The man who rigged America’s election maps


But in North Carolina, the election results
were really weird. These squares represent all the voters in
North Carolina. They were voting for these 13 seats in Congress. About half voted for Republicans. And about 48 percent voted for Democrats. So you might think, of the 13 Congressional
seats, maybe Democrats would’ve won 6 seats, and Republicans would’ve won 7. But no. Democrats only won 3 of 13 seats — way less
than half. This imbalance was because North Carolina’s
Congressional districts had been “gerrymandered.” It means that these voters had been grouped
into districts very strategically with the goal of benefiting one party. Gerrymandering has pretty much always happened
in America. That’s because, every 10 years the political districts
are redrawn. And in most cases, those new lines get drawn by whoever holds power in state governments at the time. That’s what happened in 2010. Republicans won control of lots of state governments,
and redrew the political lines to favor themselves. And over the next few years, redistricting
helped them hold onto almost all those states. This shifted the balance of power. And it turns out that behind a lot of this,
was one guy. This is Thomas Hofeller: The mapmaker who helped Republicans gerrymander
districts over the last decade. When Hofeller died in 2018, his daughter found
thousands of his emails and files, which she shared with activists. The files show that Tom Hoeffler’s fingerprints
are all over the way America’s political maps look today. But North Carolina was his masterpiece. And if you want to understand why gerrymandering
is a such a big problem in the US, that’s a good place to start. The basics of gerrymandering are actually
pretty simple. If you’re a Republican trying to keep power,
you want to do two things. First, “pack” as many Democratic voters as
possible into a single district. If you have a district where almost everyone
votes Democrat, that means almost half of those votes are basically wasted. You can also “crack” big Democratic areas
into separate districts — where there are slightly more Republicans. So even though an area has a lot of Democratic
votes, they would actually lose in this district and in this district. These are the two elements of classic gerrymandering:
Packing and cracking. And Hoffeler employed these techniques masterfully
in North Carolina. In 2011 he was hired to redraw the state’s
political lines. And for congressional districts, he came up
with this map. Now, I just want to focus in on District 12,
this weird skinny shape. In order to make sense of this shape, we have
to look at another map. This map shows the percentage of black people
in each neighborhood. The bluer areas are where more black people
live. Hofeller basically gathered up black people
in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and Charlotte — and packed them into one district. So that’s how District 12 happened. Hoeffler also did this with North Carolina’s
state representatives and state senators. For example here are the state senate districts. Here, he packed Winston-Salem into one district. And then packed Greensboro into its own district. These new districts helped Republicans get
a stranglehold on power in the North Carolina statehouse. And over the next few years, they were able to pass crucial legislation. A strict new voter ID law in North Carolina. Which bathrooms transgender individuals can use in North Carolina. In 2016 and 2017, federal courts ruled both
of these maps were unconstitutional. They said what North Carolina Republicans
did wasn’t just gerrymandering — it was racial gerrymandering, done to deliberately
dilute the political power of black people. The courts said that the Republicans in the
North Carolina statehouse now had to redraw the lines without looking at racial demographics. So they went back… to Tom Hofeller. This time, Hofeller couldn’t look at race. Instead, he looked at which areas voted for
Democrats and which areas voted for Republicans. Instead of a racial gerrymander, it would
be a partisan gerrymander. Here’s that map, using data from 2014. The bluer an area, the more Democratic voters
there are. Now, if you zoom in here, to Greensboro, you
can see one of the highest concentrations of Democratic voters in the state. Hoffeler drew a congressional district line
to crack this community in half. This meant Democrats here, were now the minority
in their district. And Democrats here were also the minority
in their district. Hoffeler employed these techniques all over
the state to create North Carolina’s new political districts. And the first big test for these new maps
would be the 2018 election. Democrats were expected to turn out in droves. Democrats are vying for a potential blue wave. The wave that Republicans fear is going to wipe them out. So, how did the maps do? For state representatives, Democrats got 51
percent of the vote. They won only 46 percent of seats. For state senate, they received half the vote
— and won just 42 percent of seats. And for Congress? You already know how that one turned out. Democrats won nearly half the votes — but
won only three out of 13 seats. A year later, in 2019, the Supreme Court weighed
in. They said it was beyond their reach… that
it wasn’t their job to fix it. All of this raised an existential question: If Republicans could continue drawing the
lines to stay in power, how could they ever be elected out of office? But the Supreme Court ruling left open the
possibility for state courts to rule on partisan gerrymandering. And in September 2019, that’s exactly what
North Carolina’s Supreme Court did. The court found that partisan gerrymandering
violated the state constitution. In the court’s decision, it was Hofeller’s
files that helped prove that North Carolina Republicans drew these lines with the clear
intention of benefiting themselves. Ultimately, the court said North Carolina
Republicans had to redraw the state house and state senate maps one more time. This new map approved by North Carolina legislators
is much less biased toward one party — even though it took some extreme measures, and
nearly a decade, to force politicians to draw a fairer map. In the last few years, the courts in several
states, like Florida and Pennsylvania, have made partisan gerrymandering much harder. And now that’s also the case in North Carolina. Hofeller is gone now. But in other states across the country, many
maps he helped draw are still in use. And while there’s now a clearer strategy to
challenge those maps in state courts… … many voters are still, effectively, not
choosing their representatives. It’s like Hoeffler said:, the representatives
are choosing the voters. “… of course, redistricting is democracy
at work. Redistricting is like an election in reverse. It’s a great event.”




