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Anti-Gerrymandering idea?

Elixir

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I was thinking about it while falling asleep last night. Envisioning some of the maps of what are some of the most outrageous examples, I wondered if maybe there could be simple rules about the shapes of districts that would force the situation to improve.
If the area/perimeter ratio of all districts was even slightly constrained, it would prohibit at least some those salamander-shaped districts that gave birth to the expression. If those ratios were greatly constrained... probably wouldn't entirely fix it, but would certainly make it more difficult to gerrymander effectively in general.

Seems awfully simple, so there's probably something I'm overlooking.
 

Elixir

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That would be the criterion of compactness, and is nothing new.
Redistricting Criteria

Right, thanks! So ... how's it working? I can't see that gerrymandering is even possible in states that enfforce rigorous adherence to compactness specs, plus "Preservation of counties and other political subdivisions" (if there are any such States).
In addition to population equality, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits plans that intentionally or inadvertently discriminate on the basis of race, which could dilute the minority vote.

In addition to these mandatory standards set out by the U.S Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, states are allowed to adopt their own redistricting criteria, or principles, for drawing the plans. Principles, or criteria, may be found in state constitutions or statutes or be adopted by a legislature, chamber, or committee, or by a court that is called upon to draw a plan when the legislative process fails.

Nice. Criteria piled on criteria. Why not simply enforce thing 1 (compactness)?

June said:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.

There's my answer... Republicans need to cheat. Meanwhile:
"Traditional districting principles have been adopted" by some States".
I won't even look to see which States those are.
 

Tigers!

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Build the districts (we call them electorates) based upon a size of population, N, with deviation +/- %N. Solely on population, not previous voting patterns nor desired voting patterns.
The drawing of boundaries is not to be done by politicans or parties, judges or business groups or any other lobby group rather a body answerable only to the parlaiment or legestiavite body to who they report.

Review after every election by this body not the lobby or interested groups.
 

Swammerdami

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I've given my views on gerrymandering in other threads, but I want to rebut the idea that what we need is just more rules to define gerrymandering.

Armed robbery is a crime but to enforce it you don't pass another law. You hire police and throw robbers in prison. Laws don't help when judges take the side of the criminals.

The North Carolina GOP is a notorious gerrymanderer. Just like a petty crook who keeps appearing in court, judges repeatedly ruled against North Carolina's districting. In the fall of 2019 a judge voided yet another gerrymandering and threatened that he would delay the primaries if they couldn't come up with a better districting. Why didn't he just appoint a special master to do a non-partisan districting? In fact, in December 2019 a judge reversed the earlier ruling and approved a redistricting that was only slightly fairer because there wasn't enough time left before the primaries.

With the new census, the GOP will be furiously gerrymandering all that it can. As Elixir implies it was a tragedy that the GOP hack John Roberts overturned the Voting Rights Law. The present Congress — quite possibly the last Democratic Congress ever — has a chance to pass a law to protect democracy. But Joe Manchin finds Koch money too sweet. Kiss American Democracy good-bye.
 

Angry Floof

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The first change should be that politicians not be allowed involvement. If your career depends on changing the shape of your district, then you can't be relied on to be impartial. And it's blatantly obvious that they aren't when you see districts shaped like alien penis.

Someone said in a previous thread on this topic that other people are also human and would also be biased, to which I say, that's perfection fallacy. They would not be as biased as the politicians themselves. Assign the task to a revolving group of citizens the way we task citizens with jury duty and with a similar process of instruction on the task and on impartiality. Ordinary citizens called to civic duty (and not just on the toilet posting opinions from their phones) tend to strive for honesty and doing the right thing way more than politicians.
 

Keith&Co.

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I say we get some four year olds and some block toys. Those plastic shapes you slot through a plastic sheet?
have the kids arrange the blocks on a map.
Outline the layout.
Any spots left uncovered, the lines are drawn halfway between existing blocks.
That's your districting.

Ordinary citizens called to civic duty (and not just on the toilet posting opinions from their phones) tend to strive for honesty and doing the right thing
May have been true before Trump convinced a whole bunch of people that the 'right thing' was whatever it took to come out on top.

