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A Pensacola Real Estate News Perspective on Gerrymandering

I love to write about Pensacola real estate. I also love to share great information, whether real estate related or not. In this post, I’m delighted to share an article written by local writer and photographer Bill Stockland. You can see some of his great photography at his website http://www.pensacola110.com.

Gerrymandering

By Bill Stockland

MOVING TO A NEW CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT?

I’m sure that in the long history of real estate transactions, there have been people who have selected or rejected a property because of its political district. However, it’s a fact that your property could be in one district today, and an entirely different one next year.

There are 435 United States Congressional Districts spread across the 50 states.  The 2000 Census set our population at 281,000,000. With a little simple math, we can figure that each district should contain approximately 647,000 people.  Each state is guaranteed at least one US Congressional District.  Apportionment of districts is done by the House of Representatives.  It becomes tricky when you consider some states  have less than 647,000 people but still get a seat in the House of Representatives.  In addition, no state has a population that is divisible exactly by 647,000.  Congress must then apportion the available seats among the states in as equitable fashion as possible.

I imagine you can see what’s coming.  While the apportionment can be done with a computer, redrawing the resulting districts can become a nightmare as states lose and gain representatives.  The state legislatures (Read: The party in power.) are responsible for redrawing the districts within their borders.  Ah yes, partisan politics rears its ugly head in this process, and has from the beginning.  Parties in power tend to use the power to redistrict to further their political advantage through a process called Gerrymandering.

States gain and lose population continually and the main role of the Census is to track this as an aid to apportionment of representatives in the US Congress.  When I was receiving my Political Science degree, Florida had 12 representatives,  Today, we have 25.  During the same period, New York has shrunk from 41 representatives to 29.  California has grown from 38 to 53 representatives.  Ohio has lost 6 representatives while Texas has gained 9.  Alaska, Wyoming, North Dakota and Vermont still have fewer than 647,000 people each, but their representation remains at the minimum number of 1.  They have 1 statewide district each.

The largest congressional district (In land area) is the First (and only) Congressional District in Alaska.  It contains over 663,000 square miles.

The smallest congressional district is New York’s Fifteenth Congressional District.  It contains over 647,000 people, however it is about 10 square miles in size.

Pensacola is in Florida’s First Congressional District.

GERRYMANDERING

In 1812, Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts led the redrawing of his Congressional districts in such a wild and unfair way; a newspaper political cartoonist described the districts as  GERRYMANDERS because they represented salamanders in shape.

Since then, the major parties have taken turns redrawing districts to increase their political position.

For the sake of discussion, let’s imagine a new state has entered the union.  The 2010 Census will reveal it has 5,200,000 people and is thus entitled to 8 representatives.  It is shaped almost square and is equally split between Republicans (Red) and Democrats (Blue).

Pensacola Real Estate Gerrymandering

If non-partisan politicians draw the boundaries, they could come up with a plan that would favor Reds in 3 districts, Blues in 3 districts and would leave 2 districts as toss-ups.

The fair district arrangement might look like this:

Pensacola Real Estate Gerrymandering

This appears fair and eliminates the task of making each district competitive.  It also maintains some geographic unity.  Granted, only Wyoming is close to being square in shape but the principle is reasonable.

Now look what happens if we allow Red to draw the districts:

Pensacola Real Estate Gerrymandering 3

Here is an exploded view.

Pensacola Real Estate Gerrymandering 3

As you can see, Red has only 50 % of the population but that party now has a solid majority in 6 of the 8 districts!  Note the strange and impractical shapes.

Of course, Blues will eventually come back to power and the districts will look like this:

Pensacola Real Estate Gerrymandering 4

An exploded view:

Pensacola Real Estate Gerrymandering 5

As you can see, Blue now has the strong majority in 6 of the 8 districts.  Just as with Red’s plan, half of the population now has little or no voice in legislative  activity because they will be in the minority in what has become largely a partisan exercise by each party in control.

The concept of Gerrymandering districts is now used in both state and local levels of government today.  Both political parties practice it when they have the opportunity.

Other articles from Bill Stockland on Pensacola Real Estate News:

Don’t Tread On Me

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