For all the political nerds out there

Wired has a very nice summary of the statistical evidence that shows how badly gerrymandered Pennsylvania has been. It’s interesting for biologists, too — it’s actually a problem in morphology, and detecting bias in the distribution of a field. I once tried to do an analysis of the shape of terminal sensory fields of spinal neurons, and was stymied by a shortage of reliable data (it was hard to get complete labeling of delicate peripheral arbors), but now if I were to repeat it, at least I’d know who to consult for good statistical analysis: political scientists.

And, oh yeah, Pennsylvania Republicans were lousy cheating crooks.


  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    The court ordered the Pennsylvania General Assembly to submit a new map, with approval of Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor Tom Wolf. Following unsuccessful appeals by the General Assembly, the court drafted and approved its own map…

    They skipped a step. The Republicans did submit a new map, but the governor refused to approve it after analysis showed it was just as biased as the original.

  2. frog says

    Ah, PA-7, where I live. Seems weird calling my congressman to yell at him now, since he’ll be going.

    The best thing about this particular gerrymandered district (other than the 100′ strip through a restaurant parking lot to join two bits of it), is how much it looks like cartoon characters.

  3. brett says

    They’re fighting like hell to preserve their ill-gotten electoral gains too. It looks like an effort by Republicans in their state legislature to impeach a couple of the judges on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court might be moving forward.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – a top priority for Democrats if or when they retake Congress and the Presidency is to pass federal to shut down this type of stuff. Require preclearance and independent commissions for all electoral map-drawing, automatic voter registration, etc.

  4. Oggie. says

    Pennsylvania Republicans were lousy cheating crooks.

    What do you mean “were”? They still are. Part of me likes being in a battleground state — I feel like my vote actually counts. Part of me hates being in a battleground state — the adverts are already running strong. And nasty. And dishonest. Every fucking one of them is so far up the ass of the NRA (and, by extension, Russia), so much in the pocket of the Koch family, and so beholding to the most radical right of the right of the right when it comes to social issues as to be the nearest embodiment of corruption, evil, self-dealing, rank hypocrisy, and narrow minded bigotry.

  5. Oggie. says


    “Russia by extension” ?
    Is there good evidence?

    The last campaign cycle, Russian banks, including many closely affiliated with Putin, dumped (give or take) $30million (also reported as $20million) into the NRA. About 2/3 of this went to Trump’s campaign (directly or indirectly through interest groups, NRA adverts) and much of the remainder went to other GOP campaigns.

    Much of it is now under active investigation by the FBI.
    Here are three articles (the top three when I Googled “NRA Russia Money”): From CNBC, From Axios and NPR

    The actual numbers keep changing but the NRA contributed 20 times more to GOP campaigns this election cycle compared to the Romney campaign cycle. And, given the sheer number of adverts I saw during the 2016 campaign in my battleground state that were paid for directly by the NRA, all supporting GOP candidates, I had wondered at the time where the money was coming from.

  6. says

    Note that the district carefully edits out the suburban college town of Swarthmore (commie Quaker college), in order to lump its votes in with Philadelphia. Just a good example of how this gerrymandering thing works.

  7. says

    It’s actually impressive that Republicans managed to create the best map for themselves in the top .01% for the TRILLION tested. Like the fuck? did they run their own computer models?

    Also, I’m pretty sure it was a Penn. Republican who flatly admitted to gerrymandering. Maybe I’m thinking of voting suppression via real ID laws.

  8. says

    That map reminds me of those maps that show how various countries would fit into the United States or Russia. “As you can see Upper Zingovia would easily fit into only a third of North Dakota.”

  9. brett says

    @8 Mike Smith

    Republicans have openly tried to argue that yes, they’re gerrymandering – but they’re only gerrymandering against Democrats, not non-white folks. Thankfully, that doesn’t appear to have stood up in court either in Pennsylvania or North Carolina.

  10. says

    Remember: they also take away your right to vote (how is that constitutional) if they can run you through the criminal justice system. That way they are creating a large disenfranchised base, that are still counted as voters in the districts where they are imprisoned.

  11. militantagnostic says

    Mike Smith @8

    did they run their own computer models?

    Yes they actually had special gerrymandering software, I think it was called Red Map.

    Marcus Ranum @11

    That way they are creating a large disenfranchised base, that are still counted as voters in the districts where they are imprisoned.

    Same old same old except instead of 3/5ths it is now 5/5ths and is a little less black.

  12. robro says

    Gerrymandering has been practiced by both parties, although it was much less effective in pre-computer days. The term was coined by the Boston Globe in 1812 to describe Massachusetts’s state Senate redistricting to promote the Democratic-Republican party, which was Jefferson’s and Madison’s party.

    There have been efforts to create a neutral districting methods using computer that isn’t under the control of the party in power. This approach addresses some gerrymandered districts in California.

  13. jrkrideau says

    @ 11 Marcus
    Remember: they also take away your right to vote (how is that constitutional) if they can run you through the criminal justice system.

    This has always amazed me. Why should someone be disenfranchised once they are out of prison? Here we set up poles in the prisons.

  14. says

    PS – the prison population is 2.2 million voters off the rolls. The Republicans are aiming for a percentage point here or there – it adds up to make a difference.

  15. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Save money by skipping lawsuits and “independent” commissions!
    Ensure no gerrymandering at all!
    Use shortest-splitline districting!
    This advertisement was paid for by no one. If anyone wants to pay me, please contact me. (Lol)

  16. billyjoe says

    The article is more for mathematical nerds than political nerds. Fascinating analyses.

  17. John Morales says

    Country-specific issues.

    Here in Australia, redistributions are done by an independent federal body.

    (Also, prisoners can vote:
    Do I have to enrol and vote for federal elections?

    It is compulsory for you to enrol for federal elections if you are:

    18 years of age or over, and
    an Australian citizen (or a British subject who was on the Commonwealth electoral roll on 25 January 1984).

    If you are serving a full-time prison sentence of less than three years you can vote in federal elections.

    If your sentence is three years or longer, you can remain on the roll but you are not entitled to vote until you are released from prison.”