Sunday, October 23, 2005

Jerry "The Man" Mandering

I have the blog Uggabugga in my blogroll for a reason. Ugga has a great way with graphical representation of information. As a visual person, that's something that benefits me greatly.

About a week ago, Uggabugga posted a great graphical depiction of how gerrymandering can be used to manipulate control of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Ugga's point is to come out against a proposition in California, put forth by Gov. Ahnold, that would require Congressional districts to be "compact" and not meandering geographical entities.

Here's Uggga's presentation:
Start with a population of 24: 12 blues, 12 reds.
Congressional seats: 4
A city (at the left) which is 100% blue, and suburban/rural areas with a red:blue distribution of 2:1

In a fair (re)districting, one that has the congressional representation mirror the population's political orientation, we would have two blue seats and two red seats. A districting plan that would attain that goal might look something like this: (note the city at the left has multi-districts)

But if the priority is to create compact districts, along with the avoidance of multi-district cities, you could end up with a redistricting like this:

Instead of two blue and two red seats, we now have one (very solid) blue seat, and three red seats. So while Schwarzenegger's plan sounds reasonable, the devil is in the details, and it turns out to be not so fair after all.
Now, either of the major parties can use gerrymandering to gain an advantage like this. This really shouldn't be a partisan issue. However, Republicans have been particularly egregious of late in this sort of thing of late but Democrats are not without sin.

The other issue is that of "compactness". I'm not sure what the advantage is. Who cares how aesthetically pleasing a Congressional district appears on the map. I'm more concerned about proportional representation. And given the form of representative government we have, that's the best we can hope for.

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