Try your hand at Redistricting Roulette!
In 2011-2012, nearly every political jurisdiction in the nation will adjust its legislative district lines based on new information provided by the U.S. Census. Political insiders know that the way legislative lines are drawn has an impact on who wins and who loses, often compounding our problems of uncompetitive elections and unequal representation. Unfortunately, the public often is not aware of this impact and typically plays little role in redistricting.
In Redistricting Roulette, imagine a town - let's call it Geometry Town -- of 125 voters, with 65 "circle" voters and 60 "square" voters. (You can think of circles as Republicans and squares as Democrats, if that makes it easier. Yes, voters cannot be so easily pegged in real life, but redistricting experts know that voters often are more predictable than many assume.)
In a race for the mayor of Geometry Town, the candidate backed by the circles would most likely win. But what about in the elections for the five seats on the city council? If they were elected in a winner-take-all, "at-large" election -- with every voter having five votes and able to give only one vote to a given candidate -- then circle candidates might still elect all the seats.
Such winner-take-all results are one reason why many legislators instead represent "one-seat" districts. In the case of Geometry Town, the five council members would represent five different parts of the town. Given the breakdown of 65 circle votes and 60 square voters, one might expect a districting plan to produce three districts with a majority of circle voters and two with a majority of square voters. But a spin of the gerrymandering wheel can result in dramatically different results. The moral of the story? Don't let redistricting be left to chance in your town, your county and your state!
Try your hand at Redistricting Roulette (requires Internet Explorer 4.x or Netscape 3.x and above). Read the instructions in the opening box, then move on to see how the drawing of the lines can manipulate the outcome of the election -- the voters don't move, but the winners change with the changing of the district lines. To explore the impact of five alternative districting plans, move your mouse over one of the five buttons and see which side comes out the winner and the loser. To see the break down of which side wins in each plan, click on the button.
(To have a copy of Redistricting Roulette on your home computer, you can download Redistricting Roulette. After downloading, put the file into a folder of your choice and then double-click the file. Wheel.exe will self extract to c:\wheel and then you can run index.html from the browser on your computer.)
FairVote would like to credit the Proportional Representation Society of Australia with the conception of the "Redistricting Roulette" wheel. If you distribute the "Redistricting Roulette" wheel then please give credit for its web-based implementation to FairVote and Matthew Pierce.