Category Archives: gerrymandering

Why Tuesday on the Redistricting Game

Redistricting Game

The folks at Why Tuesday have made a 5 minute video segment where they visit Chris Swain, director of the University of Southern California’s Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab to discuss The Redistricting Game.

View the segment.

While you are at it, you can visit the Redistricting Game blog

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A predictable outcome

Most single winner districts are extremely predictable in that one can predict with very high probability who will win an election long before the actual election occurs.

This certainly occurs with gerrymandered single winner districts and is possibly inherit to single winner districts that use the conventional plurality voting system (vote for one, whoever gets the most votes wins).

Only a few factors can lead to a very solid prediction of who will win. Incumbency is one such factor. Incumbents almost never lose.

Take the 2006 midterm elections as an example. This is viewed as ‘a great change election’. In that election over 94% of incumbents remained in power. And this, indeed, was a shake-up. Normally an incumbent will win an election 98% of the time.

To see just how predictable elections are, consider the projections that FairVote makes in it’s Monopoly politics report. They make their predictions 2 years ahead of the elections and have had an accuracy rate of 99.8% in projecting winners in the 1,613 races the called between 1996-2004 (for 552 races they did
not make predictions but instead labeled these races as competitive or vulnerable). The only data that they use in predicting the winner for a district is the results from recent federal elections in the district and the incumbent’s party and seniority.

So incumbents win 98% of the time and 75% of US legislature elections are predictable with 99.8% accuracy more than one year ahead of the elections. In other words, we don’t really have a two party dominated political system. Instead each voter is effectively dominated by one party.


An open question:

The ‘one party’ article references the ‘political oddsmaker’ site by Ron Faucheux. However, the link to it is broken. Is this still online? What is the link?

shortest splitline algorithm vs voting rights act?

When we first discussed the shortest-splitline algorithm for eliminating gerrymandering, Warren D. Smith had commented on the potential issue that current law mandates majority-minority districts.

The “issue” that gerrymandering to make majority-minority districts is required by law… sounds interesting. I encourage you to actually look at the law and inform us what the heck you are talking about.

Alas, I never did do that research. I had originally suspected that this might be so from the redistricting game.

It looks like Warren has now heard the same message from CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen while attending the Electronic Voting technology Workshop in Boston.

Here is what Warren has said on the matter:

CA secretary of state and heroine D. Bowen was there listening to the talks. I sat next to her at lunch and tried my best to give her the goods. But she’s very knowledgeable. I’m impressed. She said shortest splitline would be illegal under the voting rights act. Basically her argument was that gerrymandering is mandated by the VRA to create “majority minority” districts and splitline would prevent that hence is illegal, QED.

I suppose that I (or someone) should do the legwork to read the voting rights act to see what it has to say on the matter.

42% of the popular vote, but 0 of 17 seats awarded

An excellent example of the disenfranchisement that can be caused by using single winner districts to elect members to a legislature can be seen in the 1926 Canadian federal election for the province of Manitoba.

The province of Manitoba was entitled to 17 seats. The Conservative party had 42.2% of the popular vote within Manitoba but was unable to win any of the single winner districts.

Here is the data care of RangeVoting.org :

Political party % votes Number of seats % seats
Conservative 42.2% 0 0%
Liberal-Progressive 19.5% 7 41%
Liberal Party 18.4% 4 24%
Progressive 11.2% 4 24%
Labour 8.7% 2 12%

More information about the 1926 Manitoba election can also be found on wikipedia

pics of CA gerrymandering and how the splitline algorithm would do it

Nick requested to see CA districting under the shortest splitline algorithm.

From http://www.rangevoting.org/GerryExamples.html:

In 2004, not one of CA’s 173 state legislative and federal congressional seats changed party-hands. In 2002, every incumbent won re-election, on average with 69% of the vote. California may be the new gerrymandering champion, perhaps even worse than Illinois and Texas, but unlike them its gerrymandering is “bipartisan” that is, arranged by agreement among the Democrats and Republicans to “design their own districts” to make every office holder “safe.”

CA districts under the shortest splitline algorithm:
Continue reading

More on the shortest split-line algorithm with pretty pictures

I’m a sucker for pictures. They communicate ideas quite succinctly.
Here I show some examples of congressional districts as they are drawn currently and as the shortest split-line algorithm would draw them. Continue reading

some proposed reforms to the problems of gerrymandering

If one insists on electing members of a legislative body via districted single-winner elections then the problem of gerrymandering will surface.

Can gerrymandering be solved?
There are a number of proposed reforms out there. Continue reading