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posted by n1 on Friday June 09, @12:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the kill-'em-all dept.

Gerrymandering has a long and unpopular history in the United States. It is the main reason that the country ranked 55th of 158 nations — last among Western democracies — in a 2017 index of voting fairness run by the Electoral Integrity Project

[...] Lawsuits fighting partisan gerrymandering are pending around the country, and a census planned for 2020 is expected to trigger nationwide redistricting. If the mathematicians succeed in laying out their case, it could influence how those maps are drawn.

[...] States such as Arizona and Iowa, which have independent or bipartisan commissions that oversee the creation of voting districts, fared much better. In a separate analysis, Daniel McGlone, a geographic-information-system data analyst at the technology firm Azavea in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ranked each state’s voting districts for compactness as a measure of gerrymandering, and found that Maryland had the most-gerrymandered districts. North Carolina came second. Nevada, Nebraska and Indiana were the least gerrymandered.

[...] In the summer of 2016, a bipartisan panel of retired judges met to see whether they could create a more representative set of voting districts for North Carolina. Their maps gave Mattingly a chance to test his index. The judges’ districts, he found, were less gerrymandered than in 75% of the computer-generated models — a sign of a well-drawn, representative map. By comparison, every one of the 24,000 computer-drawn districts was less gerrymandered than either the 2012 or 2016 voting districts drawn by state legislators

[...] Political scientist Nicholas Stephanopoulos at the University of Chicago, Illinois, takes a much simpler approach to measuring gerrymandering. He has developed what he calls an “efficiency gap”, which measures a state’s wasted votes: all those cast for a losing candidate in each district, and all those for the victor in excess of the proportion needed to win. If one party has lots of landslide victories and crushing losses compared with its rivals, this can be a sign of gerrymandering.

Note: Please try to keep the discussion on the topic of gerrymandering.

http://www.nature.com/news/the-mathematicians-who-want-to-save-democracy-1.22113
https://arxiv.org/abs/1410.8796


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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @12:31AM (7 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @12:31AM (#522869)

    It is the main reason that the country ranked 55th of 158 nations — last among Western democracies — in a 2017 index of voting fairness run by the Electoral Integrity Project

    The electoral integrity project uses methods that rank North Korea as a run-of-the mill democracy:

    There’s North Korea in yellow, one of the countries with “moderate” electoral integrity. Indeed, go to the chart and they list North Korea as #65 out of 127 countries. The poor saps in Bulgaria and Romania are ranked #90 and 92, respectively. Clearly what they need is a dose of Kim Jong-il.

    http://andrewgelman.com/2017/01/02/about-that-bogus-claim-that-north-carolina-is-no-longer-a-democracy/ [andrewgelman.com]

    Perhaps from that you can tell what kind of governments the people running these studies really want?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @12:41AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @12:41AM (#522873)

      Forgot DPRK's scores

      OK, let’s check what the experts said about North Korea; it’s on page 9 of the report:
      Electoral laws 53
      Electoral procedures 73
      District boundaries 73
      Voter registration 83
      Party and candidate registration 54
      Media coverage 78
      Campaign finance 84
      Voting process 53
      Vote count 74
      Results 80
      Electoral authorities 60

      Each of these is on a 0-100 scale with 100 being good. So, you got it, North Korea is above 50 in every category on the scale.

      http://andrewgelman.com/2017/01/02/about-that-bogus-claim-that-north-carolina-is-no-longer-a-democracy/ [andrewgelman.com]

      Really, who can take this stuff seriously?

    • (Score: 2) by patrick on Friday June 09, @05:18AM

      by patrick (3990) on Friday June 09, @05:18AM (#522937)
    • (Score: 2) by Rivenaleem on Friday June 09, @08:39AM

      by Rivenaleem (3400) on Friday June 09, @08:39AM (#522980)

      What I take from that is that WHEN given a chance to vote on something, the voting in NK is fairer than in Bulgaria or Romania. The point is that when polling is conducted, is it done in a fair and impartial manner. There won't be votes on the succession of the next dictator, but when asked whether they prefer to slave in the fields wearing Red or Blue, they get to cast their ballot on such matter without fear of the result being tampered with.

    • (Score: 2) by RamiK on Friday June 09, @01:09PM (3 children)

      by RamiK (1813) on Friday June 09, @01:09PM (#523025)

      The factor that distinguishes a democracy is the distribution of power towards the majority of the people. And whether by manipulation or force, neither the US nor NK are democracies in the sense of the majority having power to prioritize their own interests over the wealthy or the powerful.

