Political Machines: The Role of Software in Enabling and Detecting Partisan Gerrymandering Under the Whitford Standard

January 23, 2018
Partisan gerrymandering, the practice of shaping district lines to the advantage of one political party, has haunted American politics for centuries. Innovations in districting software have sharpened the effects of partisan gerrymanders by increasing their advantages while concealing their creation. In response, courts are reevaluating the judicial manageability of partisan gerrymandering. Any standard arising from this reevaluation will inevitably require plaintiffs to prove that the drafters of district plans intended to gerrymander. Due to the complexity of measuring partisan advantage, this proof will need to come in the form of witness testimony or close observation of the districting process. By using automated districting software, legislators could gerrymander without leaving behind any of this critical evidence, thereby enabling partisan gerrymandering. New laws, policy, and improvements to algorithmic generations of alternative district plans promise to preserve the democratic process by preventing gerrymanders altogether or detecting gerrymanders based on their effects.