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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Gerry What? Gerry Who? Gerrymandering !

On Monday 19 June 2017, "the Supreme Court declared that it will consider whether gerrymandered election maps favoring one political party over another violate the Constitution, a potentially fundamental change in the way American elections are conducted" (eg, WP). I have come to realise that gerrymandering is probably the most perfidious way to influence elections.

The issue of gerrymandering does not exist in proportional representative democracies. It's only relevant in elections that use districts and then favour its top candidates. Such elections are common in the UK and USA and - to some extent - France. Redistricting can make - or break - the odds of a certain party. Gerrymandering is an example of extreme partisanship.

Princeton University claims to have calculated the impact of gerrymandering. Princeton: "The redistricting of 2010 led to a jump of about a dozen seats away from recent historical trends. The suddenness of this change, along with my statistical analysis (Stanford Law Review) reveals how this jump arose from partisan redistricting efforts in a handful of states."

Gerrymandering requires political knowledge about the constituents in each of the electoral districts. Subsequently, you need an Analytics firm to calculate the impact of geographical gerrymandering, or redistricting. Finally, you need approval for redistricting (eg, state governor). Since a few years, digital gerrymandering is a hot issue (eg, FT, Harvard, New Republic, Paste, Wired). Both aim to favour a preferred candidate.

Last October 2016, Politico reported that "there is no current national database of voter registration because each state independently runs its own election. But TargetSmart, a Democratic political data firm, told POLITICO that the country passed the 200 million threshold in recent days []. The figure means more than 50 million new people have registered to vote in the past eight years. Only 146.3 million were registered as recently as 2008 []".

On 19 June 2017 (again!), security firm UpGuard revealed that "personal information of almost 200 million registered U.S. voters was accidentally exposed online due to an improperly configured security setting. The leaked information, compiled by Republican data firm Deep Root Analytics and two other Republican contractors, included names, birth dates, addresses, voter registration details and social media posts." (eg, CNN, Hill, InterceptUpGuard, ZDNet).

The 2016 Russian hacking efforts in state voter registration databases might be a new example of digital gerrymandering. Bloomberg: "In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. [] In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states []". Such hacking efforts might be directed to prevent certain people from voting which would then obviously favour the other party.

James Comey at the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election: “They’re coming after America. They will be back.”

I'll Be Back by Arnold Schwarzenegger - video