      Voting is just a means to an end; To represent the majority. And whether using targeted criminalization or electoral thresholds, misinformation & propaganda aided by wealth or just direct brute force, if you actually count how many people have a real say about anything, most European countries as well as the US might actually rank similarly or even worse then NK.

      That is, when it comes down to numerating just how many people hold meaningful power and just how much power is left distributed outside that small circle, both the US and NK are run by very small groups of very wealthy & powerful people that are widely recognized as acting without the public's interests at heart.

      Overall, putting the quality-of-life issues aside, I'd wager the average American is about as politically powerful as the average North Korean.

      --
      compiling...
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @02:34PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @02:34PM (#523078)

        "Overall, putting the quality-of-life issues aside, I'd wager the average American is about as politically powerful as the average North Korean."

        Unfortunately, quality-of-life includes politically meaningful action, so your statement is essentially null.

        Moving from one place to another is something americans do all the time - and it has political significance. Making purchase choices and lifestyle choices is politically significant, and one way in which americans have more options at their disposal than do north koreans.

        And so on and so forth; fill in the blanks yourself.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @03:16PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @03:16PM (#523104)

          > quality-of-life includes politically meaningful action

          If an individual decides to move to another state or buy a foreign car, the political map stays the same. Meaning, it's exactly like voting where the average American['s right of mobility and choice] is about as politically powerful as the average North Korean['s whatever].

          More importantly, mobility and economic prosperity are tied to employment options which are derived from skill sets which are further derived from your genetics. That's not a right for all Americans. That's a right for some Americans. Unless of course, you believe average Joe can get rich enough to be economically mobile in a way that sways politics through hard work... Personally, I think A. Joe is more likely to win the lottery.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @03:57PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @03:57PM (#523123)

            You're missing the point.

            Voting with your feet (by moving from, say, South Dakota to, say, California) isn't very significant for one individual, but in aggregate is a meaningful element of changing the political landscape, and one that has been measured. The same option is not open to people in the DPRK.

            As for the discussion of what a right is, you're confusing the concept of a right, with a prerogative, privilege, obligation and so on.

            A right is something that you are legally in the right to do. You have a right to freedom of speech, but you have an obligation to perform jury duty. You may be afforded the privilege of driving, but the prerogative to travel or not. The fact that you may be congenitally unable to get a driving licence does not invalidate the rest of the analysis.

            Given that things like voting are pretty much aggregated political activities, making the case that an individual's actions have minimal nationwide effects is irrelevant.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by edIII on Friday June 09, @12:34AM (9 children)

    by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 09, @12:34AM (#522871)

    Note: Please try to keep the discussion on the topic of gerrymandering.

    I understand the intent to keep the discussion just centered on gerrymandering, but it is in of itself a very political discussion that can be quite charged. Speaking about the math could be interesting, but the facts are the political parties that have the opportunity to game democracy, do so. Heck, Hillary went full speed ahead with an AI system that was designed (poorly) to take advantage of these things and help her campaign. It didn't. Likewise, I understand that Republicans are very, very technically savvy right now when it comes to demographic research and using it to their advantage.

    I'm sure we could want to drag the Republicans through the mud on this (hence the note and request), but I can extremely easily believe that the Democrats are up to same stinky BS. Can we call gerrymandering anything but political corruption at work, with one side succeeding more at the moment?

    Just found it an odd request considering the subject matter. It's fundamentally politically and exploitative.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @01:03AM (6 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @01:03AM (#522878)

      an odd request considering the subject matter

      That's my fault.

      I found TFA interesting and am really interested if the community has insights about the subject but, at the same time, I am fatigued with the typical off-topic political comments that seep into many stories. My hope was that most discussions would be on potential solutions and the inevitable political discussions could, at least, be a little more focused.

      TFA does mention specific instances of both Rs and Ds gerrymandering, but I left those out of the summary.

      • (Score: 2) by edIII on Friday June 09, @01:12AM (5 children)

        by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 09, @01:12AM (#522882)

        I think there are many things that can be done about it. We could get rid of the districts altogether. What's the point? It's not like they actually represent us anyways, and the whole thing is just a sad illusive dance where we convince ourselves that we're represented and have freedom. Do it at the state level, even in California, for all the good it will do. Politics will still be as corrupt, because gerrymandering has nothing to do with the shit choices we are presented.

