New Hampshire Public Radio: 'Redistricting in a Swing State: NH's Party Politics'

April 26, 2016
New Hampshire state flag

A recent New Hampshire call-in talk show about redrawing political maps relied on the expertise of Robert Boatright, associate professor of political science.

In between censuses, New Hampshire and other states are considering how they might redistrict. In “Redistricting in a Swing State: N.H.'s Party Politics,” New Hampshire Public Radio asked Boatright and several other guests on the Exchange show about the role of legislators and citizens in redistricting and how states might overcome gerrymandering, where lines are manipulated to favor one political party.

Host Laura Knoy asked Boatright whether it’s possible to figure out whether gerrymandering has intervened in a legislative district, or whether people tend to move to an area where they feel comfortable living with those who share their political views.

“I don’t think there is a perfect method,” he said. “Political scientists over the past few decades have tried to come up with various formulas for how dispersed a district is … but there’s not really that much consensus.”

However, technology has made it easier for gerrymandering to occur, Boatright pointed out.

“While gerrymandering has been part of politics since the establishment of the republic, it’s now the case that state legislators and, for that matter, citizens sitting at home with a good software package on their computer, can sit down and try to draw districts that are likely to advantage themselves,” he said.

But the good news: Technology means that “citizens can at least keep closer tabs on what’s going on,” Boatright noted. Clark and other universities, he added, have made such software available to students and citizens so they can try redrawing the lines and send the maps to legislators. "We can’t guarantee that legislators are going to pay attention to them, but many legislators will," he said.