. We can only hope that population parity remains the only variable, but given the complexity of the process as demonstrated by USC, mapmakers clearly don’t operate in a political vacuum.

For more information about the present state of redistricting reform, visit FairVote.org’s “Fair Voting Plan” page, which includes an interactive map of hypothetical congressional “super-districts” with multiple members, as well as detailed reports on the reform itself. Also, check out this algorithm dividing a state’s population by the shortest eligible splitting line.

What reform solutions and favorite civic education games do you like?