by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In an issue targeting several hot political topics, the latest Atlantic offers ammunition to those advocating for redistricting reform. A eight-page feature dubbed “The League of Dangerous Mapmakers” dissects the redistricting process, including the latest North Carolina developments.
Tom Hofeller certainly did his part to maximize the returns on the GOP’s 2010 electoral bounty. Hired by North Carolina’s top GOP legislators just after the midterms to advise in the drawing of their state’s new maps, the political cartographer spent many hours on the phone with the state legislature’s redistricting chairmen. (Hofeller is careful to avoid leaving an e-mail trail. As his PowerPoint presentation cautions, “A journey to legal HELL starts with but a single misstatement! … Remember recent e-mail disasters!!!”) While talking, Hofeller would expertly manipulate his computer’s Maptitude software, a lightning-fast graphics system that processes neighborhood population data, including racial composition, so that a user can draw and redraw hypothetical district lines.
By July 2011, Hofeller had helped produce what a Democratic operative ruefully terms “exceptionally smart” maps—ones that, assuming they survive a lingering court challenge, may very well install a 10–3 GOP stronghold in place of the present 7–6 Democratic congressional majority.