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Author Topic: Is it possible to ban gerrymandering?  (Read 2580 times)
morgieb
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« on: January 02, 2012, 09:22:53 pm »
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Well?
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krazen1211
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« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2012, 09:48:52 pm »
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There needs to be a legal definition for gerrymandering first.
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benconstine
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« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2012, 10:13:28 pm »
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There needs to be a legal definition for gerrymandering first.

That, or a law mandating how everyone redistricts.
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2012, 10:28:23 pm »
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Completely? No, probably not.

But I think if you have very clear rules in place about county and city splits, and so on, you can greatly reduce it. I think this is more necessary than ever given how sophisticated/insane computers have allowed gerrymandering to become.
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muon2
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« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2012, 02:13:38 am »

First, there needs to be a set of clear geographic rules such as restrictions on county and municipal splits, beyond the minimum needed to meet federal law. Keeping split governments to one per pair of districts is probably as good a benchmark as any.

Second there needs to be a test to measure whether the map is too partisan. This has been the issue on which the court has yet to agree, though a clear majority believes that a test is desirable.

I would suggest that a simple test that would measure the PVI for the state and for each district. The state's PVI would determine the majority party for the state. Then count each district with a PVI over 5 as a whole seat for that party and over 1 as a half seat for the party. PVI's of 1 or 0 don't count for either side. Find the difference between the majority party's seats and the minority party's seats, divide by the total number of districts, and subtract the percentage PVI for the state. That's the measure of the map's partisan bias.

One expects any map to have some partisan impact, but not to dominate over other redistricting principles. To make a statistical argument that partisan gerrymandering has gone to far, I would multiply the partisan bias percentage by the number of districts in the state and square it. If that number is larger than the number of districts the partisan gerrymander is dominating other effects.

For example let's use the new WA congressional map. The state has a PVI of D+5. According to Krazen's post
PVIs from RRH.

1. D+1
2. D+7
3. R+3
4. R+13
5. R+6
6. D+5
7. D+29
8. R+3
9. D+16
10. D+5

There are 4 seats for the Dems (3+2 halves) and 3 seats for the GOP (2+2 halves) for a partisan difference of D+1. That translates to a partisan bias factor of 5% (1*10%-5%) which isn't much. The gerrymander test gives 0.5 squared or 0.25 which is far less than the 10 seats.

For IL the state PVI is D+8 and the result of the map is partisan difference of D+7.5 seats or a partisan bias factor of 34%. The gerrymander test gives 37 which is much larger than the 18 districts. It's fair to say that partisan concerns dominated the IL map, which is what the federal court said, but couldn't test.

As other PVI's come in I'd be happy to test them as well.
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bgwah
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« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2012, 02:19:06 am »
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I don't believe in purposely gerrymandering a strong seat for a party. But I also don't believe in purposely gerrymandering swing seats.
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Lewis Trondheim
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« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2012, 05:10:03 am »
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To a degree. In states with strong initiative-and-referendum processes.
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« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2012, 06:02:59 am »
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Since it would be too difficult to pass a constitutional amendment, it would have to be done through the initiative process.
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Lewis Trondheim
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« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2012, 06:12:29 am »
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Since it would be too difficult to pass a constitutional amendment, it would have to be done through the initiative process.
It's also not going to happen if the parties have any say in it.
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muon2
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« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2012, 09:21:02 am »

I don't believe in purposely gerrymandering a strong seat for a party. But I also don't believe in purposely gerrymandering swing seats.

But there should also be something to prevent a party from creating no swing seats, much like the current CA congressional map. Some number of swing seats insure that the legislature can change with the interests of the public.
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muon2
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« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2012, 11:15:31 am »

I've dug up a couple more states and modified my rounding rules to be consistent. Most of the PVI's reported are in whole numbers so a D+5.2 = D+5. I'll round the PVI to the nearest percent before using it to determine the status of a district. That matters for instance in IL where 3 districts are between D+5.0 and D+5.5.

