American politics has suffered from fiercely partisan and biased processes when it comes to the drawing of electoral boundaries, or “redistricting”. While it is an issue that has a major effect on American politics, it’s a hard issue to interest the public in.
In an attempt to explain this complex issue in a fun and simple way, game designers and political science academics at the University of Southern California designed a game that puts you in the shoes of redistricting consultants who draw electoral boundaries to achieve a certain goal.
In the Redistricting Game, you start off only having to draw the boundaries so each seat has the same population, but soon you are required to draw boundaries that cause the opposing party to lose a seat, or to ensure that all of the incumbents in your small state have a safe seat. You even have to draw boundaries that ensure an ethnic minority has a majority in one district.
It is a creative and interesting way of demonstrating the unfairness of how electoral boundaries can be drawn, and are drawn in most US states. It is a live issue at the moment, with every US state conducting its once-in-a-decade redistricting process, to be used in all elections up until 2020. Since this game was designed, large states such as California and Florida have passed referenda to require the fair drawing of electorates.
The game is great fun, as you experiment with drawing boundaries to produce particular results. It is also an easy way to understand how gerrymandering can have such a poisonous effect on democracy.