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This computer programmer solved gerrymandering in his spare time
Washington Post ^ | 2014-06-03 | Christopher Ingraham

Posted on 06/03/2014 1:13:21 PM PDT by justlurking

Yesterday, I asked readers how they felt about setting up independent commissions to handle redistricting in each state. Commenter Mitch Beales wrote: "It seems to me that an 'independent panel' is about as likely as politicians redistricting themselves out of office. This is the twenty-first century. How hard can it be to create an algorithm to draw legislative districts after each census?" Reader "BobMunck" agreed: "Why do people need to be involved in mapping the districts?"

They're right. These programs and algorithms already exist. Brian Olson is a software engineer in Massachusetts who wrote a program to draw "optimally compact" equal-population congressional districts in each state, based on 2010 census data. Olson's algorithm draws districts that respect the boundaries of census blocks, which are the smallest geographic units used by the Census Bureau. This ensures that the district boundaries reflect actual neighborhoods and don't, say, cut an arbitrary line through somebody's house.

(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...


TOPICS: Government; Politics/Elections; Technical
KEYWORDS:
I posted the article, but the real interesting part is the website it references:

http://bdistricting.com/2010/

Here's an example for the US Congressional Districts in Texas. The first one is the current district map:

This is the "best" redrawn map, so far:

You can find more detailed information about demographics at the summary link:

http://bdistricting.com/2010/TX_Congress/

I always thought this was the way to go -- no more gerrymandering. The program uses census blocks to divide geographical areas. I'd like to see it respect political boundaries (county, city, etc.), but this is a great start.

Check out your state at the above link.

If you want to participate, you can run a client on your computer to refine the districts and generate a map with a "better" distribution.

1 posted on 06/03/2014 1:13:21 PM PDT by justlurking
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To: justlurking

We have a district in NW FL that cuts thru an apartment complex......


2 posted on 06/03/2014 1:15:34 PM PDT by Red Badger (Soon there will be another American Civil War. Will make the first one seem like a Tea Party........)
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To: justlurking

Gerrymandering is one of the most powerful tools in politics. They won’t give it up. Gerrymandering means that politicians, once in office, never have to worry about getting reelected unless they get primaried out of the running.


3 posted on 06/03/2014 1:16:29 PM PDT by Gen.Blather
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To: Gen.Blather
Gerrymandering is one of the most powerful tools in politics. They won’t give it up.

Oh, I know that. But, this is a useful reference to throw in people's faces when they complain about gerrymandering.

However, It's always the other party's fault. You can use this to show the district map of a state dominated by "their" party, and compare it to the "compact" map.

4 posted on 06/03/2014 1:22:22 PM PDT by justlurking (tagline removed, as demanded by Admin Moderator)
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To: justlurking

The Constitution calls for one representative for every 30,000 citizens. We should have 10,000 representatives. This would eliminate gerrymandering. It would eliminate lobbying - you can’t lobby 5000 required for a vote. The reps would live in their districts and vote by the internet


5 posted on 06/03/2014 1:22:35 PM PDT by FatherofFive (Islam is evil and must be eradicated)
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To: justlurking

> The program uses census blocks to divide geographical areas.

It would be real interesting to see how the census blocks just happen to get re-drawn ;-)


6 posted on 06/03/2014 1:25:27 PM PDT by glorgau
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To: justlurking

Who would set up these ‘independent comissions”? Would this be a federal law or diktat?

What would leftists do without the ability to gerrymander?


7 posted on 06/03/2014 1:26:25 PM PDT by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans)
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To: glorgau

Sounds like a good idea to me.

There would still be some geographically compact areas, such as south side of Chicago, which would always elect Democrats and/or members of certain racial/ethnic groups. However, we wouldn’t see districts drawn specifically to benefit one political party or another. That would be a good change to see.


8 posted on 06/03/2014 1:27:14 PM PDT by Dilbert San Diego (et)
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To: justlurking

They never give up, do they? Massachusetts boy of course targets Texas as his example. Because everybody knows THATS where redistricting is done wrong. Little turd,,,


9 posted on 06/03/2014 1:27:37 PM PDT by DesertRhino (I was standing with a rifle, waiting for soviet paratroopers, but communists just ran for office.)
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To: justlurking

Great post.

Think how few voters even consider how the boundaries are drawn. And among those in the minority who think about it - I bet a lot of them think the boundaries are drawn like the computer example.

Gerrymandering is one of the most powerful tools of The Party (which includes D’s and mainstream R’s) to stay in power.


10 posted on 06/03/2014 1:28:39 PM PDT by rockvillem
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To: Dilbert San Diego

The algorithm will be called “racist” if it doesn’t guarantee that “black seats” in Congress will be guaranteed to remain “black seats”.


