Gerrymandering is real, but is it a problem in Washington state? New analysis finds, no, not so much.

You may have noticed a topic emerging in fringe political conversations, perhaps to be forced through into the mainstream dialogue just in time for the 2020 election: gerrymandering.

As gerrymandering could be a backdrop issue used by the left to frame a narrative the next election cycle – messaging like ‘systemic inequities in how we do elections’ is your early warning code to know that the issue is being played – it’s fair for Washington state voters to ask whether their state’s districting process is working.

In its most blatant manifestation, gerrymandering – the drawing of political boundaries to exaggerate political advantages for a particular party – is a means for a dominant party to protect its own power. “Packing” and “cracking” districts for that purpose is a data-driven enterprise, and so it makes sense to use a data-driven analysis to determine whether it’s being done.

A new analysis done by the data science group at Voter Science asked a simple question: “Is Washington state gerrymandered?” The group’s finding was, no, at least in the way the legislative district map has been drawn.*

The Voter Science statistical analysis method follows accepted techniques to identify what are called “efficiency gaps” – patterns in elections results in legislative and statewide races that indicate districting has been manipulated. The complete report can be read on the group’s blog and boils down to the following conclusions:

  1. The legislative results are within proximity of the statewide governor results. And when measured across a wide range of candidates, there is no consistent advantage from district boundaries over a pure statewide vote.
  2. The house and senate GOP caucus performances do perform exceptionally well – particularly compared to the statewide performance of most GOP candidates. But this appears to be more due to the caucuses picking candidates to fit their district rather than gerrymandering.
  3. If we deliberately create theoretical gerrymandered districts via computer simulation, the potential GOP advantage would be significantly higher than what we witness.

The data and analysis are well worth diving into for those interested in becoming more educated on a subject that could become a talking point in the near future.


  • Full disclosure: I have a minority stake in Voter Science, but I had no role in developing these findings)
[image credit: ventanamedia]