Flunking the fairness test

From an editorial Thursday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:

Researchers at Duke University recently established what North Carolina Democrats already know too well: The GOP-drawn redistricting maps are hopelessly weighted in favor of Republicans.

Still, it’s interesting to see just how weighted they are. A recent North Carolina Public Radio report focused on a mathematical assessment led by Duke math professor Jonathan C. Mattingly and student Christy Vaughn. Mattingly was intrigued by the results of the 2012 election in which Republicans won nine out of 13 congressional districts despite there being more votes statewide for Democrats.

Mattingly and Vaughn developed a mathematical algorithm that could redraw the state’s congressional district boundaries into 100 different maps. All of the maps met two basic requirements for a congressional district: Each district had to have roughly the same population, and each district had to be compact.

When the pair ran the 2012 vote counts through the 100 map versions, between six and nine Democrats were elected 95 percent of the time.

No wonder Republicans have cooled the enthusiasm they had while in the minority for districts drawn by nonpartisan staff.

The Duke maps did not account for racial-balance requirements that Republicans say forced them to pack African-American voters into the few districts Democrats won. And there’s no law against gerrymandering for political gain.

Still, says Mattingly: “It wasn’t representative of the will of the people, and you ask yourself, is this democratic?”