Everything We Know About the American Heartland


Everything We Know about Partisan Gerrymandering

October 16, 2017

Show Notes

We begin the episode by discussing whether we should discuss follow up first. John Siracusa © 1922.


We decide to not do any follow up and go directly to the main topic.

Gill v. Whitford

We actually discussed this case in Episode 11, Everything We Know about Voting Rights.

Justice Sotomayor was on point with her questions:

But they kept going back to fix the map to make it more gerrymandered. That’s undisputed. The people involved in the process had traditional maps that complied with traditional criteria and then went back and threw out those maps and created more -- some that were more partisan. . . . So why didn’t they take one of the earlier maps?
Could you tell me what the value is to democracy from political gerrymandering? How -- how does that help our system of government?

Efficiency Gap

The best demonstration of the efficency gap:

Efficency gap computer simulation

Appellee’s Test

The appellees lay out their test for determining partisen gerrymandering:

First, it must find that the map was designed with discriminatory intent: “to place a severe impediment on the effectiveness of the votes of individual citizens on the basis of their political affiliation.” Second, it must determine that the map causes a “large and durable” discriminatory effect: one that is “sizeable” and likely to “persist throughout the decennial period.” And third, it must conclude that there is no valid justification for this effect: no way to explain it the legitimate state prerogatives and neutral factors that are implicated in the districting process.”

False Positives

The problem with false positives:

Sure. So I think some of the problems with the criteria that have been suggested, in particular with the tests that focus on these symmetry metrics, is that so far the metrics that we have, I mean, they identify false positives roughly 50 percent of the time.
This is plain -- Plaintiff’s expert studied maps from 30 years, and he identified the 17 worst of the worst maps. What is so striking about that list of 17 is that 10 were neutral draws.

Sam Wang

Sam Wang’s amicus brief poses a different test.

Texas’ Brief

Ken Paxton files an amicus brief

Predictions on Gill v. Whitford

Ruchit: 5-4 Whitford, but no standard. Four justices will sign on to Breyer’s test. Kennedy will write his own opinion, which five justices will agree with, but he won’t actually articulate a test.

TJ: 5-4 Whitford, but affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court will likely find that these partisan-gerrymandering claims are justifiable, but will refine how to bring such a claim.

AJ: 5-4 Whitford


TJ: Please take care of my plant dot com

AJ: Big Mouth on Netflix

Ruchit: Google Pixel Buds