Monday, March 14, 2005

Automatic Gerrymandering

I generally look at gerrymandering as a problem that is to be avoided at all costs, but I thought I would have a little fun and come up with an "automatic gerrymandering" method that might yield bizarre representative districts but would still be relatively fair. Here's what I came up with:

1. Count the total votes cast in an election and use the Droop Quota to calculate the minimum number of voters to be represented by a single legislator.
2. Determine the winners of each precinct.
3. If a contiguous group of precincts have the same winner, and the number of voters in the precincts is equal to or greater than the cutoff, the winning candidate becomes a representative.
4. If a winning candidate has "surplus precincts" above the cutoff , the surplus becomes available for the closest candidate on down in each precinct as long as they do not eliminate an existing district by changing the winner, making the district non-contiguous, or dropping the number of voters below the Droop Quota. In other words, if a candidate won 100 precincts of equal size but only needed 90 to win, 10 precincts are available for redistribution to second-place candidates. Unallocated precincts then become available to the third-place candidates, and so on.
5. If a group of unallocated precincts is surrounded by one or more completed districts, then they are added to the neighboring completed district with the highest-scoring candidate as long as they do not alter his election. His surplus precincts then become available to other candidates (you are basically adding precincts on one side and making them available on the other).
6. If there are still representatives needing to be picked, unallocated precincts are combined into "super-precincts" until there is a winner. (I'm not sure what method of combination would be best, since there might be multiple ways of adding precincts together which would yield different representatives).

Of course, the downside to this would be the amount of calculation necessary to determine an election -- candidates who win outright are easy to pick, but choosing a winner among the other candidates is much more difficult -- but at least with this version of gerrymandering it's the voters in each precinct that makes the decision, not the politicians. You might also want to make a rule that unallocated precincts are first given to candidates who have won a sufficient number of non-contiguous precincts, and/or candidates with the highest total number of votes overall.

I'd be interested in seeing other ideas or refinements that others might come up with, To be honest I still prefer anti-gerrymandering districts (a vector quantization/Voronoi cell method would be great), but this method might yield interesting results in states like California and Texas. :)


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