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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Partisan map-makers are considering not just voter registration but planning and zoning data to decide how new congressional districts can be drawn to help or hurt their candidates not just now but in the future.

Why it matters: High technology and the "big sort" of like-minded voters grouping together can make gerrymandering less conspicuous this year — even if it still exists.

What we're hearing: In Texas, Republicans added vacant lots to Democratic districts, expecting them to turn into high-density housing areas over the next decade, David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report told Axios.

  • That urban-style housing is more likely to attract Democratic voters, so Republicans want to keep them clustered in one place.
  • Such nonpolitical analysis also allows parties "to forecast how their gerrymanders will perform over time," he said.

There's also far more open-sourced redistricting platforms this time around, National Republican Redistricting Trust's executive director Adam Kincaid told Axios.

  • "It creates a volume of maps that are available to the public — and to legislators, if they look at them, and commissioners, if they look at them," he said.
  • Joe Kabourek, RepresentUs senior campaign director, told Axios advanced technology has also made it so "partisan actors can slice and dice districts with precision, and outside the sight of voters."
  • One sign: an uptick in uncompetitive districts without excessive geographic manipulation.

Yes, but: There's some dispute over just how much technology has advanced since the last redistricting in 2011, and whether it really makes a difference.

  • Kincaid said it's been overstated, and "the reality is that the technology now is about the same as that technology 10 years ago, and maps have been drawn to be durable for a very long time."
  • National Democratic Redistricting Committee president Kelly Ward Burton argued technology could be used to create fairer maps.
  • She accused Republicans of "doing the opposite, drawing maps that double down on and preserve the most egregious gerrymanders in the country."

Technology isn't the only reason voters may see fewer strangely shaped districts when redistricting is completed later this year.

  • Americans are self-sorting — increasingly living near like-minded voters.
  • This "big sort" makes it even easier to draw safe, smooth districts, since voters have naturally created politically homogenous communities.

Go deeper

John Frank, author of Denver
Nov 17, 2021 - Axios Denver

What Google searches tell us about Colorado's top political issues

Data: Google Trends; Maps: Jacque Schrag/Axios

The issue of critical race theory is most potent in the Boulder area — not, as some might expect, in conservative congressional districts — according to an Axios analysis of Google Trends data.

What we found: One year out from the 2022 midterm elections, Axios and Google Trends are launching a first-of-its-kind project to track which political issues voters are searching for in each congressional district.

Supreme Court appears likely to roll back abortion rights

Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed likely to weaken abortion rights and perhaps to let states ban the procedure altogether.

The intrigue: The court seemed likely to throw out the framework established in Roe v. Wade, but it wasn't clear whether a majority of the justices were inclined to overturn the court's precedents entirely.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated 51 mins ago - Economy & Business

How to meme a painting

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

How can a physical artwork become an NFT? One new company has just spent $12.9 million on a Banksy in an attempt to try out a new way of converting the real into the virtual.

Why it matters: The art market globally sees volume of about $60 billion per year, almost all of which is trade in physical objects. Art-world insiders including former Christie's c0-chair Loïc Gouzer are on the lookout for ways to monetize physical paintings without necessarily giving up physical ownership of them.