        If the goal is to get X numbers into Congress, then we could just vote on X number of people. Your top choice, 2nd choice, and so on. It would be more work to vote, but the more districts you collapse into a single district, the less gerrymandering can be performed. In my mind, districts should be no smaller than counties, but they currently are. Specifically, a district should include multiple demographics, and at a county level it very well might. Making a district small enough that you can encircle a group of people that all vote one way, is just pure corruption at work.

        When you combine all the votes you can see who was voted 1st from all voters most of the time, 2nd, and so on. There are plenty of other voting methods in use around the world to choose multiple parties at the same time.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @01:27AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @01:27AM (#522890)

          It's not like they actually represent us anyways

          That's the problem in a nutshell. If districting could be fixed, then it could better represent regional preferences (that would presumably be drowned-out by large populations in urban areas).

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by realDonaldTrump on Friday June 09, @02:46AM (1 child)

          by realDonaldTrump (6614) on Friday June 09, @02:46AM (#522904) Homepage Journal

          They tried that in Maine, they almost tried that in the great, great state of Maine. Ranked choice voting, they call it. They had an initiative. A referendum. And the voters of Maine said yes, we want ranked choice voting. But a court said no, don't even think about it. Don't go there. The Maine Supreme Court said no, that goes against the constitution. Violates the state constitution of Maine. That what the people voted for was unconstitutional. That what the majority of voters, the great voters of Maine, wanted, they can't have. Not unless they change their constitution. Folks, I'm telling you, the constitution is a huge, huge problem. The constitution and the courts. Big problems in Maine. Sad! #TRUMP2020 #MAGA

          • (Score: 1, Offtopic) by jmorris on Friday June 09, @03:09AM

            by jmorris (4844) Subscriber Badge <{jmorris} {at} {beau.org}> on Friday June 09, @03:09AM (#522918)

            It is worse, remember when the CA Supreme Court ruled the California Constitution unconstitutional after the People voted to amend it? Good times.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Friday June 09, @02:57AM

          by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 09, @02:57AM (#522908) Journal

          To an extent there is some truth to the assertion that the don't always represent us.

          But without districts, every last one of them would be elected by the biggest City in the state.

          Districts were an attempt to spread the influence, and avoid city-state structures that plagued Europe for centuries. Make them come home every two years and explain their actions to the farmer's.

          --
          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 2) by Mykl on Friday June 09, @04:14AM

          by Mykl (1112) on Friday June 09, @04:14AM (#522932)

          I agree that removing districts would eliminate Gerrymandering, however it creates its own problems.

          If done right, districts can ensure proper representation of the cross-section of community across a state. For example, you'll want representatives from wealthy areas, poor areas, urban areas, rural areas, etc. The priorities of these groups do tend to be quite different, and if you removed districts from the equation you might end up failing to represent a significant part of your state.

          In most countries, the drawing of district boundaries is left to a non-partisan government organisation. Typically, census data is used to help draw those boundaries based on demographics other than political affiliation

    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Friday June 09, @01:04AM (1 child)

      by bob_super (1357) on Friday June 09, @01:04AM (#522879)

      The point of gerrymandering is to tinker with actual proportional representation.
      The positive side is to allow minority representation, if desired.
      The negative side is everything else, primarily getting an undue advantage by grouping or diluting the opponent's voters.

      Turns out that proportional elections systems (rather than first-past-the-post) avoid that problem altogether, a bit like popular vote avoids the distortions of the electoral college system.
      But proportional elections do often result in difficult governance. Multiple countries are considering a mix of proportional and direct elections, to try to mitigate the issue.

      No black and white answer on this one, except that letting politicos draw their districts is pretty much always a terrible idea.

      • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Friday June 09, @10:51PM

        by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Friday June 09, @10:51PM (#523313) Homepage
        Everything else of course being 100 times the never-achieved benehttp://www.cgpgrey.com/blog/gerrymandering-explained.html
        --
        I was worried about my command. I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bob_super on Friday June 09, @12:41AM (2 children)

    by bob_super (1357) on Friday June 09, @12:41AM (#522872)

    You create a map with computer-generated boxes of population (one tenth of a district size in each box), and ask 2nd-grade kids to color in the boxes by groups of ten. Ask 4th-graders to vote for their favorite map (or maps, as different elections could use different districts).
    You can give them geographical features in mountain states, to help them group people likely to have similar interests.
    Electoral education, and unbiased (but not dumb) districts both solved...
    Repeat before every election, even between census.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @01:14AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @01:14AM (#522883)

      I could imagine volunteers trying to canvas elementary schools trying to influence the kids. An arms race with political parties trying to compete based on who has the best candy and toys.

      • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Friday June 09, @01:18AM

        by bob_super (1357) on Friday June 09, @01:18AM (#522885)

        I didn't say kindergartners, because the coloring has to be within the lines.
        But most first-graders won't remember a complex pattern regardless of the amount of candy at stake.

        Gotta escalate to the supervisors... Politicos bribing the elementary school principals with actual funding?
        Mission Fucking Accomplished!

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Ken_g6 on Friday June 09, @12:47AM (7 children)

    by Ken_g6 (3706) on Friday June 09, @12:47AM (#522876)

    It occurs to me that political boundaries (city and county borders) are more likely to represent practical boundaries of where people live. I assume it's not as easy to change such boundaries as it is to change voting districts? If so, it seems like a rule where no more than two voting districts can cross any political boundary, and each crossing has to be contiguous, would at least limit gerrymandering.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by AthanasiusKircher on Friday June 09, @03:07AM (6 children)

      by AthanasiusKircher (5291) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 09, @03:07AM (#522917) Journal

      Unfortunately, not really. Most states already tend to prefer municipal boundaries when drawing district lines. Yes, cutting through municipalities can sometimes be a strategy for gerrymandering, but merely requiring municipal boundaries won't get very far.

      One of the central issues is that districting has several priorities:

      (1) Have relatively equal numbers of voters in each district
      (2) Make districts relatively "compact"
      (3) Make district boundaries correspond to municipal/communal boundaries
      (4) Divide districts to produce a final set of representatives that roughly corresponds to the overall voter breakdown (Dems vs. Reps, etc.) in the state, i.e., if there are 60% Republican voters in the state as a whole, ideally you want it feasible for 60% Republican representatives to be elected or whatever.

      The fundamental problem is point (4) is basically an orthogonal priority to the rest, and in some places will directly come into conflict with the other goals.

      For example, keeping districts to municipal boundaries, particularly around urban centers, is how Republicans generally end up with more representatives. Why? Because Democrats tend to cluster in a lot of urban centers, much more so than Republicans "cluster" in rural ones. So, if you follow community boundaries, you may end up with a district that's 80 or 90% Democratic around an urban center or two, whereas out in rural areas, it may be more like only 60-70% Republican. The whole state may have a majority of Democratic voters, but carving things up around compact communities means that you might only get 1 or 2 Democratic reps from cities, and the rest of state districts go Republican.

      Obviously this doesn't hold everywhere, and it can be more or less extreme. (Another issue that has sometimes influenced districting is the creation of "majority minority districts," e.g., trying to group African Americans together enough to allow a black representative a reasonable chance at election. The problem there is similar to above -- you often end up concentrating a bunch of blacks -- and Democrats -- in a single district, and thus diluting their influence within the state as a whole, since surrounding districts become more strongly white or Republican or whatever.)

      But the fundamental issue at the heart of "gerrymandering" is that it is REQUIRED to some level if you want to satisfy criterion (4), while also having compact districts where a representative has a reasonably "communal" body of constituents.

      If we really wanted to satisfy criterion (4), we'd need to move to a proportional representation system, or at least hybrid that includes some elements of that.

      • (Score: 2) by dry on Friday June 09, @05:26AM (4 children)

        by dry (223) on Friday June 09, @05:26AM (#522939)

        Why is #4 even a thing? If the districts are drawn impartially and roughly equal in population, it should reflect the demographics. You might have 4 districts in the urban centre and 6 districts in the rural area if that's how the population is spread out. And who's to say that next election those Republican voters won't be voting for a different party?
        I guess not being American slows my understanding of American politics but just the idea of politics being involved in something so important to democracy just seems crazy. Here in Canada, there are 2 of age citizens that aren't allowed to vote, the head of Elections Canada and their assistant. And the one time I remember an accusation of gerrymandering, in a Provincial election, there was such an outcry that it was fixed pretty quick (Gracies finger if you feel like Googling).
        The population does seem to want to go to proportional representation here, the last Federal Election, the winners promised (and broke it) no more first past the post elections and here in BC, the next government seems like it'll be the ones in favour of proportional representation. The election was close enough to a tie that the 3 greens (16% of the vote in total) have control. Previous referendums also came in at just below the 60% threshold that the government set.
        The problem with proportional representation, from the politicians view, is no clear winners and the parties having to work together, which to many voters sounds great.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Joe Desertrat on Friday June 09, @08:27AM

          by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Friday June 09, @08:27AM (#522977)

          The problem with proportional representation, from the politicians view, is no clear winners and the parties having to work together, which to many voters sounds great.

