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The Finger

In 2002, Republicans began redrawing (or "gerrymandering") districts across America, using various dodgy techniques to gain political advantage. In some cases, "kidnapped" incumbent Democrats found themselves in the same district as other incumbent Democrats. Pennsylvania Congressman Frank Mascara was one such Democrat.

"My district [in an industrial country south of Pittsburgh] had been more or less the same for about a hundred years," he recalled. "I still thought my district would for the most part remain intact. That didn't occur... The cars [parked on the street in front of Mascara's modest home] are in the twelfth congressional district, and my house is in the eighteenth. When they drew the new lines, they started in Allegheny County, which is north of here, and made, like, a finger out of that district, and the finger went down the middle of the street where I live. The line came down to my house and stopped."

[Mascara was forced into a primary battle with fellow Democrat John Murtha. Mascara lost, ending his Congressional career, and the Republican presence in the House was further increased. Such gerrymandering led Pennsylvania Democrats to bring a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the Republican gerrymander denied them equal protection of the laws; while the State's million Republicans controlled ten seats, its million Democrats controlled just five. (More on Gerrymandering here.)]

[Republican strategist Ben Ginsberg had a nickname for the Republican redistricting operation in 1990: "Project Ratf---."]

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