Christopher Ingraham and The Future of Gerrymandering in the US

Christopher Ingraham and The Future of Gerrymandering in the US

By Dylan Young, Staff Writer Originally published in Issue 3, Volume 32 of The University Register on Friday, October 11, 2019

On Tuesday, October 1, the University of Minnesota Morris presented the latest installment in the university’s Jooin Lee Lecture series. Journalist Christopher Ingraham was the latest speaker in the series, presenting a lecture entitled “Gerrymandering after Rucho: What Will the Next Round of Redistricting Look Like?” to an audience of eager scholars and professors.

Ingraham’s lecture explained what gerrymandering is, why it exists and how it works, and went in depth on his thoughts regarding the future of gerrymandering in the United States. Ingraham is a writer for the Washington Post known for his empirical, data-driven articles, particularly regarding gun and drug policy. Minnesota natives may recognize Ingraham for his harsh takedown of Red Lake Falls, MN in 2015, which he dubbed “the absolute worst place to live in America”. Ironically, Ingraham then moved to Red Lake Falls and has since, in his words, survived three full winters in the county.

Ingraham began his presentation with a slide that read “GERRYMANDERING,” in a font made entirely of congressional districts in the United States; a clever visual aid as Ingraham provided a baseline definition of gerrymandering. Ingraham explained that electoral districts are redrawn after the census is updated every ten years. The state legislature controls the redistricting process and districts are often redrawn for partisan gain. This practice is what has become known as gerrymandering.

Ingraham noted that while both major partieshave used gerrymandering to their advantage, in recent times the Republican party has held power in a majority of state legislatures around the country, and have therefore been the primary beneficiaries of gerrymandering. Ingraham argued that the most egregious examples of gerrymandering have been at the hands of Republican legislatures.

To further explain the practice, Ingraham provided various examples of recent, infamous examples of gerrymandering, most notably the congressional districts of the state of Pennsylvania. The districts in Pennsylvania were so bizarrely structured that the Supreme Court ordered the state legislature to redraw the map in 2018. Despite being redrawn, Ingraham noted that the partisan biases remained nearly identical. The Supreme Court ruled that there was no legal, neutral standards to measure gerrymandering. Ingraham argued that this is incorrect and provided four different solutions. The first one was delegating redistricting responsibilities to a hands-on independent commission, which would make races more neutral and competitive. Another proposed solution Ingraham discussed was to use algorithm distributions, which Ingraham argued was a flawed solution. Ingraham said that algorithms would not solve the representation problem, using algorithms to make compact districts would not necessarily guarantee fair districts, and that algorithms were not truly unbiased because they are still created by humans. The final possible solution Ingraham discussed was to eliminate districts and make it a fair vote, which Ingraham criticized as complex; there is actually currently a bill in the house to enact this solution with a few co-sponsors. It was clear that Ingraham’s favored solution was the hands-on independent commission.

“Gerrymandering after Rucho” was ultimately an intriguing, necessary lecture that hopefully educated people about the practice of gerrymandering and pointed people’s minds towards the future. It will surely be interesting to see how the 2020 election plays out when taking into consideration the potential solutions to gerrymandering Ingraham discussed Tuesday night.