For a long time, gerrymandering involved a lot of guesswork. Politicians in back rooms drew districts by hand and hoped those maps would give them an advantage. Now, computer technology and the vast amounts of data available about all of us enable those drawing the maps to be much more precise. (For an easy-to-follow explanation of how gerrymandering works, watch our video.)
“We not only know that you’re a Democrat or a Republican, we know how strong a Democrat or Republican you are and how likely you are to vote,” says Li. “There’s no mystery in these maps; they will elect the person they were designed to elect.”
All of this adds up to a situation, experts say, where in many districts, voters essentially are no longer choosing their representatives.
“Right now, [elected officials are] picking the voters,” says Dale Schultz of Wisconsin’s Fair Elections Project, “instead of the other way around.”