The Problem With Gerrymandering

Here is a reasonably neat map of Maryland, and its counties:

Maryland is fairly infamous for being one of the more gerrymandered states – that is, its congressional districts are drawn to attempt to preserve party seats.  In Maryland, that tends to mean artificial protections for Democrats; in other states it can be Republicans – maybe more often, in fact.  What does gerrymandering mean in practice?

Most of us, faced with the problems of assigning representatives, would want to make fairly neat divisions.  In particular I prefer to keep subdivisions (counties or cities) in place where possible.  So I took a couple swings at district drawing.  Maryland has 8 congressional districts at the moment.  Here’s the first attempt to determine them, keeping entire counties together, and joining generally similar areas together as much as possible:

This would probably work fine, but it’s a rough sketch.  Some of the districts end up with significantly different populations – Montgomery County as its own district has around a million residents, basically doubling the southern light brown and eastern dark purple districts even though each has several counties.

Attempting to balance populations, after a couple hours work, produced this:

For the sake of convenient comparisons, where I split up counties, I used straight lines.  Obviously that’s unlikely to happen exactly in reality – even if you did use straight lines, mine are probably not in exactly the right places – but it gives a general idea.  I’m not entirely happy about dragging a “Western Shore” district up through several counties and around Baltimore on both sides, but for a couple hours fiddling it’s not too bad.  I’d expect any reasonable plan for Maryland to look more or less like this.

What are Maryland’s actual congressional districts?

Oh.

 

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