I can also measure the swing seat composition of a map with a similar technique. Add half the lean districts (PVI 2-5) to the even seats (PVI 0-1) to get a total. The swing seat factor (SSF) is the square of that total should be roughly equal to the number of districts in the state if the map has neither too few nor too many swing districts.

IL (18): Partisan Difference D+6, Partisan Bias 25.6%, PBF 21.2, Swing seats 4, SSF 16.
NJ (12): PD D+2.5, PBI 16.4%, PBF 3.9, Swing seats 2.5, SSF 6.
PA (18): PD R+4.5, PBI 27.0%, PBF 23.6, Swing seats 4.5, SSF 20.
WA (10): PD D+1, PBI 5.0%, PBF 0.3, Swing seats 3, SSF 9.

What this would suggest is that IL and PA are partisan gerrymanders, and NJ is fair but leans towards incumbent protection. WA passes this partisan test, though it could have other problems on purely geographical factors like county integrity.
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« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2012, 04:51:03 pm »
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The Constitution mandates districts, IIRC, but one idea I've liked for legislative districts is to just use the existing congressional districts and make them multi-member constituences using proportional representation for state legislative elections. This might not work in California and other states with an absurdly small number of seats in their state legislatures.

In Washington, though, we could have ten districts, each with ten seats*, for our state house.

Republicans in Seattle could be represented in the state legislature. Same with Democrats in rural Eastern Washington. This would also make it easier for minorities (like Hispanics in Central Washington) to get elected. Third parties would also have a chance to get elected.

*I believe a Constitutional amendment would be required, as the current Constitution caps the house at 99. You could also just do 9-seat districts, I guess.
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« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2012, 04:56:21 pm »
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The United States Constitution doesn't ban multi-member districts, if that's what you mean. They've often been used, although not in the last half-century or so.

I don't believe in purposely gerrymandering a strong seat for a party. But I also don't believe in purposely gerrymandering swing seats.

If anything, that's even worse, because when every seat is a swing seat you get swings in the composition of the legislature entirely out of proportion to the change in votes.
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« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2012, 06:44:14 pm »
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I've dug up a couple more states and modified my rounding rules to be consistent. Most of the PVI's reported are in whole numbers so a D+5.2 = D+5. I'll round the PVI to the nearest percent before using it to determine the status of a district. That matters for instance in IL where 3 districts are between D+5.0 and D+5.5.

I can also measure the swing seat composition of a map with a similar technique. Add half the lean districts (PVI 2-5) to the even seats (PVI 0-1) to get a total. The swing seat factor (SSF) is the square of that total should be roughly equal to the number of districts in the state if the map has neither too few nor too many swing districts.

IL (18): Partisan Difference D+6, Partisan Bias 25.6%, PBF 21.2, Swing seats 4, SSF 16.
NJ (12): PD D+2.5, PBI 16.4%, PBF 3.9, Swing seats 2.5, SSF 6.
PA (18): PD R+4.5, PBI 27.0%, PBF 23.6, Swing seats 4.5, SSF 20.
WA (10): PD D+1, PBI 5.0%, PBF 0.3, Swing seats 3, SSF 9.

What this would suggest is that IL and PA are partisan gerrymanders, and NJ is fair but leans towards incumbent protection. WA passes this partisan test, though it could have other problems on purely geographical factors like county integrity.

How would this work with Massachusetts and its 0 swing seats?

As I understand it these are the Massachusetts PVIs.

1: D+14
2: D+12
3: D+8
4: D+11
5: D+15
6: D+6
7: D+30
8: D+8
9: D+7
« Last Edit: January 03, 2012, 07:18:14 pm by krazen1211 »Logged
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brittain33
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« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2012, 06:50:49 pm »
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Massachusetts has some seats which would be swing seats by PVI but are solid Dem because of the total lack of quality GOP candidates.
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krazen1211
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« Reply #15 on: January 03, 2012, 07:46:34 pm »
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Massachusetts has some seats which would be swing seats by PVI but are solid Dem because of the total lack of quality GOP candidates.

