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A panel of federal judges recently declared North Carolina's congressional maps unconstitutional. (Congressional maps divide the state into voting districts.) The maps had been drawn by Republicans and tilted heavily in their favor. The ruling required lawmakers to redraw the maps by the end of January 2018, but the U.S. Supreme Court, in a split decision, has put that ruling on hold.

Recently Tom Ross ran a simulation at Sanford which demonstrated how independent redistricting in the state might work. Ten judges, 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans, participated in the project. Lessons learned from that project could be applied to other states who are grappling with these issues.

"I say often that you can blame Democrats, you can blame Republicans, they’re both guilty [of gerrymandering]," Tom Ross said.  "You know, I spent 17 years as a judge and I know guilty when I see it."

Tom Ross is the first Terry Sanford Distinguished Fellow at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. He is also president of the Volcker Alliance which is working to rebuild public trust in government.

Listen to Ross discuss the project with Sanford's dean, Kelly Brownell for the Policy 360 podcast:

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Part 1: Is Change Possible?

In a related conversation, Kelly Brownell spoke with Jonathan Mattingly, chair of the math department at Duke. His analysis of North Carolina's 13 Congressional districts was recently used in the court ruling that declared the maps unconstitutional. 

"What we saw in these maps drawn by the state legislature were three most[ly] Democratic districts [out of 13 total districts] with way more Democrats than you would expect," said Mattingly. "And the result of that was that it flipped an election that might have had six or seven Democrats elected to one that only had four."

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Part 2: An Unlikely Detective