After getting sucked into Dave’s Redistricting App for a couple of hours, I’m left wondering about all of the factors that ought to be taken into account when creating districts. In particular, congressional districts, due to their size, but I suppose I’m wondering all around, too. What I’ve come up with so far are:
- Human movement patterns. Districts ought to encompass the typical movement patterns of the majority of its residents. A district that includes Charlottesville and Fredericksburg makes significantly less sense than one that includes Charlottesville and Waynesboro.
- Competition. It should be possible for either Republicans or Democrats to win in a given district.
- Media markets. Districts should be created with the boundaries of media outlets’ distribution in mind, including that all districts should have media outlets.
- Demographic diversity. Each district should have a voter makeup that encompasses the spectrum of people living in that region.
- Commonality. Sociogeography is influenced by physical geography. Some parts of the state have more in common than other parts, and, when contiguous, they should share representation.
- Existing boundaries. Municipal borders mean a lot to us. They’re part of how we define our tribe. Districts should obey those borders, rather than ignoring them.
- Compact. Districts should be as geographically small as feasible, traversable on major roads from end to end without having to leave the district to do so.
As is clear with only the briefest of reflection, it’s simply not possible to achieve all of these goals—or maybe even most of them—in every district. Most of them are frequently oppositional, in application. They’re really more ideals. And some of these are really minimums, rather than goals. For example, it’s not the job of a redistricting committee to create media outlets, but it would be wrong to deliberately establish a district that skirts the boundaries of the distribution of daily newspapers and the reach of television broadcast.
What other considerations should be part of the redistricting process?