If you follow politics at all (wherever you live), you’re aware that there are a lot of questionable choices made by people on both sides of many issues. Naturally, we tend to be more aware of the shady stuff done by the people we don’t agree with, but other folks have their eyes on our people as well.
One practice that seems especially egregious when done by the other guys is gerrymandering, or the drawing of legislative districts in a way that increases the chances of a specific electoral outcome. There are scenarios where gerrymandering can serve the goal of fairness, as when a district is defined to make sure that the voices of those in a disadvantaged minority group are heard and attended to.
But far too often, a district is drawn to make sure that the incumbent can hold on to power, by cherry picking voters most likely to vote in a certain way.
To draw attention to this practice, Ben Doessel and James Lee, two Chicago designers, have created a font whose letters are legislative districts:
If you want higher resolution images so you can see just where each of these districts is located, check out uglygerry.com.
Do you know the shape of the legislative district you live in? If the borders were drawn to solidify the power of one group or person, rather than to ensure that the voice of the people is heard, consider letting your own voice be heard on the issue. (Uglygerry.com suggests contacting your representatives.) If you are a person put at a disadvantage by the current situation, you can see how a change would be in your best interests.
But if you’re in a district designed so that your particular interests are protected, I hope you’re in a position to see the costs there, too. For one thing, there’s a greater likelihood that those at a disadvantage will seek revenge in the future. And when one group has a stranglehold on power, their decisions tend to be of a lower quality, because they don’t have to put in the time to make sure things are fair.
There is a great deal of work to be done to improve the workings of the American political system. This seems like as good a place to start as any.