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Mitch Boyer

More Perfect: Who’s Gerry and Why Is He So Bad at Drawing Maps?

One of our favorite podcasts here in the offices of Florida Conservation Voters Education Fund is More Perfect, which is an offshoot of the great Radiolab produced by WNYC in New York City. If you’ve never listened before, More Perfect is a podcast focused on the U.S. Supreme Court and the various cases that have shaped how we govern ourselves in the United States. We usually make sure we have one ready before every FCV Ed Fund road trip.

For many, including myself, the Supreme Court is much more of a mystery than the Legislative or Executive branches – which are exhaustively examined 24 hours a day.

The most recent mini-episode of More Perfect is of particular interest to us. The case the producers unwrap is Gill vs. Whitford, which is set to be heard by the Supreme Court this week. Gill vs. Whitford has the potential to dramatically reshape how we elect our members of Congress by challenging political maps that have been gerrymandered.

Of course, gerrymandering is not new. But the Supreme Court has traditionally had a difficult time agreeing on what the standard should be for measuring if a district is gerrymandered or not. Recently, a group of political scientists and mathematicians devised a simple formula to help show if a district is gerrymandered or not. Lawyers are using this formula, known as “the efficiency gap,” as the basis of their lawsuit showing that Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature gerrymandered the state’s political maps to their significant advantage.

If the Supreme Court agrees with the plaintiff that the Wisconsin maps are illegal using the standard set forth by the efficiency gap formula, it would open up the courts for lawsuits challenging maps from every state. Gerrymandering, as you know, is not a Republican problem alone. It is a symptom of power when either party is in control and is rampant across the country in both state and federal districts.

Solving the problem of gerrymandering is a pillar of FCV Ed Fund’s priority list for fixing our Republic. But enough from me. Listen to More Perfect for yourself here

And if you are looking for some further reading, the website FiveThirtyEight recently posted an excellent analysis of this issue and how it relates to Justice Anthony Kennedy – possibly the most powerful person in the country.

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