Chadwick Matlin, Galen Druke, Christine Laskowski, Micah Cohen, Nate Silver, Harry Enten, Aaron Bycoffe, Ella Koeze, Julia Wolfe, Kate LaRue, Linda Tutovan, David Wasserman, Tony Chow, Meghan Ashford-Grooms, Yekaterina Bakhtiyarova, Alice Wilder, Jody Avirgan
Gerrymandering is having a moment. A number of cases concerning the fairness of district maps have been heard in both state and federal court over the past year. But though district boundaries have a huge effect on U.S. politics, the redistricting process is greatly misunderstood. Our Gerrymandering Project — which combines a six-part podcast series with an interactive atlas, two longform features and multiple videos — uncovers what’s really broken, what\'s not and whether gerrymandering can (or should) be killed.
What makes this project innovative?
Its scope for one. No other news organization has done this deep a dive on gerrymandering. But we did so much more than just shoe leather reporting and basic data analysis: We actually redistricted the entire U.S. by hand many times over to investigate the tradeoffs of choosing one approach to drawing districts over another.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
The package, taken as a whole, was one of the most consumed pieces of content on our site over the months that we released it. In addition to just raw traffic numbers, we also saw a tremendous response — including some very nuanced discussion — both in the comments and on social media. We created a Facebook group specifically to discuss this project and gerrymandering in general — and it’s still active two months after our last piece of the project published.
Source and methodology
The podcast series was based on original reporting and analysis by the FiveThirtyEight staff, including two reporting trips to North Carolina and Wisconsin. We spoke to dozens of activists, politicians, and lawyers, and assembled their expertise and stories into a narrative miniseries.The methodology for the interactive atlas was quite involved. We wrote a companion article explaining it in full; the link is in the additional links included with this submission. But in brief: We took precinct-level presidential election results from 2012 and 2016 and reallocated them to 2010 Census voting districts. That enabled us to add more up-to-date political data to a free online redistricting tool called Dave’s Redistricting App (we worked with the app’s creator to add this data). Once the data was in the app, we started the long process of drawing and redrawing all the districts in the country. Then, we downloaded our district boundaries from the app, analyzed their political, racial and geometric characteristics, and ultimately evaluated the tradeoffs of the different redistricting approaches.Sources: Ryne Rohla/Decision Desk HQ, U.S. Census Bureau, Brian Olson, Cook Political Report, Voteview
Ruby, PostGIS, Node, D3