11 posted on 06/03/2014 1:29:56 PM PDT by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter admits whom he's working for)
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To: FatherofFive

“The Constitution calls for one representative for every 30,000 citizens. We should have 10,000 representatives. “

The constitution says that we can’t have more than one representative for every 30,000 citizens, it doesn’t recommend require or suggest that we have one representative for every 30,000 citizens.


12 posted on 06/03/2014 1:31:11 PM PDT by Blackyce (French President Jacques Chirac: "As far as I'm concerned, war always means failure.")
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To: justlurking

Yeah, let the computer do it. Look how great it made the college football bowl schedule.


13 posted on 06/03/2014 1:33:15 PM PDT by Dr. Sivana ("I'm a Contra" -- President Ronald Reagan)
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To: MrB

You are right, race will always rear its ugly head in this area of re-districting and representation.


14 posted on 06/03/2014 1:33:33 PM PDT by Dilbert San Diego (et)
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To: justlurking

Computers are racists!


15 posted on 06/03/2014 1:36:17 PM PDT by Dagnabitt (Amnesty is Treason. Its agents are Traitors.)
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To: justlurking

Not exactly. Allen West was redistricted out after Florida gained two seats and the legislature there was controlled by his very own Republican Party.


16 posted on 06/03/2014 1:37:26 PM PDT by Radix ("..Democrats are holding a meeting today to decide whether to overturn the results of the election.")
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To: justlurking

I don’t think there should be redistricting at all. If you live in the county that is who should represent you. Do it by county only. What a waste of money every 10 years trying to squeeze this and that. Use the county and if it does not have enough people in the county...well your chances of getting elected might just go up if you know everyone.


17 posted on 06/03/2014 1:38:38 PM PDT by napscoordinator (Governor Scott Walker 2016 for the future of the country!)
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To: justlurking
For years Democrats gerrymandered this country without mercy. Now, they are on the receiving end and have been screaming like a stuck pig. This is no different than campaign finance reform. When Republicans had the fund-raising advantage Democrats screamed about the filthy, evil campaign money that was corrupting the system. And then Obama raised a billion from world-wide sources. Suddenly, and amazingly, overnight the talk of evil money corrupting the political system was gone.

Redistricting is just the same. Right now Republicans have the edge and Democrats have been doing this ongoing PR campaign to make redistricting “less political”. Baloney. Democrats simply want the advantage here and was retained, they will throw away the key and forever cease talking about a less political redistricting system.

18 posted on 06/03/2014 1:44:01 PM PDT by Obadiah (Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else.)
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To: justlurking
If you want to get rid of gerrymandering, the provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which essentially mandated the creation of "minority-majority" districts, no matter how bizarrely shaped the districts had to be to meet that objective, must be gotten rid of.

Here's what has to be overcome:

Supreme Court to hear Alabama redistricting challenge

You can bet that the plaintiffs want some gerrymandering -- enough to create enough black majority districts to essentially guarantee the election of blacks in proportion of their overall percentage of a state's population. And yet, they don't want too much gerrymandering, which would make the black districts have overwhelming black majorities, thus helping Republicans in adjacent districts.

This comes under the category of being careful what you ask for. When, after numerous court challenges, State Legislatures in states covered by the VRA (mostly Southern states) said, in effect, alright, here are your black districts. Very, very safe black districts, in fact. With, not so incidentally, adjacent districts being "bleached."

The upcoming Supreme Court case will be interesting. I can't see them continuing to mandate racial gerrymandering, while prohibiting partisan gerrymandering. It's probably too much to hope for that the Voting Rights Act be struck down in its entirety (although it has always seemed, from my non-lawyerly perspective, unconstitutional, in that it applied only to certain jurisdictions).

Get rid of racial gerrymandering, and go to a color-blind system. If we did that, I'd be fine with letting a computer draw the lines, with no consideration given to party registration, ethnicity, or the home towns of the incumbents.

19 posted on 06/03/2014 1:45:12 PM PDT by southernnorthcarolina ("The power to tax is the power to destroy." -- Chief Justice John Marshall, 1819)
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To: DesertRhino
Massachusetts boy of course targets Texas as his example.

Uh, no.

The original article (from the Post) cites examples from PA, MD, and NC.

I posted the example from Texas, because I live in Texas, and it was the most interesting one to me.

Because everybody knows THATS where redistricting is done wrong.

I think you should chill out before you pop something.

20 posted on 06/03/2014 1:49:18 PM PDT by justlurking (tagline removed, as demanded by Admin Moderator)
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To: MrB
The algorithm will be called “racist” if it doesn’t guarantee that “black seats” in Congress will be guaranteed to remain “black seats”.