I'd hate to be on district duty (my job is to outline the blocks) with a MAGAt.
 

LoAmmo

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No system is cheat-proof, but I wonder if we couldn't adapt a County-based district system, in which districts were FORCED to conform to established County lines. Some Counties are huge (thinking of, say, Harris County in Texas), and some have more cornstalks in them than people, so you could theoretically lump 3 or 4 of those cornfield counties together if you had to, BUT...it would be the exact borders of those 3 or 4 counties, combined.

The ability for EITHER party to draw these crazy shapes for blatantly partisan purposes was a recipe for disaster...and it's only going to get worse unless we abandon the whole premise of allowing gerrymandering. It's long overdue for the dustbin of history.
 

Loren Pechtel

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My proposal on gerrymandering:

First, divide up the area into chunks. I'd say any 35 mph or higher road should be a dividing line, as well as any uninhabitable terrain (park, waterway) and any the midpoint (or ridgeline) of any terrain that pretty much blocks through roads.

Once the terrain is suitably diced up the population in each chunk is calculated. The redistricting solution is the one that uses the minimum boundary length to divide up the terrain while keeping the population of each region within 1% of any other. If that 1% should prove impossible (conceivable in areas of low population density) then whatever the lowest attainable solution is.

State boundaries and boundaries against uninhabitable/impasible terrain do not count towards the boundary length.

Incumbents are not subject to residency requirements. (Avoiding the current issue that incumbents will of course be strongly opposed to any redistricting that moves them out of their district.)
 

lpetrich

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There is a simple solution to gerrymandering: multimember districts. One needs to do much less district-drawing, and with big enough districts, no district-drawing.

But to be an alternative, the candidates have to be elected in proportional fashion. That is because some multimember methods are worse than common single-member methods.

Multi-Member Districts: Just a Thing of the Past? – Sabato's Crystal Ball - gives a history of multimember districts in the US.

Some of the methods are essentially winner-take-all rather than proportional. A common one was general ticket: voting on a complete slate of candidates as if that slate was a single candidate.

Another common one was bloc vote: one votes for as many candidates as there are seats to be elected to in the district. With a partisan vote, that degenerates into general ticket.

An alternative is limited voting: vote for only one candidate or some other number less than the number of seats. That allows for a more proportional outcome, if the voters concentrate their votes on electing their favorites.

Another one is cumulative voting: one has more than one vote, but one can vote for some candidate more than once in one's votes. Much like limited voting, one can get a more proportional outcome by concentrating one's votes on one's favorites.
 

lpetrich

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How multimember districts could end partisan gerrymandering - The Fulcrum
Instead of electing each of the 435 members of the House to represent a district with a single member, we could create fewer congressional districts but then elect several members in each of them. For example: Texas, which because of population growth will probably be able to send 39 representatives to Congress for the next decade, could decide to have 13 districts with three members each.

These seats would be filled in a single election using a proportional, multi-winner voting method, such as the single transferable vote.

The number of representatives from a district is called its "district magnitude." Once the number reaches five or so, the electoral system becomes effectively immune to partisan gerrymandering, political scientist Douglas Amy of Mount Holyoke College has noted.
Single transferable vote is a multiseat extension of instant runoff voting (ranked choice voting). One votes by putting the candidates into the order of one's preference, and one then counts them up with the following algorithm:

Each round:
Count up the top preference in each ballot.
If a candidate gets more than a victory quota of votes, then that candidate wins and drops out of the count. The ballots that helped this candidate win are then reduced in counting weight for later counts. Then go to the next round.
Whoever has the lowest count then drops out of the count. Then go to the next round.

The count stops when all the seats are filled. If one runs out of candidates, then one uses the latest dropouts for the remaining seats.

That reduction in weight is what makes this method proportional. Without it, and with a partisan vote, it will degenerate into general ticket.
 

lpetrich

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One can do proportional representation more directly, in what is often called a party-list system. One votes for a political party, and the legislature seats are then given to each party in proportion to the number of votes that it received. This system is called party list from the common tradition of parties publishing lists of candidates that they want to seat.

If only the parties decide on candidates to seat, then it is a closed-list system. If one can vote on which candidates one wants to seat first, then it is an open-list system.

