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Tag Archive: gerrymandering

The Politics of the Government Shutdown – In One Chart

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As the government shutdown begins, so does the blame game. Is it Republicans’ fault? Democrats’ fault? While the endless speculation keeps pundits busy, it’s important to remember that members of Congress don’t care about “the public” in the abstract. They care about the public in their district. We say “district” because any deal to re-start the government will require agreement by both the House and the Senate. While senators, with their broader constituencies, have to worry more about voters in the center, no such pressure exists for most House members. A quick analysis finds roughly seven in eight House Republicans (86.6 percent, to be exact, or 201 of 232) won with at least 55 percent of the vote in 2012. Additionally, 140 Republicans (60.3 percent of the caucus) won with at least 60 percent of the vote. The chart below shows the distribution of seats by margin of victory. Note: most Democrats also come from safe seats.   house_shares

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Better Draw a District

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High school civics classes teach that democracy is in the hands of voters. This view, though empowering, only tells part of the story. To really understand a democracy, you need to understand how votes are counted. One must shed light on the very machinery that powers our representative democracy: the sometimes bizarrely-shaped geographic boundaries called congressional districts.

One day, there will be a brilliant, easy-to-use tool that enlightens our citizenry on the intricacies of gerrymandering and the political machinations therein. But that day is not today. Today we launch the crude, far-from-serious, yet very fun Better Draw a District, the last and longest-awaited in the series of projects we created as part of our Labs Olympics teambuilding event.

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