This is one complaint. But, the truth is the Supreme Court has explicitly rejected packing people into "majority minority" districts.

21 posted on 06/03/2014 1:50:14 PM PDT by justlurking (tagline removed, as demanded by Admin Moderator)
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To: justlurking

You left out the most important information.

How does that redistricted Texas map vote compared to how the current district map votes?

Number of GOP congressmen - up or down?


22 posted on 06/03/2014 1:51:37 PM PDT by zeestephen
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To: justlurking

bkmk


23 posted on 06/03/2014 1:53:35 PM PDT by Sergio (An object at rest cannot be stopped! - The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight)
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To: justlurking

The Democrats love to whine that the Republicans only control the House because of Gerrymandering. But that redrawn map of Maryland would probably give the Republicans two seats.

The Eastern shore district is the only one now that’s Republican, and it probably would stay Republican since the territory on the west side of the Chesapeake is outer suburbs that lean Republican. The new northeast district is pretty Republican, and the westernmost district will again become Republican like it used to be after it loses parts of Montgomery County.


24 posted on 06/03/2014 1:54:32 PM PDT by Our man in washington
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To: zeestephen
How does that redistricted Texas map vote compared to how the current district map votes?

How do you propose to determine that information?

One could make an estimate, based on the precinct-by-precinct voting info. But, those boundaries don't necessarily track the census block boundaries.

25 posted on 06/03/2014 1:54:57 PM PDT by justlurking (tagline removed, as demanded by Admin Moderator)
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To: Radix

Correction, my FRiend. Alan West was NEVER a Republican, he just needed a banner to run under.


26 posted on 06/03/2014 1:56:46 PM PDT by fantail 1952 (Common sense policy: Help your friends. Whip your enemies. Sort out the rest later.)
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To: justlurking

Re: “I think you should chill out before you pop something.”

He was trying to be sarcastic.

As I recall, your 2012 redistricting was vigorously and noisily challenged by Democrat legislators, Democrat judges, and the MSM.

Anyway - I laughed when I read his comment.


27 posted on 06/03/2014 2:01:37 PM PDT by zeestephen
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To: Gen.Blather

Check North Carolina District 12 - Mel Watt's old district. Can't even fit the number in it.

28 posted on 06/03/2014 2:03:23 PM PDT by Eccl 10:2 (Prov 3:5 --- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding")
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To: justlurking

I don’t propose to determine that information.

The Texas Republican and Democrat Parties will do it for me.

The Party that comes out on top will call the algorithm “brilliant” and “fair.”

Using a different algorithm, I’ll bet we could draw an aesthetically pleasing district map of Texas that guarantees Republicans will win 90% of the districts.


29 posted on 06/03/2014 2:08:58 PM PDT by zeestephen
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To: FatherofFive
The Constitution calls for one representative for every 30,000 citizens.

Wrong.

From Article I: The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand

"NOT EXCEED" is not the same thing as "SHOULD HAVE".

30 posted on 06/03/2014 2:13:38 PM PDT by Izzy Dunne (Hello, I'm a TAGLINE virus. Please help me spread by copying me into YOUR tag line.)
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To: justlurking

I find it interesting that he feels it necessary to show a table called demographics that only speaks to race. All other factors seem to be ignored.

A cursory glance at my own and neighboring states seems to suggest that the algorithm tends to split major metropolitan areas. This could either water down the liberal concentration and elect more Republicans, or it could put liberals over the top in more districts. Wonder which one?


31 posted on 06/03/2014 2:16:04 PM PDT by centurion316
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To: FatherofFive

“The Constitution calls for one representative for every 30,000 citizens. We should have 10,000 representatives.”

Better retake U. S. Constitution 101 ...


32 posted on 06/03/2014 2:16:25 PM PDT by TexasGator
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To: zeestephen
As I recall, your 2012 redistricting was vigorously and noisily challenged by Democrat legislators, Democrat judges, and the MSM.

As was Alabama (which was just taken up by the Supreme Court yesterday), and a lot of other states. A summary of redistricting challenges:

http://redistricting.lls.edu/who-courtfed10.php

It's a bit out-of-date, as it doesn't include Alabama.

33 posted on 06/03/2014 2:17:09 PM PDT by justlurking (tagline removed, as demanded by Admin Moderator)
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To: centurion316

” the algorithm tends to “

We need a bipartisan committee to review program for biases ...


