John Oliver: Gerrymandering is a science the GOP believes in

Tech Culture

by Chris Matyszczyk April 10, 2017 11:11 AM PDT @ChrisMatyszczyk

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Democracy is slippery.

It's the practice of making everything seem fair and hoping that no one sees who's taking advantage and why.

Sometimes, though, science is used to create advantages for one side or another.

On Sunday, John Oliver decided to emit his own smoking anger at gerrymandering, the way that electoral maps are redrawn to create a certain bias in the system. This, he explained, is "a very precise science."

He added; "Interestingly, it is one of the few remaining types of science in which the Republican Party currently believes."

Like many sciences, it's hard for ordinary people to grasp all the finer points that lead up to, for example, politicians choosing their voters, rather than the other way around.

He showed how in North Carolina, for example, House Republican candidates in November won just over half the votes, yet wound up controlling 77 percent of the state's seats. They were clever in the way their drew up their districts.

But it's not just Republicans who use their scientific skills to fix maps. In Maryland and Illinois, the Democrats managed their own bare-faced twisting of the borderlines.

One design is the so-called earmuffs shape, where gerrymanderers create these oddly-shaped districts in order to achieve their ends.

Not everyone is convinced that gerrymandering has that much effect. Ordinary people and the decisions they make surely influence things. It seems clear, for example, that Democrats tend to crowd in big cities, thereby making their collective impact far less powerful than if they were spread out.

Oliver's idealism is charming, in its own invective-laden way.

But politics is, sadly, a game like any other. Which means there will always be wily players who try to bend the rules in their favor, while trying to keep their faces as innocent-looking as possible.

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