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Steven Malanga
Redistricting Wars « Back to Story

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The idea of racial group rights ought to be eradicated by amending all laws protecting voters so as to protect the voters one at a time only but not as groups. Groups don't have rights.
Your remarks on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission fails to mention that while their Congressional map does seem to favor Democrats - largely in an attempt to create competitive districts (such as the new CD 9), their legislative map is widely seen as favoring Republicans. I know that presents a more complicated story than "bogus independent supports Democratic gerrymandering," but it seems worth noting nevertheles.
Republicans need to learn that "nonpartisan" is synonymous with "Democrat".
It seems to me if everybody is honest the solution is fairly simple.
Start at the northwest corner of a state. Describe a square until you've attained the number of constituents necessary. Proceed east, then south, until reaching the end.

Let computers do it. Districts should be rectangles or boxes with deviations only for natural boundaries like rivers.
The race in Iowa is between Boswell (Democrat) and Latham (Republican) not two incumbent Republicans as the article states.
I too am very disappointed with the California redistricting. I saw early in the process that it was dominated by racial diversity, as the leading organizers were NAACP, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, MALDEF, and other immigration rights / minority rights groups. That's who got the ballot initiative passed (good) and selected the Citizens Redistricting Commissioners (bad- cronies got on). We went for racial diversity, but at the expense of political diversity. With the new redistricting maps, our legislature is likely to achieve the 2/3 Dem majority that will tank our state's economic fortunes once and for all, as by law, our legislature can only pass tax increases with a 2/3 majority. They got it...
It's a shame because this process could have led to a more politically balanced legislature, which would have been good for the state overall. The only hope we really have now is the Top 2 primary to ensure some moderates (hopefully) will survive until November.
I would think the equal protection clause makes the Voting Rights Act as regards racial inclusion unconstitutional. I believe Congress has not only a right but a duty to pass laws against racial exclusion, so intended, but no right to more or less specify that Representatives' skin colors should parallel the population's, regardless of what voters in what I believe is a Constitutionally required colorblind districting might decide.
Larry Morgenstein May 26, 2012 at 12:38 PM
You have failed to mention several outright Republican Gerrymanders that have occurred in the run up to the 2012 election. One of the most aggreious gerrymanders was in Pennsylvania where at least four Freshman Republican house members were placed in very safe staingely drawn districts. Also, Reps Altimre and Critz were forced to face each other and Holden was eventually put into an at risk district that cost him his seat. Also, the twists and turns in the Boehner redistricting of Ohio was legendary for 2012. He exacted a miaculpa revenge on a fellow Republican who dared to defy him. He also moved Dennis Kuchinick out of the house seat by forcing a primary clash against Kilpatrick. But let's not look even handed after all we know your a Romney Stooge.
I think guaranteeing racial preferences in Congressional districts for racial minorities is no longer necessary. After all, atleast some white people voted for a black man in 2008. So black candidates can usually win white votes. But many minorities don't seem to want a level playing field. They seem to want full on reverse descrimination. Hell. I don't blame them. Having an unfair advantage is fun if you can get away with it. I know that saying that makes me a racist bigot, oh well.
You've missed some truly blatant redistricting in Maryland engineered by the wannable president in 2016, spend and tax. ultra liberal, Governor "OWE"Malley .
California unfortunately traded partisan gerrymandering for racial gerrymandering by a less than objective Commission. As a supporter of both Prop. 11 and Prop. 20, I couldn't be more disappointed. I didn't use to think that naivete was a fatal disease. I now know better.
The most interesting proposal I have encountered for how to handle redistricting was mentioned in passing by Jeff Sagarin, who does "power ratings" for sports teams. He lives in Indiana and apparently thinks that Indiana should go back to its "Hoosiers"-style 1-class high school basketball tournament format. As kind of a thought experiment (or something), he prepared this table, which groups Indiana's schools into 64 sectionals, with the goal of minimizing the distance traveled within the sectionals:

At the end he notes:
The exact same technique could be used to redistrict
for congressional and state districts if you were to treat each
voter as a "team". And each district would end up with very close to the
same number of voters and those voters would all be close to each other
geographically. No more ludicrously shaped districts created totally for the
purpose of giving an advantage to the party drawing the lines.
Of course you'd need to use the supercomputers at the major universities
because even using simulated annealing would take a very long time with
several million "teams(voters)" in each state :-D

But the neat thing about is that each party could have a mathematician
who liked them run the program and they'd either both get the same answer,
or the one with the lower total distance would have the better answer.
The fact that this would literally "take politics out of the equation", is probably
the reason that it wouldn't be adopted; each party would worry that an honest
redistricting could take away "their" safe seats.

