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?
I think MSAs are good proxies and for outlying jurisdictions – the media and shopping spheres.
but I don’t have much optimism on this unless it can be take out of the hands of the politicians and put into a commission that delivers a recommendation that can be accepted or rejected but not altered.
The problem is that all of this has got to be done pretty darn quickly.
Doesn’t this have to be done in time for the deadlines for Candidates to declare in June?
Similar issues – a question – Who in Virginia knows how counties can be redistricted?
LarryG, Counties are required to redistrict in 2011. It is done by passing an ordinance with the new lines and submitting it to DoJ for preclearance.
Waldo, I like a lot of your factors, but…I’ll take a contrarian view. I think one of the weaknesses in the current GA is the regional “split.” You have “Hampton Roads” “Richmond” “NoVa”, etc. Legislators are defined very narrowly and really don’t give a good look at legislation that doesn’t “affect” their constituency and instead just rely on party leaders, etc. I know that you can’t do a lot of this, but I would prefer to see urban/rural or suburban/rural mixes in districts. Ag is a big issue in Virginia, but the GA kind of kicks those issues to “rural” legislators. I think it would be healthy that someone who represents Fredericksburg would also have some farms in their district. Someone who represents Chesterfield may pick up some of the farms in Dinwiddie, etc. It would be healthy if districts weren’t dominated by one interest in which the legislators only look after that particular community. They’re making laws for the entire Commonwealth, but they act very provincial in Richmond.
Thanks Ghost… is that the ONLY way that counties can redistrict? Can the voters get involved via referenda?
On the communities of interest – I actually do support something similar. Most MSAs have outer rings of suburban and AG around them – and you can properly associate the community of interests by looking at what media and shopping markets the rural areas gravitate towards.
I’m always curious about MSAs and how they are defined and how they are modified.
I note a couple of related issues and that is MPOs and the Va Planning Districts.
MPOs are arrayed according to MSAs. Not sure about Va’s planning districts.
ON a side note – the VDOT districts are an artifact as the current boundaries were derived from the 1922 Congressional districts boundaries.
I live in Fishersville and work in Charlottesville, so I put Albemarle and Augusta together more than Charlottesville and Fredericksburg.
I just can’t wait to see the new 9th congressional district.
I’m glad you mentioned that, GoTD, because as I’ve been coming up with my own redistricting of the state’s congressional lines in Dave’s Redistricting App (just for fun, obviously), I’ve found myself thinking that, although I don’t think it ever quite bubbled up to become a conscious thought. :) There’s been an extent to which the Fifth District has been good for Charlottesville. Folks here have had to become aware of the small role that we play in the district, and that the needs of people in the rest of the district are really quite different than here. Look at Perriello—in many ways a moderate, not somebody who Charlottesvillians would normally elect. But the realities of this district, and the needs of the southern end, made pragmatists out of a lot of folks here. That’s been good to see.
That’s fascinating, LarryG—I had no idea!
Equity and Efficiency of Highway Construction
and Transit Funding
I disagree with demographic diversity and competition. All that happens then is that people are more poorly represented. The beliefs of the representatives don’t as closely match that of the people they are supposedly representing.
(Competition is a worthy goal, because incumbency breeds corruption. However, true representation is better served when that competition happens from within the party or within the same basic belief system (conservative, liberal).)
So, when you used the app, what did your congressional districts look like? I went with grouping the 8th into just inside the beltway, but had to go a little around it. Then making the 10th and 11th concentric rings around the inner Washington suburbs. In just my light amount of time spent, it seems hard to get people in districts that are compact and keep them in either existing boundaries or geographical areas that they may have commonality with. The problem is population density.
So, what should the minimum requirements be? And what VA districts look like under those mins?
Thanks for bringing this up. This issue is vastly underreported considering the immense political results. I’ve read that voting patterns are considered down to the block level. Couldn’t that be made illegal? Check out Iowa for a good non-political example of how redistricting can be done. Too often Republicans in control of statehouses will say “well, the Democrats did it before”.