          Not to mention it would clear a path for the growth of third parties, which our current political powers would really hate.

        • (Score: 2) by AthanasiusKircher on Friday June 09, @01:53PM (1 child)

          by AthanasiusKircher (5291) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 09, @01:53PM (#523057) Journal

          If the districts are drawn impartially and roughly equal in population, it should reflect the demographics.

          You must not be familiar with Simpson's paradox [wikipedia.org]. Basically, arbitrary divisions of data can significantly alter or reverse trends in data. And it depends on what you mean by "reflect the demographics." If you mean that an elected representative should likely represent the majority of his/her district? Yes, I suppose that's trivially so. If you mean that elected representatives from the state as a whole reflect the demographics of the state as a whole, then no, that's not guaranteed even with an "impartial metric."

          And who's to say that next election those Republican voters won't be voting for a different party?

          That's certainly true. But I think the issue is that even if voters just vote straight "party line" in every election according to how they're registered, it's definitely possible for a state to have, say, 60% or even 70% of registered voters from party X, but to have 80% of state representatives consistently come from party Y, EVEN with relatively "impartially drawn" compact districts.

          • (Score: 2) by AthanasiusKircher on Friday June 09, @02:00PM

            by AthanasiusKircher (5291) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 09, @02:00PM (#523061) Journal

            To be clear, what I said in my last paragraph about what was "possible" doesn't mean it's likely for a distribution to be so skewed. My broader point is that compact districts don't guarantee proportional representation. And as long as criterion (4) is a priority for politicians (and it obviously is, or we wouldn't have a term to describe "gerrymandering" in a negative sense), there's no objective "neutral" solution/algorithm that always can satisfy the desired criteria for drawing district boundaries.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @05:18PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @05:18PM (#523157)

          The problem with proportional representation, from the politicians view, is no clear winners and the parties having to work together, which to many voters sounds great.

          You make that sound like it's a bad thing.

      • (Score: 2) by BK on Friday June 09, @01:14PM

        by BK (4868) on Friday June 09, @01:14PM (#523030)

        (1) Have relatively equal numbers of voters in each district
        (2) Make districts relatively "compact"
        (3) Make district boundaries correspond to municipal/communal boundaries
        (4) Divide districts to produce a final set of representatives that roughly corresponds to the overall voter breakdown (Dems vs. Reps, etc.) in the state, i.e., if there are 60% Republican voters in the state as a whole, ideally you want it feasible for 60% Republican representatives to be elected or whatever.

        I'm not sure about (4), but...
        (4a) Avoid having two incumbents compete for the same district in the new map, particularly if they are of the party drawing the map.
        (4b) "Allow" (ensure at any cost that) protected minorities that might not have a local majority in any impartially / compactly drawn district will have an engineered majority in one or more districts.

        --
        4 out of 5 dentists choose Brand X. The other is just a denier.
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by anotherblackhat on Friday June 09, @01:08AM

    by anotherblackhat (4722) on Friday June 09, @01:08AM (#522880)

    I can imagine an algorithm that could meet any set of districting goals you can define (as best as they can be met anyway).
    For example, suppose you like an equal number of people in each district, and as few lines as possible.
    Allow anyone to submit a proposal (for a fee) but only allow politicians/voters/whoever to vote on whatever proposal(s) have the fewest lines and least difference in population distribution.

    What I can't imagine is any political body accepting the output, or defining the goals.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Thexalon on Friday June 09, @01:12AM

    by Thexalon (636) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 09, @01:12AM (#522881) Homepage

    The reason it's not a solvable problem is that the people with the power to solve it don't want it solved.

    And this isn't just a matter of one party using district-drawing to their own advantage, although that certainly happens. Another reason that party hacks like the current system is that it allows them to eliminate the districts of inconvenient politicians, thus eliminating the politician's ability to hold office. The Democrats were A-OK with doing that to my Democratic congressman in 2010, for instance, in large part because he had opposed parts of Obamacare. You could also easily imagine a panel with 2 parties represented using gerrymandering to eliminate the district of any third-party congressman or state legislator that managed to establish themselves. And this maneuver also works on a municipal government level: If somebody comes in to challenge a political machine, guess what, their ward mysteriously disappears the next chance redistricting comes around.