An intriguing approach to a difficult problem! I am personally of the opinion that the "non-partisan redistricting commissions" are not a fix, and this article tends to confirm that. What is needed is a pre-commitment strategy: a rule that we come up with before the Census, and we follow after the Census results are in. We do this when it comes to congressional apportionment (the Huntington-Hill "equal proportions" method) and those calculations are made without controversy.
There should be a Constitutional amendment to the effect that districts must be compact and contiguous and that district boundaries should follow to the extent reasonably possible existing county, city, town and precinct lines. The inclusion of any particular group or category of voters should be explicitly excluded as justification for variance from these rules. Then let the politicians duke it out.
How about this? Let anyone propose a map. Throw out all those that exceed 1% variance in population, Score the rest by the total length of their boundary lines. (Give a discount for city and county boundary lines.) The plan with the best score is the winner!
Mr Malanga,

If I wanted to design a redistricting algorithm where do I go to get data for testing purposes?
Florida has endured its share of misadventures in redistricting. The state House redistricting was approved by the state Supreme Court, while the state Senate map was sent back to the legislature to be revised. Subsequently, it too was approved by the state Supreme Court. The U.S. congressional seats have been delayed in the lower courts with litigation likely and a redistricted state map that will have to wait until 2014.
In 2010, Florida passed the Fair Districts constitutional amendment that followed along similar lines as you noted: no favor or disfavor to a political party or incumbent; not be drawn with the intent of denying or abridging equal opportunity; consist of contiguous territory; be nearly equal in population as practicable; be compact; and utilize existing political and geographical boundaries where feasible.
The solution is to increase the number of Congressional districts by a multiple of at least two, or to cut them in half.
B. Samuel Davis May 24, 2012 at 10:19 AM
I read this and disgusted - it's no surprise that when Democrats can't win elections they cheat - corruption is second nature to the most corrupt organization on the planet. What a plague these people are!
Clear and interesting discussion of a topic that, despite its immense importance to American Democracy, tends to put people to sleep....or in many cases, render them completely comatose. Great job of explaining why redistricting has become so contentious in recent years.

Calling attention to the inherent problems of redistricting suggests that we might consider eliminating congressional districts entirely and begin moving toward a House of Representatives that looks a bit more like a system of proportional representation. Among many other benefits, this makes it harder for representatives to "bring home the pork spending projects" when "home" is no longer a discrete and relatively homogeneous slice of real estate.
Azizona Eagle . . I read the blog. I note that you unmask others but do not provide any information I could find on your background, etc.
While you may provide an accurate description of the Arizona redistricting process, I am bemused that you do not lift the veil on yourself and tell us who you are, what you have done or did.
Perhaps I got to the wrong web site and you provide your biography.
Also, Justice Thomas is dead right on the poisonous effects of racial politics on our society and polity.
Gee, Democrats cheat. Who'd a thought?
Arizona Eagletarian May 23, 2012 at 6:53 PM
Leading this column with a claim (and a premise) that Arizona's Independent Redistricting effort in 2011 was "anything but nonpartisan" because the Independent chair sided with the Democratic members does a great injustice to your readers. If CJ and the Manhattan Institute are thought (by your readers) to only be superficial propaganda organs, maybe I'm wrong. But if you hope or try to be thoughtful and put effort into understanding the underlying issues that serve as a foundation for your writings, then opening this way fails dramatically.

If you want to understand the issue, you have to understand HOW and WHY AIRC chairwoman Mathis made her decisions, rather than simply dismissing the process out of hand simply because she usually (but did NOT always) agreed with the Democratic members of the Commission.

IF you want to understand the underlying issues, you would do well to read the history of the 2011 AIRC. And no where, outside of the transcripts of Commission meetings, is that available in more succinct, yet comprehensive form than on my blog, the Arizona Eagletarian. Google it, you'll find it easily.