John Oliver explains gerrymandering

Originally published at:


This video is not available. :frowning:

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It ain’t complete, but it is better than nothing.


Gerrymandering: v 1) The process by which an authoritarian minority retains control of a nominally democratic republic. See also: electoral fuckery


It gets even more complicated when you consider there should be more than just 2 parties.

Here is another good explanation on what it is:

And how to possibly fix it:


Seems to be a popular topic today, Vox just posted a video about another method to combat partisan gerrymandering.


Not sure what the surprise is here. This is a “feature” of FTPT. In a pure two-party race, the majority party can’t get a seat proportion lower than their pop vote, and the minority party can’t win more. And the only way to get seats and pop vote to match are if every district’s winner gets %100 support.

I was with you up to there, but that’s not how proportionality works, (or ratios, statistics etc).


Oops. You’re right of course. That’s just one of the boundary cases. Was leftover from another train of thought about how FTPT clearly is not at all designed to produce proportional rep, gerrymandering or no.

I’m not as familiar with this specific issue. I’m Canadian, so our FTPT problems have more to do with squeezing out well-supported minor parties.

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So, Representative Gerry appears to be the original gif vs jif.


Cripes, they’re taking down John Oliver videos as soon as they go up…


Eh. It is more a feature of humans picking congressional districts. If districts were randomized areas of roughly the same land area, this wouldn’t be much of an issue.

Unfortunately, people want gerrymandering. Whether it is city folks thinking they should be in the same district as other city people (making rural districts gigantic by comparison and effectively packing Democrats), or minorities wanting a majority district so they can elect an official of that same minority.

It is on the official Last Week Tonight youtube channel as linked in the post. They just don’t make it available for international.

I’m told youpak lets international-type people see youtube content like this just by replacing the “youtube” part of the domain with youpak. Let’s try:


I noticed that almost immediately. :wink:

Land doesn’t vote. Districts are supposed to have roughly equivalent populations, not area.

Oliver addresses this. The problem isn’t gerrymandering per se, it’s the politically partisan gerrymandering expressly designed to disenfranchise the opposition. There’s nothing wrong with, say, an oddly-shaped Latino community wanting to ensure representation of its interests. There is something wrong with cracking that community up into powerless minorities within multiple other districts.


Yeah. I was thinking it could have equal population and equal area.

That’s going to be ridiculously difficult.

You’d have to have districts where the majority of the area is low-density rural, with little fingers stretched out into the urban areas.

For example, nearly half of the population of California is in the Greater Los Angeles area (~18,680,000/39,250,000). A Congressional District, in California, represents about 740,000 people. So, about 25 of California’s 53 Congressional Districts are the Greater Los Angeles Area.

Let’s make it an even half of the districts (or as close as is possible), and give them 27 districts (19,980,000 people) to work with for Greater L.A., as well as the area you’d need to enclose 1/53 of the state (3090 sq. mi. per district, of which about 20%, or 640 sq. mi., would be within Greater L.A.). You’d need to split just over half of the area of California into 27 districts, each with 93.4% (692,000) of its people in the 20% of its area that is inside Greater L.A., and the remaining 48,000 spread across the remaining 80% of the area that is outside of Greater L.A.

I would anticipate rampant abuse of such a system.


Which is why I propose that we eliminate single-member congressional districts entirely.

Let’s elect our House delegation at-large, with proportional balloting.

Fewer than half of the registered voters (46.5%) in the state of Oklahoma (to choose an example with which I’m familiar) are registered as Republicans.

Yet somehow, 100% of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation is Republican…


Eh. It would be difficult to do by hand. Not so much with software.

Yep. It would involve slicing cities into slivers.

Really only if people are involved. If the only parameters are equal population and near as possible equal area, software can build districts just fine.

It is only when you add all the other parameters that people think they want like “similar communities” or minority-majority districts that the potential for abuse arises.

There are a couple more parameters than that.

Like, "Borders of a congressional district must not straddle a property."
And "You should be able to look at a map of the districts and know which district you’re in."
And “Borders should not stray from straight lines unnecessarily.”

I’m sure a sufficiently powerful computer could cope with those, but it’s not as simple as “equal population and equal area.”

The bigger problem that I see, with both your solution and @davide405’s, is that a Congressman is supposed to represent a certain group of people.

If 93% of your Congressional district’s population is within GLA, who would ever bother to represent the interests of rural Californians?