Worse and worse the farther I got from home. :) I should post a screenshot here this evening. (It’s too bad that this redistricting program doesn’t allow sharing of results! It’d be great to be able to give out a URL where anybody can see and play with somebody’s final district boundaries.) My northern Virginia districts is sort of arbitrary. One includes the densest areas of Fairfax, one the surrounding area. My valley district is really long, running clear from Covington up to the northern edge of the state. The bits I had a tough time with were Petersburg, the few counties west of Virginia Beach, and the area from Fredericksburg west to Front Royal (where four different districts met).
Absolutely. That’s why my Valley district came out so crazy. :) It seems like one has to choose between compactness and uniformity. Unless you get a big city in a district, they’re huge!
the 7th district (Cantor’s district) goes from Richmond (mostly suburbs) up through Culpeper and ends in Luray. But about 80% of the voters are in the Richmond suburbs. Why would Cantor have any interest in rural and farming issues when the electorate is all in Richmond.
And looking at his campaign spending- outside of the Richmond suburbs he only made two expenditures in the whole rest of the district. He spent more in Beverly Hills…but now I’m going to another subject. But the point still is that I’d rather have a larger district that isn’t so dominated by one market. Give the congressman a little more gas money to get around.
Sorry for responding so late, but I don’t see any pigeonhole for citizen participation in the redisricting process in counties. Perhaps your board may appoing a citizen’s committee to make recommendations to the board, but the reality is that the final decision rests solely with the Supervisors b/f it’s sent to DoJ.
Thanks for responding. I DO NOTE that apparently citizens in Va … CAN… initiate referenda to have the citizens choose from a number of options as to what style governance they would like to have.
I would so think – that there HAS to be SOFTWARE tools that could be used to decide how to redistrict counties (probably similar to wider geography tools) …..
… AND…that if citizens could get access to such tools – in the age of the internet …. develop and provide alternative… perhaps competitive redistricting approaches – that … better meet THEIR idea of compactness, contiguousness, community of interests, etc.
.. right now.. we have incumbent BOS – individuals – who barter and negotiate with their counterparts as to what best suits THEM – and their individual interests rather than citizens… needs and interests.
Redistricting, in general, is a process that should NOT be owned and operated by the politicians as there is such obvious conflicts of interests …and outright collusion… as to what best meets the needs of ..guess who? the politicians…
I think the current approach is a pox on Democracy and a major reason why the two political parties control the process.. and use it to directly promote their own welfare and to disadvantage third party movements and even individuals who don’t want to be associated with either incumbent party.
I’m surprised to be honest – that the TEA POTS are not all over this… but then again.. I think most of them are mostly clueless unless the right wing media spins them up on something.
yeah I know.. that’s a pretty cynical view…eh?
From playing around with the numbers on VPAP’s map this week, it appears one thing that will have to change this year is the understanding of how minority-majority districts are treated. The understanding that the General Assembly worked from in 2001 was that onece you’d created such a district, it couldn’t be undone and that the Justice Department would look unfavorably on a plan that diluted the African-American vote in the district. Every African-American majoirty district in the state, at the House, Senate and Congressional level need to add population in this round. I’m don’t think you can do that without diluting the black vote in some of those district, unless you repeal math.
Also, we’ll have to broaden our ideas about minority-majority districts, there should almost certainly be a majority Hispanic district in Northern Virginia.
Virginia is amazingly (relatively) un-gerrymandered. Let’s keep it that way. These are pathetic, and frankly, reprehensible:
well.. sort of… I live south of NoVa and our region which has an MPO and a Planning District is split between two Congressional Districts
If fact where I vote – the next precinct just a couple of miles away – in the same county – is another Congressional District.
Whoa! I should have looked at your link first and realized that “relatively” was an important distinction.
Man – are THESE examples UGLY!
thanks for posting them!
Dave has a version 2.0 of his App out. New features.
Never had any luck getting this app to launch. I used Google Chrome on Vista with pop-up blockers but they usually tell me if they are blocking and all I get with this app is a blank screen.
Does anyone know of a app to model a redistricting at the county level for BOS?
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