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Wanted: Honest Algorithms For Voter Redistricting
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Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
8/9/2014 | 11:01:34 AM
Re: Piano Teacher Redistricted Better than Pennsylvania Legislature
Good spot - actually I think the reason of the dilemma is that, the higher the level of the people, the more complicated the matter becomes.:-) Even the simple things get complicated when it comes to politians.:-)
joebaker
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joebaker,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/8/2014 | 1:27:10 PM
Re: What about existing boundaries, like town and counties?
Almost all of what I'm reading and your comment especially is soooo true.  Here in Alabama, the majority Repubs are doing what the Dems did before as far as redistricting.  And the Repubs could easily justify it to the Feds for Feb approval as the minority race Dem incumbents remained almost untouched, though majority race Dems lost their "areas" or districts.  This leads to favorable conditions for crony politicians it appears.

Based on the above, I believe this is driving the so-called polarization in Congress ... because the districts are so polarized.  Candidates that make it to congress have little incentive (or perhaps the will or the mandate) to compromise for an 80% favorable result.  
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
8/8/2014 | 12:15:54 PM
Re: Know your enemy
In the Florida case, it seems the judge determined that even distribution of voters across districts ("fairness") trumped any bias toward minority representation that might be allowed under the Voting Rights Act. Hell, I'm not a lawyer. I just know that the stated rules of the game in Florida read like a fairly simple algorithm - I think people needlessly overcomplicated it.
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
8/8/2014 | 11:59:35 AM
Re: Know your enemy
I know straw men are easier to kill than the real thing, but I dont' believe I used the phrase 'all the power.'  While I'll posit that a district as egregious as either of our examples would be obvious, I think you would have to allow that the move of a neighborhood here or there can significantly change the makeup of a district, and could be very hard to spot.  One would assume that any such program would keep state and local (city, county,school) districts together as much as possilbe, otherwise you would have multiple districts within a precienct, or multiple local jurisdictins, and either of those would cause a nearly unsurmountable problem for the local voting authorities.


And if you believe that the actual source code and raw data for any redistricting program would be available to the public, I'd ask you to do a little research on VA waiting lists, or the Obamacare web site.  The gubmint is made up of people, and contrary to the hopes and wishes of people who believe that it is full of unbiased technocrats who have only the good of the people in their minds and hearts, they are just as likely to lie, cheat, and manipulate as the denizens of any evil mulitnational corporation.  Just ask Lois Lerner...

But all that is moot anyway. No such scheme could never make it past the Voting Rights Act as currently written and enforced since it would dilute minority representation dramatically. You're not against the Voting Rights Act, are you?
Number 6
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Number 6,
User Rank: Moderator
8/8/2014 | 10:54:09 AM
Piano Teacher Redistricted Better than Pennsylvania Legislature
An average citizen with low-tech tools did a better job of redistricting than the politicians.  Gee, what a surprise.  See one of many stories about Amanda Holt here:

http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2012/12/amanda_holt_is_pennsylvanias_citizen_activist_of_the_year.html

 
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
8/8/2014 | 10:44:22 AM
Re: Know your enemy
The concern about he who writes the algorithm holding all the power seems misplaced to me. As long as the same formula is applied to every district, there's no way you can come up with something like Florida's 5th Congressional district. Manipulation of the system becomes a lot more obvious, if every other district is compact and one or two are way out of whack.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
8/8/2014 | 10:40:47 AM
Re: What about existing boundaries, like town and counties?
If you start with a computation that gives you a map of compact districts, aligned with natural and city / county borders where possible -- which is entirely possible to reduce to an algorithm -- and try to stick to that as much as possible, I think that would be a great start.
UberGoober
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UberGoober,
User Rank: Strategist
8/8/2014 | 10:28:09 AM
Know your enemy
The biggest issue with such a solution, at least until early 2017, wouldn't be the politicians whose interest might be harmed.  It would be the Attorney General of the United States. 


Under Eric Holder, nothing ever would be allowed that might under any conceivable (and many inconceivable) circumstance reduce by a scintilla the representation of minoriities.  Since many of the districts that reliably send minority Representatives to congress are the most Gerrymandered (I'll give you Texas 19, home of "Queen" Sheila Jackson-Lee as an irrefutable example), any attempt to rationalize them would result in an immediate protest.  The proposal would be declared in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the proposer would be declared an evil racist.


I'll also point out that he who controls the algorithms would weild significant powe, but in a more disguised way.  Computer modeling is only as good as the model and the data you feed it, and if you get to control the model, you can tweak it to give pretty much any results you want.  Sorry, but I think that one can go very wrong placing too much faith in 'honest' technocrats.
NJ Mike
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NJ Mike,
User Rank: Strategist
8/8/2014 | 9:53:38 AM
Re: What about existing boundaries, like town and counties?
The problem with using algorithms (is that music the ex-VP dances to - sorry, had to slip that in) is they can be still manipulated, but that manipulation will be hidden.  You can never get the politics out of re-districting.  What needs to be done is find out a way to have the process as tranparent as possible.  The issue/requirement of having race-based districts enters into this (the virtue of which is a subject of debate, but not here on an IT forum), so you will have to have some sort of human intervention will be necessary.

The concept of getting the element of human intervention out of this process is nice, but the devil will be in the details, and those details occur whether you use a computer algorithm, or have people use a dry erase board to do it.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
8/8/2014 | 9:15:43 AM
Re: What about existing boundaries, like town and counties?
@Gary_El, at least with humans in charge, you have someone to blame.
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