34 posted on 06/03/2014 2:18:26 PM PDT by TexasGator
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To: GeronL

Right now, there is an Independent Commission in Arizona. It is made up of 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats and 1 ‘Independent’ chosen by the Governor. The ‘Independent’ is actually a Democrat. The 3 Dems met behind closed doors (illegal) and Gerrymandered to their heart’s content. This resulted in 5 Dem and 4 Repub Congresspeople from Arizona in the last election. We have an R Governor, 2 R Senators, an R Atty General and an R Sec of State. The Governor sued to overturn the new Congressional map and was denied by a Lib judge. THAT is what happens when the people try to get an Independent Commission.


35 posted on 06/03/2014 2:21:17 PM PDT by originalbuckeye (Moderation in temper is always a virtue; moderation in principle is always a vice. Paine)
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To: justlurking

I always thought that a computer should be used and that part of the formula should be ease to get to the polling locations.

I can see the election location for the next district in my area. I can walk there in 5 minutes, my neighbor across the road votes there, unfortunately, I have to drive 20 minutes to my polling location.

It is stupid as %#$$.


36 posted on 06/03/2014 2:37:08 PM PDT by FreeAtlanta (Liberty or Big Government - you can't have both.)
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To: Gen.Blather

GErrymandering also means that more people are represented by politicians who agree with them.

Which would you rather, be represented by your own party, or the opposing party? Gerrymandering ensures that more people are represented by their own party.

Gerrymandering may also actually make it easier to get “better” candidates. In a district where the split is 50/50, nobody is going to look for a “better” candidate on their side than the incumbent, for fear that if they did, the other side would win. But if you are a “safe” district, you can primary the guy knowing that whoever wins the primary will still likely win the election.


37 posted on 06/03/2014 2:40:56 PM PDT by CharlesWayneCT
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To: originalbuckeye

bump


38 posted on 06/03/2014 2:45:26 PM PDT by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans)
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To: FatherofFive

Yes, but why stop there? If we has the same level of representation in the US house that NH chooses to provide to their citizenry in their state house, the US house would have roughly 100,000 members. And NH pays their reps the princely sum of $100 per year for their service.

But it ain’t gonna happen. Adequate representation is so, well, retro for our overlords to be bothered with.

See tag line.


39 posted on 06/03/2014 2:46:10 PM PDT by RKBA Democrat (Be a part of the American freedom migration: freestateproject.org)
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To: CharlesWayneCT

“But if you are a “safe” district, you can primary the guy knowing that whoever wins the primary will still likely win the election.”

The incumbent becomes so powerful that he acquires a huge campaign war chest. It takes three million dollars to run a successful campaign for a House seat. But an incumbent facing a primary can spend a million or two in a challenge where a new candidate would have to come up with a million or so for the primary and then three million for the actual election. It’s darn hard to primary somebody.


40 posted on 06/03/2014 2:52:34 PM PDT by Gen.Blather
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To: justlurking
Examples of Xtreme Gerrymandering:


41 posted on 06/03/2014 4:16:21 PM PDT by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis
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To: FatherofFive
The Constitution calls for one representative for every 30,000 citizens. We should have 10,000 representatives. This would eliminate gerrymandering. It would eliminate lobbying - you can’t lobby 5000 required for a vote. The reps would live in their districts and vote by the internet

And they get paid the mean average income in the country or state.)

42 posted on 06/03/2014 4:21:00 PM PDT by Doomonyou (Let them eat Lead.)
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To: FatherofFive

one rep per 750,000 citizens. the 30,000 may have been original but it isn’t that now.


43 posted on 06/03/2014 5:42:40 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (Gone Galt; Not averse to Going Bronson.)
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To: justlurking
Gerrymandering is fine, many times these “independent panels” are code for leftist packed bureaucratic committees. No thanks, and since WE have to contend with so called “majority-minority” districts (by law) that means that WE must gerrymander too, sorry the anti-gerrymander bunch are just pie-in-the sky naive people!
44 posted on 06/03/2014 7:00:36 PM PDT by JSDude1
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To: zeestephen
You left out the most important information.

How does that redistricted Texas map vote compared to how the current district map votes?

Number of GOP congressmen - up or down?

I really don't care. If we agreed on an algorithm, and the application of said system to validated census data would always generate the same map, I don't care who 'wins'.

45 posted on 06/03/2014 7:21:45 PM PDT by zeugma (I have never seen anyone cross the street to avoid a black man in a suit.)
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To: JSDude1
Jonah Goldberg's already written about the need for a bigger House at least once here.
46 posted on 06/03/2014 7:25:33 PM PDT by tenger (It's a good thing we don't get all the government we pay for. -Will Rogers)
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To: Gen.Blather

yeah gerrymandering is like the rent controlled buildings of politics. Shady, slimy and should be illegal!


47 posted on 06/03/2014 8:32:59 PM PDT by Blue Highway
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