# Chapter 10: Congress

## Critical Thinking Exercises

### PROCESS MATTERS

Gerryminder is a computer-based simulation of redistricting developed by Professor Jeremy Teigen (Ramapo College) and Jeffrey Gilbertson. In this simulation, you will take over the role of the person drawing electoral district lines for your state. Like many states, yours relies on the state legislature to apportion the seats. Therefore you represent the majority party and are motivated by a desire to maximize the seats your party will win with the new map.  Your district-drawing power is not unlimited, however. You are bound by the same legal rules that legislatures and commissions face in real-life:

First, the districts must be of equal population size. (Today this works out to about 650,000 people per district.)

Second, districts must be contiguous, adjoining, uninterrupted wholes—every cell belonging to a district must touch (non-diagonally) another cell of the district so that there are no “islands” of a district which are separated from the rest.

You will attempt to draw districts in two different scenarios. Instructions are provided to walk you through levels one and two, and after completing levels one and two, answer the questions below.   Read the instructions here.

Using the Gerryminder tool, you can see that when district lines are redrawn in different ways, different parties win.  Following the instructions, redraw districts to maximize or minimize one party’s losses.

1. How does this illustrate the extent to which process matters?

### POLITICS IS EVERYWHERE

One way to visualize earmarks is to compare the amount of earmarked funds brought to the state per person. Using the Many Eyes earmark visualization tool, move your cursor over the tool to find your state.

2. What’s the level of earmarks per capita there? How does number that compare to states geographically nearest you? Is it larger or smaller?
3. Is it surprising that states like Alaska, West Virginia and Mississippi have much more funding per capita than Arizona, New York or Maine? What factors discussed in the book, like legislator seniority, committee membership or partisanship, can help explain this odd arrangement?

### POLITICS IS CONFLICTUAL

4. Visit the following site and click on your state on the map that appears on the first page to learn about your state Congresspersons:

As you see in the page above, and as you read in the chapter, there are significant differences in the term length and district size between members of the House of Representatives and members of the Senate. How do these institutional arrangements promote different degrees of responsiveness and responsibility?