    So feel free to try this as an academic exercise, bearing in mind everything Ken Arrow has to teach about voting systems, but don't expect any of it to be applied in real life anytime soon.

    --
    If you act on pie in the sky, you're likely to get pie in the face.
  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @01:42AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @01:42AM (#522894)
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @02:23AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @02:23AM (#522897)

    If we don't let go, we're gonna die. The solution is to become human and learn how to cooperate.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @01:30PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @01:30PM (#523039)

      When did you think that being human involves cooperation outside the size group of a tribe? Being Human is about competition, not cooperation. Any cooperation to be had only allows us to compete better.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @02:44PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @02:44PM (#523090)

        A human transcends his natural urges, redirects them into something useful. The species is on autopilot like any other animal. Competition is natural, but it is sub-human.

  • (Score: 2) by jmorris on Friday June 09, @02:41AM (3 children)

    by jmorris (4844) Subscriber Badge <{jmorris} {at} {beau.org}> on Friday June 09, @02:41AM (#522899)

    Attempting to stop gerrymandering is like making water not wet by government decree. By definition, any group of people tasked with drawing the lines that will decide elections is a political group. Appoint all the "bipartisan commissions" you want, wait twenty years and every single one will be fully populated with partisan hacks as the parties figure out how to get their hand picked people appointed. Because it is too important not to do so, since you can be assured the other side is doing it and you can't unilaterally disarm.

    Even if you wanted to you can't avoid political influence on district drawing. The only way you might would be a computer algorithm designed to seek certain agreed to goals. But since the SCOTUS requires a Goldilocks (but not exactly specified) amount of racism in map drawing, no computer could be tasked with such a thing, it requires specificity and it would cause riots to openly speak of any exact quantity of "required racism". So no, you can't do it with computers. And as I noted, any system based on people will attract politicians.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @02:54AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @02:54AM (#522905)

      wait twenty years

      Twenty years of better than the status quo would be a step in the right direction.

      • (Score: 2) by jmorris on Friday June 09, @03:02AM (1 child)

        by jmorris (4844) Subscriber Badge <{jmorris} {at} {beau.org}> on Friday June 09, @03:02AM (#522912)

        Not really, because then you would still have the process totally outside the influence of elected officials and voters, leaving pure naked party vs party battles and any attempt to reverse the decision to remove district drawing from the hands of elected officials would be condemned by which ever side was winning at the moment as 'a despicable attempt to politicize district line drawing and turn back the clock to the horrible days of yore.' Beware of temporary fixes that leave things worse in the long run. Most of our problems stem from that sort of short time horizon thinking, not thinking past the next election cycle.

        • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @03:37AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @03:37AM (#522928)

          independent or bipartisan commissions that oversee the creation of voting districts, fared much better

          Perfect should not be the enemy of good.

          TFA mentions multiple approaches that reduce gerrymandering and it certainly isn't impossible to beat the current system.
          If you are worried about politicians, then select random people as we do for jury duty; use an algorithm; randomly generate districts; put in judicial or executive checks; etc.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Immerman on Friday June 09, @02:42AM (2 children)

    by Immerman (3985) on Friday June 09, @02:42AM (#522901)

    > If one party has lots of landslide victories and crushing losses compared with its rivals, this can be a sign of gerrymandering.

    Wait, what? Isn't the goal of gerrymandering to make sure the opposing party has landslide victories and reliably narrow losses? Crushing losses would mean a whole lot of "your votes" were wasted, and could have instead tipped the balance in another district.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @02:57AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @02:57AM (#522909)

      reliably

      That's probably what it comes down to, especially since they don't redistrict every election.

      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Saturday June 10, @01:17PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Saturday June 10, @01:17PM (#523478)

        My understanding is that thanks to party loyalty among voters and the typically slow pace of demographic change, they typically aim for a 10-15% advantage in "their" districts, and nearly unanimous opposition in "the other" districts.

  • (Score: 2) by Snotnose on Friday June 09, @03:03AM (1 child)

    by Snotnose (1623) on Friday June 09, @03:03AM (#522913)

    For a good 10 years I haven't understood why you don't feed a computer a central point and demographic data that is solely how many people live there. Feed it stuff like freeways, and other things that divide neighborhoods. Don't feed it stuff like registered parties. Then let the computer crunch on that for a while.

    Problem solved. If gerrymandering is still an issue revisit the algorithms, until voting districts look more like circles than Picasso paintings.

    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Friday June 09, @06:34AM

      by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 09, @06:34AM (#522954) Journal

      Problem solved.

