Can you tell what’s wrong with this map of the United States? I’ll give you a hint: Look near the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. Spot the problem yet? A further hint: Look at the border of Wisconsin and Illinois as well as the Florida Panhandle. See it now? The Wisconsin-Illinois border is slightly more southern and the Florida Panhandle is slightly shorter.
This mapping application is my favorite discovery after the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. The election was obviously very contentious and incredibly close, both in regard to the popular vote as well as the Electoral College. Using this mapping application, you can re-divide the states of the union by shifting the counties around. Using the voting patterns based on the county-level data, you can see how your proposed divisions would have impacted the 2016 presidential election.
There have been many plans on how to divide the 50 states into various regional configurations (50 states of equal population, regions of economic interactions, cultural regions, and the Nine Nations of America), and this is another iteration of that age-old theme. While this isn’t an activity in gerrymandering in the strictest sense (this is not reapportioning within the state based on population change but between states), it shows just how gerrymandering works. It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency, but you could make it a landslide (in either direction) if you manipulate the current state borders. The highest electoral vote I could engineer for Donald Trump was 407, and the highest electoral total I could manufacture for Hillary Clinton was 402. The point of this is to show that the balance within and among states can be far more delicate than we might presume. Just a line here or a line there can dramatically alter the balance of power.
Activity #1: Try to make this a landslide victory for the Republican Party. How many electoral votes could you garner for the Republicans? Add a screenshot.
Activity #2: Try to make this a landslide victory for the Democratic Party. How many electoral votes could you garner for the Democrats? Add a screenshot.
Activity #3: Try to tip the election to the Democrats with the most subtle, minor changes that might go under the radar. Explain your changes to the state map. Add a screenshot.