Florence, Mass. (August 10, 2021): RepresentUs, the leading nonpartisan anti-corruption organization, is partnering with the eminent Princeton Gerrymandering Project to produce the Redistricting Report Card, which uses a powerful and unique set of analytics to grade each state’s newly-drawn maps during the redistricting process. The project’s launch comes as the U.S. Census Bureau delivers population data to states on August 12, allowing states to begin drawing voting maps that will be in place for the next decade.
Gerrymandering is a form of political corruption in which politicians manipulate voting maps to pick their own voters, suppress competition, and control election outcomes. Due to technological improvements in map-drawing and shifts in demography, gerrymandering is becoming harder to detect just by looking at a map. In response, the Princeton team developed a powerful new scoring pipeline -- which didn’t exist 10 years ago during the last redistricting cycle -- to help identify unfair, gerrymandered maps.
The Redistricting Report Card utilizes an algorithm that generates 1 million districting plans for each state. The tool compares maps against the full range of possibilities -- both good and bad -- and issues grades. The Redistricting Report Card grades maps on competitiveness, geography, and most robustly, partisan fairness. The tool will grade map proposals from legislatures, redistricting commissions, and even alternative maps produced by reform groups.
“This scoring tool was designed to be the most comprehensive method available for detecting gerrymander attempts in the 2021-2022 redistricting cycle,” said Professor Sam Wang, Director of the Electoral Innovation Lab and Princeton Gerrymandering Project. “It is critical that we deliver to citizens ways to evaluate and correct attempts to skew representation. Our democracy depends on a transparent representation model that is responsive to citizens. We want citizens and map experts nationwide to use tools like this to reclaim their power in the democratic process.”
RepresentUs previously released a Gerrymandering Threat Index showing 35 states are at extreme or high risk of gerrymandering. The Redistricting Report Card will tell us which states end up proposing gerrymandered maps, and how different they are from maps drawn by concerned citizens and organizations.
“Gerrymandering disenfranchises voters and makes it harder to hold politicians accountable. This important new grading tool will sound the alarm about gerrymandered maps around the country, empowering voters to demand their representatives draw fair maps,” said RepresentUs CEO Josh Silver.
Check out the Redistricting Report Card here. Grades will be posted as each state produces maps during their redistricting processes. Citizens are invited to use the report card format themselves, in conjunction with free software. Training sessions will be available.
RepresentUs is mobilizing members to urge Congress to quickly pass the For the People Act to stop partisan gerrymandering at the federal level this cycle. A recent RepresentUs poll showed the vast majority of voters oppose gerrymandering and support reform.
“If we don’t act now, voters will be stuck with unfair maps and rigged elections for the next decade,” said Silver. “The Redistricting Report Card will catch gerrymanderers in the act -- and let the American people know why we need immediate reform.”
Redistricting Report Card Grading Criteria
Maps are graded on whether they are fair to voters of both parties given a state's political landscape and redistricting rules.
Maps are graded on whether there are as many competitive districts as we would expect given a state's political landscape and redistricting rules. Competitive maps can reduce incumbency protections and partisan gerrymandering. Competitive districts can help make politicians more responsive.
Maps are graded on whether they are compact and respect existing political, county, and administrative boundaries.
Estimated partisanship is calculated for each district and displayed in both a figure and a table. This helps identify partisan packing and cracking. Packing means putting many more voters of one group into a few select districts, limiting them to a small number of excessively-safe wins. Cracking means splitting up a group’s voters across districts, eliminating that group’s electoral wins. Both of these tactics are used to drive partisan and racial unfairness.
A detailed district by district demographic breakdown is presented, which similarly helps identify possible packing and cracking of minority groups.
Rachel Barnhart, PR Director
Jason Rhode, National Coordinator
RepresentUs is the nation’s largest grassroots anti-corruption organization, bringing together conservatives, progressives, and everyone in between to pass anti-corruption laws in cities and states to stop political bribery, end secret money, and fix our broken elections.
The Electoral Innovation Lab focuses on the science behind democracy reform—including work that promotes fair districting, reforms primary and election rules, and centers the voting process on citizens. Drawing on resources from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, the Princeton Election Consortium, and the Open Primaries Education Fund, the Lab uses data, math, law, and science to develop practical policy reforms and academic research on policy, legislation, election rules, and community strategies. The Electoral Innovation Lab team works in cities, states, and nationally across disciplines to improve the structural aspects of democratic systems, reduce polarization, optimize citizen resources, and bring representatives closer to citizens. Using electoral science tools, everyday people, can repair and strengthen democracy.