Comments
  1. Correction at 1:40: Tom Hoffeler didn't make the black-and-white map on the top row. The map was presented by the plaintiffs in a legal challenge to North Carolina's 2017 maps.

  2. Democrats do it too with California. The largest amount of Republicans live in California yet they redraw lines there as well as not allowing it to split into different states.

  3. It's sad because many politicians forget they're picked to serve people and not the party. North Carolina is a beautiful state full of very open-minded people but a select few have decided to put their interest over our interest, don't you just love democracy

  4. It goes both ways. This video talks more about the Republicans doing it but even more recently the Democrats are trying to do it. The liberals in Canada did the same thing.

  5. So it's a problem when Republicans gerrymandered North Carolina but it's not when Democrats did the same thing to Maryland and New Mexico?

  6. I'm not saying this is right but how about you also talk about the times Democrats have done this as well. It's not just a Republican problem and it's not just a Democrat it happens on both sides of the political spectrum

  7. Odd timing of the outrage, shortly after Republicans master the tool of the Democrats? I wonder if this would have been a story 20 years ago?

  8. What I don't really get is how it is even allowed to redraw districts. That's undermining the voters' will and straight up against everything democracy stands for

  9. You want to redistricting to be fair, lets make every district the same size. Maybe then the Dems will quit their whining.

  10. This is just being a smart politician, wouldn’t be upset if Democrats did this tbh, so we’ll done to the GOP for doing it first

  11. Please do a video of the global uprising crisis since last year. Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Perú, France, Lebanon, Hong Kong, Cataluña, Extinction Rebellion, Bolivia, Benelux, germany, Poland, Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, Honduras, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, UK , more

  12. Attacking the republicans pretty hard here, you know the dems did the same thing, notice he doesn’t even mention a time before 2016 hmmm 🤔

  13. As always vox fails to mention Maryland a very very deep blue state and makes it seem like it’s just one party. This is a bipartisan issue. Don’t put all the blame one one party.

  14. Lived in NC my whole life and can really say I hate this states congress for doing this. As long as I remember we've been controlled by the gerrymandering that happened here. I'm more neutral in elections, but it's NOT fair, regardless of your political beliefs to group people together. The US house maps need to be redrawn in NC as well. I live in Winston-Salem where it's heavy on the democrat side, but it's drawn to always favor the Republican side. It's been a joke of a state congress for at least 10 years due to this. I mean if you draw the maps right like he was joking about there is really no point to even try to vote, when it's impossible to be heard in some districts. I'm very glad the NC Courts ruled in our favor. I'm ok with districts voting how they seem fit, but it needs to be FAIR.

  15. This could never happen in Finland because we are a smaller country and we have multiple parties ppl vote for and the results can vary a lot year by year.

  16. 5:46 to answer the question, it's simple; when there's nobody left to vote for republicans. demographic replacement, genocide, etc. etc. etc. take your pick. it's easy to make sure we don't see a single one of those stinkin' republicans ever again.

  17. Just use proportional representation. I.e. districts with multiple winners, where to win one of the 4 seats you need just 20% of the vote. That's Ro Khanna's HR3057

  18. Why does the video only show the states that have Republican elected congresses, and not democratic congresses? I'm sure dems do the same techniques as reps. Gerrymandering is a bi partisan issue

  19. Curious when Vox will come out with an equivalent video on all the cases of gerrymandering committed by the other party…

  20. all men are created equal, so everyone gets 1 vote, but not every vote is equal so therefore all men are still equal. now back to the drawing board, let's put more power into the hands of people i see fit. LOL

  21. And that's just one problem with voting in America: Also voters have more or less power than others depending on which state they live in, thanks to the good 'ol electoral college

  22. Basically a bunch of geriatric old people who don't want to lose power this is why the American youth hates old people and why you should too!

  23. Both sides of the table have been doing. Obama won in the Senate because of gerrymandering in Illinois! My town is in a different district because of the Illinois politicians. Corruption is a huge thing in Illinois! Look up the 10th congressional district in Illinois.

  24. I was surprised when most of the Latinos and blacks voted Democrats regardless.

    no wonder they had to employ this tactic

  25. Gerrymandering is despicable, but so is presenting it as a one sided issue, everyone does it, democrats included and sometimes even more. Please, stop making this to be a Republican issue, it's a democracy issue.

  26. the courts are only saving grace in America. Without it, America is just another 'stable' dictatorship of two parties

  27. The way it's supposed to work is that the minority have equal power to the majority because people of like mindset congregate into large cities where their way of life does not apply to the surrounding rural area.

  28. THE RIGGED ELECTION, PERHAPS BUT IT DIDN'T HAVE ANY EFFECT ON THE WIDE MARGIN WITH MR. DONALD J. TRUMP AND THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE!!!…SOMETHING THE DEMOCRATS ARE STILL REELING FROM…THE DEMS ARE SIMPLY OUT OF THEIR MINDS!!!

  29. Gerrymandering has been going on for a long time. It has been done by both parties. Is it legal? Yes. Is it moral and ethical, not really.

  30. I think it is completely unfair that only republican's can do this and that democrats can not or can they and have they done this? I know bad republicans good democrats, Vox on the loose.

  31. so why do swing states exist? shouldn't they just re draw the lines
    edit 4:40 Gives own district: RACIST; Divides two districts: RIGGED. how… how are you suppose to draw it then??

  32. Gotta do something if Dems are okay with flooding immigrants to gain votes 😂 (See Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona,)

  33. And states like New York who solely rely on NYC and Long
    Island; instead of the rest of the state to get blue electoral votes and seats is fair though right?

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