Is Kimball Brace proud of his legendary work to help politicians gerrymander their voting districts? His license plate says “GMANDR.”
“It is a lot of power, yes,” he says.
As part of Rigged, Fusion’s documentary investigation into US redistricting and voter suppression, reporter Natasha Del Toro sat down with the kindly, unassuming Virginia-based mapmaker to discuss his work.
“It can be a very important role, and it’s really the scene-setter of the whole process of politics,” Brace says. “When you look at districts and how they’re created, that really dictates how ultimately the legislators get elected from, and how they govern.”
With good software and some mouse-clicks, Brace can suggest to his clients—municipal governments, legislative delegations, and sometimes individual politicians—how to slice and dice a region’s demographics in their favor. Both parties do it, although solid Republican majorities in many statehouses have left recent congressional maps bleeding red.
He cites multiple gerrymandered districts, notably the Georgia 13th congressional district and Florida’s 3rd—both snaky districts that join minority voters across a long swath of counties. These carveouts “pack” minorities in to give them nominal representation, but water down their influence in surrounding districts.
Is Kimball’s business fair? “Depends on what you consider to be fair,” he says. “What is your definition of fairness? Everybody has a different definition.
“I’ve always said that I know that I’ve done a good job on redistricting if everyone is just a little bit mad at me.”