Maryland’s 3rd congressional district has been called the nation’s most gerrymandered (or, to be more blunt about it, “America’s ugliest congressional district”). To some observers, it resembles blood spatter at a crime scene; others see “a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state.”
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Software engineer Brian Olson has spent his spare time coming up with a solution to the problem of ridiculous gerrymandering–which, of course, is mostly created by legislators hoping to maintain (or create) a political edge. His program creates “optimally compact” districts.
To see such efforts in action, compare the current Maryland Congress map:
with the “optimally compact” map:
Of course, compactness isn’t the only issue at stake when it comes to districting. As the Washington Post points out, some people argue that districts should comprise “communities of interest” — that is, they should have some overarching commonality. But the Post also argues that high-minded appeals to such “communities of interest” often get twisted to serve political interests. It’s hard to imagine why a simple, computer-drawn district map would really be that much worse.
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