Eat your heart out, Tom Delay
December 27, 2009 9:07 AM   Subscribe

For serious Poli Sci junkies only: the Swing State Project is holding a contest for best redistricting of New York, using the nerdtastic Dave's Redistricting App. (Requires Silverlight, reading instructions highly recommended.)

New York is virtually certain to lose a seat in the House of Representatives after the 2010 redistricting, so your challenge is to create 28 new districts that have a partisan makeup likely to elect no fewer than 26 Democratic representatives. New districts must have equal population (+/- 1%) and not violate the Voting Rights Act's provisions on minority representation. Bonus points for screwing Peter King in some fashion.
posted by Horace Rumpole (13 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've always thought that fewer "artificial" districts would result if there was a requirement that all districts be convex closed curves, except where bounding geography prevents it.
posted by schrodycat at 9:47 AM on December 27, 2009

If you need some guided practice, try The Redistricting Game. A friendlier interface, and it even covers some of the basics of the Voting Rights Act.
posted by persona at 9:58 AM on December 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

I hate this concept. I sounds to me like the game plan has become lets use the census data and party registration lists to enable parties to get richer and more corrupt. There is no regard here for community interests (other than if you think the democratic party somehow better represents those interests). How about instead we focus on a redistricting strategy that organizes people around common shared resources like watersheds, services (roads, utility networks, etc) and school districts. Also people should have some opportunity to choose their congressional district. Perhaps individuals could fill out a form that was used to programmatically assign CD boundaries. Even an automated poll with sufficient random sampling of the community could be used to determine things like transit patterns, service requirements, etc.
posted by humanfont at 10:04 AM on December 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Pfft, humans are so heuristic and unreliable: Shortest Splitline ftw.
posted by Skorgu at 10:04 AM on December 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm so glad NY is losing a representative, it will make Congress even less proportionally representative of NY than it already is. Yay!
posted by kathrineg at 10:23 AM on December 27, 2009

There is no unbiased way to draw districts. An example that was at 538 or one of Andrew Gelman's blogs was urbanicity. If one party tends to be urban, your convex curve or minimal-path methods will absolutely screw that party by concentrating its voters into a minimum number of districts.

The two methods which are most interesting are a requirement to make the most districts competitive as possible (which will create serpentine districts and exaggerate small differences in the electorate) and as uncompetitive as possible (which will create compact districts and california-esque dysfunction).

In the modern era constituent service by legislators is pretty minimal. It should be done away with or shifted to other offices.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:42 AM on December 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Peter King will come out of the redistricting smelling like a rose. Adding Republicans to his district makes the other three Long Island districts, none of which is truly safe, that much more likely to withstand a bad year for Democrats were one to come along. Also, it's pretty dubious from the standpoint of (for example) federal transportation funding to go to zero Republican congressmen from the entire NY metro area.

The 13th District -- the long-time Republican district focused on Staten Island, that went Democrat last year, can't have much done for it. Staten Island is growing faster than the state as a whole, so the district will have to give back some of Brooklyn, and become more Republican in so doing.

Upstate, Democrats have won too many seats in 2006 to 2009 to protect them all from a -1 reapportionment. It's hard to draw an upstate map without two Republican districts (including the fundamentally Republican 23rd which Democrats won in a fluke this year), so the likely move is to sacrifice the weakest of the newly-won non-23rd seats (or the easiest Republican take-back in 2010) in the reapportionment, while the 23rd keeps its basic boundaries and Democrats have to fight it on personal appeal.
posted by MattD at 11:31 AM on December 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

(By the way, my "zero" count for the region assumes that Republicans won't take back the southwest suburbs district in Connecticut, and that the New Jersey 7th District, represented by a freshman Republican, will be NJ's sacrifice for reapportionment.)
posted by MattD at 11:33 AM on December 27, 2009

Losing Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst doesn't seem like it would be losing Democratic voters at all. In fact it would be a benefit.
posted by cazoo at 4:07 PM on December 27, 2009

There is no unbiased way to draw districts.

And there's no reason to have them. We may as well vote partisan by each state and eliminate both redistricting and the spoiler effect for the House, and it would end the stalemate of a two party system. Having said that, I think it would be a good idea to have Senate districts, because there's no way to gerrymander two districts effectively, and I don't see the point in having two clones from each state.
posted by Brian B. at 4:44 PM on December 27, 2009

Hmm, seems like we need someone objective and apolitical to put this together.

Sounds like a job for an open source computer algorithm, rather than a committee. That said, good luck getting that past existing representatives. Plus, there will always be idiots who quote comments from the code out of context, a la the CRU emails.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:56 PM on December 27, 2009

So sliverlight jokes? You guys are slipping.
posted by delmoi at 11:30 PM on December 27, 2009

Does it come in Flash, or do Microsoft control the vote now?
posted by mr. strange at 8:42 AM on December 28, 2009

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