There’s a lot of complaining about gerrymandering and its effects on U.S. politics. But a fundamental question is often missing from the conversation: What should political boundaries look like? There are a number of possible approaches to drawing districts, and each involves tradeoffs. For this project, we looked at seven different redistricting schemes; and to quantify their tradeoffs and evaluate their political implications, we actually redrew every congressional district in the U.S. seven times. Our Atlas Of Redistricting allows readers to explore each of these approaches — both for the nation as a whole and for their home state.
What makes this project innovative?
Its scope. To draw and redraw all of the congressional districts in the country, we used a free online tool — and spent months and months tracing out the shapes by hand, making sure they fulfilled the criteria we had laid out. But before all that drawing was even possible, we had to do a fair amount of complex analytical work (see methodology and sources). No other news organization covering gerrymandering has taken on a project of this size.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
The interactive was one of our most read pieces in January, 2018, and it generated a lot of nuanced discussion both on social media and in the comments section. We also received a lot of positive feedback from experts in the field.
Source and methodology
The methodology here was quite involved. We wrote a companion article explaining it in full; the link is in the additional links included with this submission. But in brief: We took precinct-level presidential election results from 2012 and 2016 and reallocated them to 2010 Census voting districts. That enabled us to add more up-to-date political data to a free online redistricting tool called Dave’s Redistricting App (we worked with the app’s creator to add this data). Once the data was in the app, we started the long process of drawing and redrawing all the districts in the country. Then, we downloaded our district boundaries from the app, analyzed their political, racial and geometric characteristics, and ultimately evaluated the tradeoffs of the different redistricting approaches.
Sources: Ryne Rohla/Decision Desk HQ, U.S. Census Bureau, Brian Olson
Ruby, PostGIS, Dave’s Redistricting App, Node, D3
Aaron Bycoffe, Ella Koeze, David Wasserman, Julia Wolfe