I certainly agree with the general notion that the failure of a party to win swing seats is not the fault of the map. Michigan, for instance, has only 2 McCain districts and the strongest of those is 50.34% McCain.
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« Reply #16 on: January 04, 2012, 01:09:09 pm »
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Massachusetts has some seats which would be swing seats by PVI but are solid Dem because of the total lack of quality GOP candidates.

I certainly agree with the general notion that the failure of a party to win swing seats is not the fault of the map. Michigan, for instance, has only 2 McCain districts and the strongest of those is 50.34% McCain.

How many of the districts were won by Bush in 2004?
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muon2
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« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2012, 01:52:10 pm »

I've dug up a couple more states and modified my rounding rules to be consistent. Most of the PVI's reported are in whole numbers so a D+5.2 = D+5. I'll round the PVI to the nearest percent before using it to determine the status of a district. That matters for instance in IL where 3 districts are between D+5.0 and D+5.5.

I can also measure the swing seat composition of a map with a similar technique. Add half the lean districts (PVI 2-5) to the even seats (PVI 0-1) to get a total. The swing seat factor (SSF) is the square of that total should be roughly equal to the number of districts in the state if the map has neither too few nor too many swing districts.

IL (18): Partisan Difference D+6, Partisan Bias 25.6%, PBF 21.2, Swing seats 4, SSF 16.
NJ (12): PD D+2.5, PBI 16.4%, PBF 3.9, Swing seats 2.5, SSF 6.
PA (18): PD R+4.5, PBI 27.0%, PBF 23.6, Swing seats 4.5, SSF 20.
WA (10): PD D+1, PBI 5.0%, PBF 0.3, Swing seats 3, SSF 9.

What this would suggest is that IL and PA are partisan gerrymanders, and NJ is fair but leans towards incumbent protection. WA passes this partisan test, though it could have other problems on purely geographical factors like county integrity.

How would this work with Massachusetts and its 0 swing seats?

As I understand it these are the Massachusetts PVIs.

1: D+14
2: D+12
3: D+8
4: D+11
5: D+15
6: D+6
7: D+30
8: D+8
9: D+7

Massachusetts has some seats which would be swing seats by PVI but are solid Dem because of the total lack of quality GOP candidates.

Actually none of the districts in MA would be swing seats based on my criteria, since the best is D+6. The formula would give a PBF of 63 and a SSF of 0. MA will always be a partisan map since there are no compact areas for a district with a majority of GOPs. However, the map could have been drawn with a couple of swing seats (MA-6 and 9 would probably be the easiest to shift) to lower the PBF and increase the SSF. It would still be partisan, but not such much incumbent protection.
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krazen1211
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« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2012, 04:22:39 pm »
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Massachusetts has some seats which would be swing seats by PVI but are solid Dem because of the total lack of quality GOP candidates.

I certainly agree with the general notion that the failure of a party to win swing seats is not the fault of the map. Michigan, for instance, has only 2 McCain districts and the strongest of those is 50.34% McCain.

How many of the districts were won by Bush in 2004?


9. Incidentally Bush won 10 districts on the current map and the legislature eliminated a Bush district.
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« Reply #19 on: January 04, 2012, 04:52:44 pm »
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The main thing is to take redistricting out of the hands of partisan legislatures and into the hands of procedurally neutral commissions of some sort. It's a basic democratic principle: the management of the election shouldn't be in the hands of one of the parties competing in it. I think this is much more important than developing an exact mathematical definition of a "fair" map.

I can understand the existence of criticisms of the various commission-drawn maps, but these criticisms only make sense against the background of a much higher expectation of fairness for the commissions. Any of AZ, WA or NJ would be considered at most a very mild gerrymander if they were instituted by a legislature of the party on whom they are supposed to confer advantage.
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muon2
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« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2012, 11:40:49 am »

The main thing is to take redistricting out of the hands of partisan legislatures and into the hands of procedurally neutral commissions of some sort. It's a basic democratic principle: the management of the election shouldn't be in the hands of one of the parties competing in it. I think this is much more important than developing an exact mathematical definition of a "fair" map.

