The redistricting game.

I’ve often tried to explain redistricting software to people, how consultants turn our post-census process into a way to cement the majority’s hold on power for another year through gerrymandering. Now there’s a web-based redistricting software simulator, in the style of a game, that provides a really excellent look at how the process works. Better still, it’s fun. More people need to use this website to understand how entirely untenable our current redistricting process is. It’s long past time for a non-partisan (not bipartisan) system.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

8 replies on “The redistricting game.”

  1. There’s some kind of federal law/court decision which forces states to protect or create opportunities for minority representation. So what sometimes happens is that “majority minority” district is gerrymandered resulting in the election of a minority candidate. Perversely, this usually ends up hurting Democrats in neighboring districts who see thousands and thousands of their most reliable voters packed into a single district, creating opportunities for Republicans in those districts that otherwise would not exist.

    I’m curious if anyone knows whether Va’s 3rd district represented by Bobby Scott is such a district. It doesn’t look all that misshaped to my eye, but I wonder if Thelma Drake, Randy Forbes or Jo Ann Davis in the 2nd, 4th and 1st Districts benefit from having the very popular Democrat Scott (unopposed in ’06) as a neighbor.

  2. Scott’s district certainly looks crazy. I saw a presentation given by the Sorensen Institute’s High School Leaders Program a couple of years ago about redistricting, in which they used his district as an example of a totally unreasonable district. Most of the presentation has gone clear out of my head, unfortunately, but the crux of it was that the district lumps together areas of the state that require enormous amounts of time to travel between, have little in common, and that is far from contiguous. It’s pretty crazy that it’s made up of five parcels of land that don’t even touch. I’ve never seen that in any other district.

    Here in Albemarle, I know that the surrounding districts benefit from Charlottesville being totally and utterly Democratic. You’ve seen it, I’m sure — rich folks from the city being able to dump big chunks of money into races in districts that they don’t even live in. That’s got to have an effect in Drake, Forbes, and Davis’ districts, too.

  3. I have the honor and privledge to live in two of the largest districts: The largest Congressional District, 5th CD; and the 59th Delegate District.

    I guess by the rules, that should mean that I live in the sparsest populated area of the state. I am not sure if that is true, but the 5th CD is as large as New Jersey, and is horrible to try to campaign in. The 59th is a little better, because it doesn’t cover as much area. Still, it is a spread-out district in any case.

    I have been increasingly aware of the outright ignoring of large chunks of rural Virginia. I want it to stop, but I am unsure how to proceed.

  4. You all might find interesting the Legislative Black Caucus amicus brief in the state redistricting case … On pages 10 to 13, the summary of the Argument spells out the great lengths to which the 2001 Republican led redistricting team went in order to pack minorities into existing “minority” legislative disticts and the criteria they used to do so (which included major changes from past criteria, for example, including one criterion that permitted districts to be drawn including people and communities connected only by water, and I don’t mean the eastern shore).

    Bobby Scott’s district was drawn similarly (and challenged similarly) in the congressional plan. They drew every black voter they could into the 3rd from the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 7th congressional districts … hence a district in which people in Richmond share a congressman with folks in Norfolk and the district travels along 64 to connect the two.

    Vivian’s recollection that Scott’s district went back and forth to the Justice Department to “get it right” is correct, but that happened in 1991 rather than in 2001.

  5. What do you all think of making Congressional seats statewide and opening up the process to proportional representation? We’d likely get more diversity not only of skin color but of political positions — libertarians and greens alike.

  6. I’d love to see some modeling of how different scenarios might affect Virginia. The idea of statewide congressional seats, which I’ve never heard, fascinates me, but so do all tinkerings with the democratic model. :) Here’s hoping that, by the time redistricting comes around in 2011, such tools are more accessible than they are right now.

  7. We just talked about this the other day at Sorensen. Well, actually through email. One of the participants sent this to us and I must have played it for over two hours.

    It’s actually pretty fun. For a complete nerd like me anyway.

Comments are closed.