Neuroscientist and election forecaster Sam Wang recently added fuel to the fire, calling the 2012 outcome “The Great Gerrymander.” He identified 10 states, most of them controlled by Republicans, as notable and egregious deviations from a fair outcome, suggesting that gerrymandering cost the Democrats 15 seats in the current House of Representatives and calling for redistricting reform to fix the problem. Wang’s conclusion resembles that of political scientist Nicholas Goedert, who suggests that the 2012 maps cost the Democrats 14 seats.
Is this right? Has gerrymandering allowed Republicans to defy the will of the people? The crucial question to ask when deciding whether redistricting “mattered” is: compared to what? What is the alternative set of districts—the “counterfactual”—to which you’re comparing the current districts? Once we consider some other alternatives, these claims about gerrymandering aren’t as strong as they first appear.
An important piece, with some great accompanying charts and data.