I can understand the existence of criticisms of the various commission-drawn maps, but these criticisms only make sense against the background of a much higher expectation of fairness for the commissions. Any of AZ, WA or NJ would be considered at most a very mild gerrymander if they were instituted by a legislature of the party on whom they are supposed to confer advantage.

Better still is to have the commission sort from publicly generated maps. The MN contest drew 500 submissions after the OH contest had 100 entries. The public can draw good maps, and with some guidelines as to the goals from the commission then the effects of any commission bias can be reduced.
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« Reply #21 on: January 06, 2012, 01:24:44 am »
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The main thing is to take redistricting out of the hands of partisan legislatures and into the hands of procedurally neutral commissions of some sort. It's a basic democratic principle: the management of the election shouldn't be in the hands of one of the parties competing in it. I think this is much more important than developing an exact mathematical definition of a "fair" map.

I can understand the existence of criticisms of the various commission-drawn maps, but these criticisms only make sense against the background of a much higher expectation of fairness for the commissions. Any of AZ, WA or NJ would be considered at most a very mild gerrymander if they were instituted by a legislature of the party on whom they are supposed to confer advantage.

Better still is to have the commission sort from publicly generated maps. The MN contest drew 500 submissions after the OH contest had 100 entries. The public can draw good maps, and with some guidelines as to the goals from the commission then the effects of any commission bias can be reduced.

Whomever sets the "guidelines," in effect, will draw the lines through the surrogates of his choosing. Any "contest" merely will offer the veneer of democratic participation in what is really an elite-driven process.

Which maps submitted by the public are "good" depends a lot on your point of view. One person might view maps that are compact and rather squarish "good," while another might view maps that meander to group together "communities of interests," whatever that means, as "good."

Many of the problems associated with redistricting are moral. We have elected politicians whom will not pursue the general interest. The solution to many of the problems associated with redistricting is going to have to be an equally moral solution. It's hard to legislate morality, and, it is nearly impossible to mathematically quantify morality.
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« Reply #22 on: January 06, 2012, 09:21:28 am »
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« Reply #23 on: January 06, 2012, 09:26:52 pm »
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The main thing is to take redistricting out of the hands of partisan legislatures and into the hands of procedurally neutral commissions of some sort. It's a basic democratic principle: the management of the election shouldn't be in the hands of one of the parties competing in it. I think this is much more important than developing an exact mathematical definition of a "fair" map.

I can understand the existence of criticisms of the various commission-drawn maps, but these criticisms only make sense against the background of a much higher expectation of fairness for the commissions. Any of AZ, WA or NJ would be considered at most a very mild gerrymander if they were instituted by a legislature of the party on whom they are supposed to confer advantage.

Better still is to have the commission sort from publicly generated maps. The MN contest drew 500 submissions after the OH contest had 100 entries. The public can draw good maps, and with some guidelines as to the goals from the commission then the effects of any commission bias can be reduced.
Better still to have the public determine the maps.  It is legitimate for the public to have a bias and act upon that bias.
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« Reply #24 on: January 07, 2012, 12:44:58 am »

The main thing is to take redistricting out of the hands of partisan legislatures and into the hands of procedurally neutral commissions of some sort. It's a basic democratic principle: the management of the election shouldn't be in the hands of one of the parties competing in it. I think this is much more important than developing an exact mathematical definition of a "fair" map.

I can understand the existence of criticisms of the various commission-drawn maps, but these criticisms only make sense against the background of a much higher expectation of fairness for the commissions. Any of AZ, WA or NJ would be considered at most a very mild gerrymander if they were instituted by a legislature of the party on whom they are supposed to confer advantage.

Better still is to have the commission sort from publicly generated maps. The MN contest drew 500 submissions after the OH contest had 100 entries. The public can draw good maps, and with some guidelines as to the goals from the commission then the effects of any commission bias can be reduced.
Better still to have the public determine the maps.  It is legitimate for the public to have a bias and act upon that bias.


Agreed, but there is a role for an outside group to set clear standards so that public maps can be compared. A commission can perform that task.
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