      Not at all. Now all the manipulation will go into the algorithm. After all, the politicians have to approve the algorithm.

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Arik on Friday June 09, @03:03AM (4 children)

    by Arik (4543) on Friday June 09, @03:03AM (#522914)
    As some of you are aware, the Constitution did not originally feature districting for Senators - they were elected by the state legislatures effectively 'at large' for the whole state. The House was districted, simply because of technology. Transport between different population centers was relatively cumbersome, and communication was limited by transportation still. No radio, no telegraph. It made sense to devolve the election down to districts like this both because it was the only feasible way to do it practically, and also for the very same reason it actually made sense to presume that each district had its own character and was effectively a subculture, so this actually resulted in something reasonably representative as well.

    But those conditions are long gone. Today, there's no reason not to simply elect the House with a nationwide election, either proportional representation or STV or whatever. The technical difficulties are no longer effective obstacles, and our subcultures are much less well correlated with geography as well.

    Unfortunately, we have to rely on the broken political system to fix itself, and why would it do that? When it's making so many people rich by failing.
    --
    "Unix? These savages aren't even circumcised!"
    • (Score: 2) by AthanasiusKircher on Friday June 09, @03:30AM

      by AthanasiusKircher (5291) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 09, @03:30AM (#522927) Journal

      Not to mention that the original intent of the Framers of the Constitution was to maintain districts at a reasonably small size, such that it might still be feasible for a representative to have contact with a large portion of the constituents. Originally, each representative in the House represented about 30,000 people. That may still sound like a lot, but keep in mind that (male, white) property owners were still the main voices in the early U.S. So a representative might be representing maybe a few thousand of the "people who really count" directly.

      The intent was definitely to make such close interaction feasible. In fact, the very first proposed amendment [wikipedia.org] to the Constitution was an attempt to regulate the growth of constituencies and keep them to manageable numbers. (It's the only one of the original 12 to never have been ratified; the last ten became the "Bill of Rights," the second was eventually ratified as the 27th amendment.)

      Nowadays, the AVERAGE representative has over 700,000 constituents, and some districts have nearly a million people. I'm not actually suggesting we enlarge Congress to 10,000 representatives, but it's obvious our system is completely broken and different from the one originally envisioned by those who designed it.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @03:44AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @03:44AM (#522929)

      we have to rely on the broken political system to fix itself, and why would it do that?

      The judicial branch is getting more involved and will hopefully prompt some improvements.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Geezer on Friday June 09, @08:14AM (1 child)

      by Geezer (511) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 09, @08:14AM (#522974)

      I'm not swayed one way or the other, but doesn't having 2 at-large "houses" or "senates" seem redundant? Part of the at-large solution would be to eliminate one or the other. Having "upper" and "lower" houses with the same attributes seems like a waste of time.

      --
      Scruting the inscrutable for over 60 years.
      • (Score: 2) by Arik on Saturday June 10, @12:18AM

        by Arik (4543) on Saturday June 10, @12:18AM (#523337)
        Not at all. They represent different constituencies, as coded in the designation 'Democratic Republic.' The House is the Democratic part. But it can't function alone. It holds the purse strings but it does not hold sovereignty - that's for the Senate. The Senate is the Republican part, and Senators are supposed to represent their state. Whether 'at large' or districted, well, there's relatively little opportunity for gerrymandering when you can make no more than two districts at least. Either way they are supposed to be representing the constituent states, while the House is supposed to represent individual citizens.
        --
        "Unix? These savages aren't even circumcised!"
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by shortscreen on Friday June 09, @09:02AM

    by shortscreen (2252) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 09, @09:02AM (#522983) Journal

    Ditch FPTP voting and the "two" party system.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @02:06PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @02:06PM (#523064)

    Our current system was setup in the days of near non-existent long range communications.
    1] WoM - word of mouth
            Who you votin' for?
            Bob.
            Whar's he from?
            New York.
            Nev'r heard of either.
    -- later he's a dem/rep/ind/etc is only answer
    -- think I'll vote for him then [no knowledge just "pull the lever"]
    2] Local News papers
    3] Pony Express [could spread news papers]
    4] TODAY -- NEAR INSTANT internet, email, TV, Radio and Preachers [oops, pull their 501c3 for politicking from the pulpit]

    Since we are repeating/continuing history get on line and watch The History Channel -- The Men Who Built America Episode 7: Taking the White House
    William Bryan was set to win [dem] and Morgan/Carnegie/Rockefeller bought McKinley [repug] the win [smear ads...FUD fear uncertainty doubt....etc]
    Sound familiar...that was 1897 with #25 and it is even worse today with #45.
    [Just a note I was born under #34]

    Please visit fairvote.org to understand how the modern voting should be done.
    Read each of the menu tabs [problems] then [solutions] and all links in each and all tabs.
    Note [what's new] then [Local Elections in Texas Demonstrate the Power - and Limits - of Cumulative Voting Rights]
    If Texans are getting smart enough then the rest of the country should get on board.
    Also watch the skit by George Carlin [language but nails it as always] -- it's a rich boys club and you are not in it.

