In a Wall Street Journal column today, John Fund lays out his argument against gerrymandering:
“Gerrymandering — the drawing of district lines to favor a particular party, or incumbents in general — allows lawmakers to choose their voters, rather than the other way around. Almost all incumbents routinely win re-election and form a political elite that California’s Gov. Arnold Schwarzengger says has built ‘a fortress to keep the politicians in and the people out.’ … In California, lawmakers in both parties have mapped out the state for their own benefit with the precision of a plastic surgeon.
“The last time [California] Democrats pressed their control of the redistricting pen, in 1981, they gained six congressional seats through what the late Rep. Phil Burton called ‘my contribution to modern art.’ One district was a 385-sided polygon. Another, which had the jagged and contorted contours of a Chinese dragon, included a floating ‘community’ of boats in Los Angeles harbor that was disconnected from the rest of the district.”
So, in honor of ridiculously absurd congressional districts, the following are some of our favorites. Unfortunately, the maps don’t look too good when they’re resized so click on them for a clearer image.
The first of California’s 23 District, home of Rep. Lois Capps (D). It’s only 12 miles deep off the coast.
Next is Florida’s 22 District. Home to Rep. Ron Klein (D), it’s what the Almanac of American Politics calls “a testament to the advances of made in redistricting software.” According to the Almanac, “It is rarely more than a few miles wide and in some places it is not much wider than the barrier islands separated from the mainland.”
But the blue ribbon goes to the district of Rep. Melvin Watt (D). I’ll let the Almanac take it from here:
“The 12th Congressional District of North Carolina was the most litigated district in the country during the 1990’s, and was the focus of no less than four Supreme Court cases. Its original shape — a series of scattered black precincts connected in some places by nothing wider than the lanes of Interstate 85 — stretched 160 miles from Gastonia, west of Charlotte, through Winston-Salem and Greensboro all the way to Durham. In the current version, drawn in 2001, the 12th remains a 100-mile-long, snake-like agglomeration that roughly parallels I-85.”
It’s a beauty: