Redistricting on the Internet

The World Wide Web meant easy access to previously hidden information. No longer was it necessary to hunt through libraries to find information on unusual subjects, such as redistricting. I found that there were a few others out there currently pursuing computerized redistricting. Better yet, blogging offers the chance to make my findings available to the world. But the hope of finding others to help me in my pursuit of redistricting has not happened. Academic libraries don’t make all their materials available to the public, even though their research is funded by taxpayer dollars. What I have seen from the Ivory Tower is about how computerized redistricting is such a difficult problem to solve. Nothing about how to download and use the census data.

Over the decades, I have reached some different conclusions from  others in this niche. I consider it impractical to achieve some perfect redistricting plan. The gerrymanderers can simply have the computer analyze millions of plans to find one that steals the most votes in their favor. I reject the idea that there is a comparable easy measurement that measures the ” goodness” of a redistricting plan. A minimum district perimeter plan does not take into account the city and county boundaries, which I consider to be a terrible weakness. There is no perfect value of how much account should be taken. The values I have chosen are a bit arbitrary. Experimentation will reveal whether or not the chosen value is practical. Too little account would lead to a redistricting plan similar to that created by a minimum district perimeter algorithm. Too much account could lead to stretched out uneven districts, though I doubt they would look as brutally mangled as typical gerrymandered districts. The trick then would be to get a consensus on a practical value that could be enacted into law.

Simulated Annealing redistricting is too heuristic for me. Splitline redistricting is another algorithm which I consider to be a competitor. It ignores census blocks in favor of smooth straight lines. Sandboxwalls grows districts from a seed. Originally, the idea was to plant the seed in the center of the existing districts. Unfortunately, the present existing districts are mangled by gerrymandering. Thus, an awful lot of evolution would be required by Sandboxwalls to produce good districts from bad. It has occurred to me to start with something better than such mangled districts. A lot of time could be saved by planting the seed in the center of each of the Splitline districts. I have no idea how to get the latitude and longitude out of the Splitline districts. Even if I did, I am not interested in a fight with whoever or whatever owns Splitline.

But experimentation is a long way off. Concepts have to be turned into working FORTRAN code. That takes time, and staying employed is more important than playing with lost causes like computerized redistricting. Somehow data has to be extracted from the Census Bureau files. In my next blog, I will ask for clues on how to do this.


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