    Ranked Choice Voting is how corporations elect new board members.

    Also this restores the "you work for us" that is the intention of who we send into the political arena.

    One thing what will be needed is a "nation wide" web site so that everyone and get equal education about the
    "resume" of those that are running. Remember a resume from your last year in English in High School?
    So by this each person running as "ponied up" the same amount to get in the race.
    Now I can find President or Oklahoma > Governor or Senate/House/etc all the way down to county and city elections.
    And the "public air waves" MUST return to the people.
    -no trashing the other person
    -what is your qualification and future for a "specific" topic
    -ALL stations will give equal time blocks for all candidates as part of being a "public service" and within "normal hours" not all at 2am.
    Remove Citizens United [corp is not people] and lobbyist [they can go to "local" politician office just like we have to]
    No more tagging on your junk, if your boat doesn't float take it back to port and re-engineer it.
    We don't need 1400 laws a year, a few dozen properly done to keep from bogging the courts down will do.
    Transaction Tax on sales [just 2% 1 fed 1 state] no kids, poverty, etc no "wholesale" the entire chain is taxed == used car 2%, Porsche 2%, McMansion 2%, food 2%

    Just my $0.0175 [adjusted 2 cents]

    The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. - Albert Einstein
    Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods." -- Albert Einstein
    The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. - Albert Einstein
    Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." - Albert Einstein.
    If you are unable to understand the cause of a problem, it is impossible to solve it - Naoto Kan, Japanese Politician
    For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and absolutely wrong.

     

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @03:55PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @03:55PM (#523121)

    A constitutional amendment:

    All members of congress are allowed to submit one distracting map (these maps are kept secret until a deadline).
    The map that will become the new districting map is the one that is both legal and "best".

    A legal map:
    1) Covers the entire area of the map with exactly one district
    2) Divides the area into the correct number of districts
    3) Has a least populous district that has at least 95% of the population of the most populous district
    4) Has contiguous districts

    The "best" map minimizes the total perimeter of the districts:
    1) District lines that cut through "normal" land are weighted at 1
    2) District lines that follow county lines are weighted at 1/2
    3) District lines that follow previous district lines are weighted at 1/2
    4) If a thin strip of district runs along a reduced weight line, only one of the proposed lines can be ON the line
    4a) Thus the two lines bordering the thin strip must be weighted at 1.5 (1 + 1/2) total
    4b) This may not be true if the thin strip is a pre-exiting strip, in which case it will be weighted at 1 (1/2 +1/2)

    Bootstrapping:
    For the purposes of this amendment, the district maps made under other methods do NOT count as valid, thus point (3) of picking the "best" map doesn't apply to the first redistricting under this rule.

    Additionally, if a Congressman (or congressional candidate that got on the ballot) ran in the last election, but his district has changed he can:
    1) Run as normal in his (new) home district
    2) Run in the district that now contains the largest number of his previous constituents (this right continues until he fails to get on the ballot for a relevant election)
    2a) The second district might not be distinct from the first.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @04:38PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, @04:38PM (#523142)

    It doesn't matter whether you do proportional representation (where the party puts its favourite pets at the head of the list), or first past the post (where all the voters for all the losers end up empty-handed). Ranked choice runs into the same problem.

    You're still voting to give an ape power.

    What we need are representatives who have a job: vote against anything that your constituency disapproves. Fail to do so, lose your job and get prosecuted.

    Let people vote on a slate of legislative policies. If the voters are dead set against abortion, then the representative must vote against any law that authorises, subsidises or otherwise supports it. If the voters insist on a balanced budget, the representative must vote against any budget that is not balanced, or that plausibly increases national indebtedness, or whatever.

    This way, when crafting legislation, one can already tell who will be constrained to vote against it, and we'll never again have to deal with crap like voting for something to find out what's in it. And being a representative is just a paperwork job.

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