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Video transcript

what we see here are two maps of congressional districts on the Left we see some congressional districts in and around Austin Texas this black line shows us Travis County where Austin Texas is and on this right map we see the congressional districts in and around Chicago Illinois what I'd like you to do is pause this video and see if you see anything interesting about the shapes of these congressional districts well some things might immediately jump out at you here in Chicago Illinois this 4th district in particular seems kind of fishy it's often known as the earmuff district it has this northern part and this southern part and then it's actually connected just by an interstate not by the things on either side of that interstate so that doesn't seem like a natural shape for congressional district and then here in Austin Texas you see that the votes in Travis County are split amongst many congressional districts and so the question that should be surfacing in your brain is why are these districts shaped that way and the answer that many people will give you is it's because of the gerrymandering Jerry man during which is the idea of shaping districts to benefit one political party or another every 10 years there's a US Census and based on that census different states will might get a few more representatives or a few less representatives and so state legislatures will often have to re district and so that's when this occurs and so the first question you might ask is well that's a very strange word where does it come from and that goes all the way back to 1812 when the then governor of Massachusetts Elbridge Gary Gary was how you pronounced his name although now it's Jerry Mandarin he decided to sign the bill that would reapportioned the state Senate districts and you have this one really strangely shaped district right over here that people said hey that looks like a salamander and so they created a portmanteau which is really just a combination of words around Elbridge Gerry and the back half of salamander so you have Jerry Mandor which is creating these districts to advantage one party the other el Gary did it for the Democratic Republican Party against the Federalist but now it's Republicans versus Democrats so now let's go back to the two districts that we looked at and think about what are the implications of it who will who does the gerrymandering benefit so in the case of Austin Texas Austin Texas is an urban area urban areas tend to lean more left and it does lean more democratic it's actually more liberal than most urban areas in Texas but it's surrounded by more rural areas that lean right and so it would be advantageous and it is advantageous for Republicans to split those Democratic votes amongst these Republican districts in the case of Chicago it's a little bit less obvious this type of gerrymandering was done by a Democratic legislature but it's a little bit less obvious what's going on here with the fourth District because it is actually surrounded by districts represented by Democrats what you need to appreciate is when this gerrymandering is done it's often done by sophisticated computer algorithms and there's all sorts of implications of stretching one district or another this is just one tactic that you see here is taking a bunch of Democratic votes and diluting them amongst a bunch of Republican districts you might see it the other way you could have situations where you re district so that an incumbent no longer lives in their district and so they wouldn't be the incumbent anymore you might see redistricting to force two incumbents to go against each other you might see redistricting where you're collecting pockets from certain constituencies so that you can make a district so that they would have representation and that's the one that's often cited for the district for right over here because these are heavily Hispanic areas around or in Chicago now I'll leave you with a newspaper article from the Salem Gazette in 1813 that talks about at least how the Federalists felt about that first official gerrymandering this is in response to Elbridge Gary's signing of the bill to allow for that salamander shaped district that advantaged the Democratic Republicans against the Federalists Federalists followers of Washington again behold and shudder at the exhibition of this terrific dragon brought forth to swallow and devour your liberties and equal rights you can see in the picture it actually does look like a dragon they put wings on it unholy party spirit and inordinate love of power gave it birth your patriotism and hatred of tyranny must buy one vigorous struggle strangle it in its infancy the iniquitous law which cut up and severed this Commonwealth into districts is kindred to the arbitrary deeds of Napoleon when he partitioned the territories of innocent nations to suit his sovereign will you got to remember this is right around the time of Napoleon conquering much of Europe this law inflicted a grievous wound on the Constitution it in fact subverts and changes our form of government which ceases to be Republican as long as an aristocratic House of Lords under the form of a Senate terrorizes over the people and silences and stifles the voice of the majority and then it goes on to say will you then permit a party to disfranchise the people to convert the Senate chamber into a fortress in which ambitious office seekers may entrench themselves and set at defiance the frowns of the people know this usurping faction must be dislodged from its stronghold