A variant is a mixed-member system, a combination of single-member districts and extra seats to make the whole legislature proportional. One votes for both a district-seat candidate and a party. Those extra seats are list seats, because their members are elected in party-list fashion.

So it *can* be done, and many nations already do it.
 

Tigers!

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There is a simple solution to gerrymandering: multimember districts. One needs to do much less district-drawing, and with big enough districts, no district-drawing.
Just a quibble. A gerrymander is possible when you have at least 2 areas that can change size or shape depending upon some criteria. There are only 2 ways to avoid gerrymandering - one single electorate over the whole voting area (state, district, country etc.) or fixed areas that never change.

(Actually option 2 could be gerrymandered but the gerrymandering occurs when the areas are first drawn)
 

Tigers!

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Some of the methods are essentially winner-take-all rather than proportional. A common one was general ticket: voting on a complete slate of candidates as if that slate was a single candidate.
The favourite of despots or dictator regardless of political leaning.
 

Jayjay

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There is a simple solution to gerrymandering: multimember districts. One needs to do much less district-drawing, and with big enough districts, no district-drawing.
Just a quibble. A gerrymander is possible when you have at least 2 areas that can change size or shape depending upon some criteria. There are only 2 ways to avoid gerrymandering - one single electorate over the whole voting area (state, district, country etc.) or fixed areas that never change.

(Actually option 2 could be gerrymandered but the gerrymandering occurs when the areas are first drawn)

I disagree. Even if you can in theory gerrymander multi-member districts, in practice that diminishes the potential gains so much that it becomes irrelevant. Furthermore, in a multiparty system no single party is likely to have the kind of dominance that it could unilaterally redraw the district boundaries.

In a pure two-party system with single-member districts, maximal gerrymandering can result to a party with 25% support getting a majority of the seats. With two-member districts, that's 33%. Three, four or five member districts are 37.5%, 40% and 41.7% respectively. And that's the mathematical best case scenario; in practice impossible to attain and the bigger the districts and/or number of parties, the more complicated it becomes.
 

lpetrich

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Wikipedia has lots of articles on  Electoral system

Single-seat:
  •  First-past-the-post voting (plurality) - vote for one candidate only
  •  Approval voting - one can vote for more than one candidate
  •  Score voting (range voting, rated voting) - one gives every candidate a rating
  •  Positional voting - one ranks the candidates, and the ranks are then turned into ratings and counted up in that way
    •  Borda count - the ratings are counted down from either (number of candidates) or else (number of candidates that one ranked)
  •  Instant-runoff voting - one ranks the candidates, and in each round of counting, the lowest top-ranking candidate is removed from the count until one candidate gets a top-rank majority
  •  Condorcet method - one ranks the candidates, and the rankings are turned into a virtual round robin, a virtual set of one-on-one contests. There are several algorithms for handling it
    • Condorcet-Borda: add up the other-candidate entries for each candidate to make ratings
    •  Copeland's method - turn the Condorcet matrix into +1 (overall winning against the other one), -1 (overall losing), 0 (tie), then do Condorcet-Borda
    •  Minimax Condorcet method - the winner is the candidate whose worst defeat is the smallest
    •  Schulze method (beatpath method) - find the beatpaths (sequences where each one beats the next ones) and use them to find an overall order
    •  Ranked pairs (Tideman method) - find pairs of candidates and sort them by how strongly one of them beats the other. One then finds an overall order from the strongest of these
    •  Kemeny–Young method - go through all permutations of candidates and find the one that has the best possible who-beats-who total in it

Multiseat:
 

Loren Pechtel

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There is a simple solution to gerrymandering: multimember districts. One needs to do much less district-drawing, and with big enough districts, no district-drawing.
Just a quibble. A gerrymander is possible when you have at least 2 areas that can change size or shape depending upon some criteria. There are only 2 ways to avoid gerrymandering - one single electorate over the whole voting area (state, district, country etc.) or fixed areas that never change.

(Actually option 2 could be gerrymandered but the gerrymandering occurs when the areas are first drawn)

3) Districts where the boundaries are drawn by formulas which can only be changed with long time lags.
 
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