A Non-Partisan Approach to Understanding Gerrymandering: Dingos vs. Raccoons

A Non-Partisan Approach to Understanding Gerrymandering: Dingos vs. Raccoons
A Non-Partisan Approach to Understanding Gerrymandering: Dingos vs. Raccoons
A Non-Partisan Approach to Understanding Gerrymandering: Dingos vs. Raccoons
A Non-Partisan Approach to Understanding Gerrymandering: Dingos vs. Raccoons
A Non-Partisan Approach to Understanding Gerrymandering: Dingos vs. Raccoons
A Non-Partisan Approach to Understanding Gerrymandering: Dingos vs. Raccoons
A Non-Partisan Approach to Understanding Gerrymandering: Dingos vs. Raccoons
A Non-Partisan Approach to Understanding Gerrymandering: Dingos vs. Raccoons
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This is an activity that investigates the issue of gerrymandering from many different sides; it is not designed to indoctrinate your students into the idea that gerrymandering (or drawing any kind of electoral districts) is "good" or "bad." Rather, it looks at the idea at what are different forms of "fair" representation. By re-framing this as a Dingo vs. Raccoon issue, we can rise above partisan politics and see this as a philosophical argument about what "democracy" really looks like.

The first case examines 4 districts, half of which are Dingo and the other half is Raccoon (there was going to be a third half, but I checked my math and figured out this would not be possible....) Depending on how you draw the maps, you can end up with 2 Dingo districts and 2 Raccoon districts, which seems "fair," yes?

Well, not so fast! Just because we get proportional representation don't make it fair: none of these districts is competitive, which means that it shuts out many citizens, those who actually take the time to research their concerns and see how the candidates address them in intelligent and cogent ways. The way to get voters to transcend their parties is to have elections that are truly competitive, where the population of party affiliations is split so that open minded and educated voters can swing the district. Don't we want politicians who run on platforms that are a little more complex than blaming the poor and minorities for all the country's problems, like in 1939 Germany and 2016 United States?

But there's more! The next section actually looks at a case of gerrymandering, where a Dingo "consultant" suggests that the districts could be re-drawn to give the Dingos a slight majority, so that the outcome could effectively shut out Raccoons from fair representation. This is not the egregious gerrymandering we've heard about (like in North Carolina and Wisconsin), but the more subtle gerrymandering that tilts the balance in one direction. However, it is a good way to jump off to more extreme cases.

And much more! The final section examines another issue that has to do with gerrymandering: what do you do if there is a sizable minority that deserves representation? Is it better to carve out a district specifically to give them that representation, or to create "balanced" districts where they can participate in a fair discussion of the issues, or should they be shut out completely because the other party was there first? The activity opens this up for discussion and debate, because this is a very interesting issue and should be thought of as an example of political philosophy: which is the more important element of an "ideal" democracy, a government that is exactly proportional to the citizens who are being governed, or one that engages in free and fair elections where the issues are examined and voters look beyond whether the candidate is a "Dingo" or "Raccoon?" I have no answers here and I've left it up to you, the brilliant teacher that you are, to decide how you want to play that.....

Total Pages
15 pages
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