Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Reviving Legislative Avenues for Gerrymandering Reform with a Flexible, Automated Tool

  • James Saxon (a1)

Abstract

After seeking a “manageable standard” to apply to claims of partisan gerrymandering for over three decades, the Supreme Court has finally given up the chase, ruling that such claims are nonjusticiable. What is to be done? An extended history of successful congressional action suggests that the legislative pathway is more practical than often believed. Statutory requirements also make it possible to consider a broader suite of districting objectives. This paper presents a flexible new software and a framework for evaluating the practical implications of explicit objectives. I apply this approach to the conditions last required by Congress, generating equipopulous, contiguous, and compact districts. Among these conditions, the formal definition of compactness has proven contentious. Does it matter? I contrast the representation of the political parties and of racial and ethnic minorities under plans optimized according to 18 different definitions of compactness. On these grounds, the definitions are markedly consistent. These methods may be extended to alternative districting objectives and criteria.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Reviving Legislative Avenues for Gerrymandering Reform with a Flexible, Automated Tool
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Reviving Legislative Avenues for Gerrymandering Reform with a Flexible, Automated Tool
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Reviving Legislative Avenues for Gerrymandering Reform with a Flexible, Automated Tool
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

Corresponding author

Footnotes

Hide All

Contributing Editor: Jeff Gill

Footnotes

References

Hide All
Altman, M., and McDonald, M.. 2011. “BARD: Better Automated Redistricting.” Journal of Statistical Software 42(1):128. doi:10.18637/jss.v042.i04.
An Act for the Apportionment of Representatives to Congress among the several States according to the ninth Census, 42d Congress, 2d session; 17 Stat. 28 (1872).
An Act Making an apportionment of Representatives in Congress among the several States under the Twelfth Census, 56th Congress, 2d session; 31 Stat. 733 (1901).
An Act For the apportionment of Representatives in Congress among the several States under the Thirteenth Census, 62d Congress, 1st session; 37 Stat. 13 (1911).
Angel, S., Parent, J., and Civco, D. L.. 2010. “Ten Compactness Properties of Circles: Measuring Shape in Geography.” Canadian Geographer 54(4):441461. doi:10.1111/j.1541-0064.2009.00304.x.
Ansolabehere, S., Palmer, M., and Lee, A.. 2015. “Precinct-Level Election Data.” https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/YN4TLR, Harvard Dataverse, V1, UNF:5:5C9UfGjdLy2ONVPtgr45qA== [fileUNF].
Ansolabehere, S., and Rodden, J.. 2011a. “Florida Data Files.” https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/BKWGVO, Harvard Dataverse, V1, UNF:5:4UlVSNNWWtboES03i623sA== [fileUNF].
Ansolabehere, S., and Rodden, J.. 2011b. “Illinois Data Files.” https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/USCMPG, Harvard Dataverse, V2.
Cameron, C., Epstein, D., and O’Halloran, S.. 1996. “Do Majority-Minority Districts Maximize Substantive Black Representation in Congress? The American Political Science Review 90(4):794812. doi:10.2307/2945843.
Chambers, C. P., and Miller, A. D.. 2010. “A Measure of Bizarreness.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 5(1):2744. doi:10.1561/100.00009022.
Chen, J., and Cottrell, D.. 2016. “Evaluating Partisan Gains from Congressional Gerrymandering: Using Computer Simulations to Estimate the Effect of Gerrymandering in the U.S. House.” Electoral Studies 44:329340. doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2016.06.014.
Chen, J., and Rodden, J.. 2013. “Unintentional Gerrymandering: Political Geography and Electoral Bias in Legislatures.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 8(3):239269. doi:10.1561/100.00012033.
Chen, J., and Rodden, J.. 2015. “Cutting Through the Thicket: Redistricting Simulations and the Detection of Partisan Gerrymanders.” Election Law Journal 14(4):331345.
Cho, W. K. T., and Liu, Y. Y.. 2016. “Toward a Talismanic Redistricting Tool: A Computational Method for Identifying Extreme Redistricting Plans.” Election Law Journal 15(4):351366. doi:10.1089/elj.2016.0384.
Chou, C., Kimbrough, S., Sullivan-Fedock, J., Woodard, C. J., and Murphy, F. H.. 2012. “Using Interactive Evolutionary Computation (IEC) with Validated Surrogate Fitness Functions for Redistricting.” In 14th Annual Conference on Genetic and Evolutionary Computation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, 10711078. doi:10.1145/2330163.2330312.
Chou, C., Kimbrough, S. O., Murphy, F. H., Sullivan-Fedock, J., and Woodard, C. J.. 2014. “On Empirical Validation of Compactness Measures for Electoral Redistricting and Its Significance for Application of Models in the Social Sciences.” Social Science Computer Review 32(4):534543. doi:10.1177/0894439313484262.
Chowdhry, A.2015. “Record Number of Visible Minority MPs Elected to Commons.” The Globe and Mail, October 20. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/record-number-of-visible-minority-mps-elected-to-commons/article26892245/.
Cong. Globe, 27th Cong., 2d sess. vol. 11, pp. 407 and 788–790 (agreement on the principle), 449–451 and 786–788 (doom), 790 (state strategies). (May 2, 1842); June 4 and 10, 1842.
Cong. Rec., 70th Cong., 2d sess. vol. 70, pp. 1496, 1499, 1584, 1602, 1604. (January 10–11, 1929 The statute as enacted is 46 Stat. 26.
Cong. Quarterly. 1968. Congress Fails to Adopt House District Standards, 550557. Washington DC: Congressional Quarterly.
Donovan, B. 2007. “Minority Representation in Germany.” German Politics 16(4):455480. doi:10.1080/09644000701652482.
DuPage County GIS, “Election Precincts.” Updated December 14, 2016. Accessed May 1, 2017. Website points to current precincts.
Ehrenburg, K. 1892. “Studien zur Messung der horizontalen Gliederung von Erdräumen. Mit 2 Tafeln.” Verhandlungen der Physikalisch-medicinishen Gesellschaft zu Würzburg 25:2972.
Epstein, D., and O’Halloran, S.. 1999. “A Social Science Approach to Race, Redistricting, and Representation.” The American Political Science Review 93(1):187191. doi:10.2307/2585770.
Ferruzzi, A.“Historical - ccgisdata - Election Precinct Data - 2015 to 2016.” Cook County Government, Open Data. Updated March 1, 2016. Accessed May 1, 2017.
Forrest, E. 1964. “Apportionment by Computer.” American Behavioral Scientist 8(4):23. doi:10.1177/000276426400800407.
Frolov, Y. S. 1975. “Measuring the Shape of Geographical Phenomena: A History of the Issue.” Soviet Geography 16(10):676687. doi:10.1080/00385417.1975.10640104. Frolov cites K. Ehrenburg’s Studies on the measurement of the horizontal shapes of areas, in the Verhandlungen der Physikalisch-medincinischen gesellschaft zu Würzburg (1892).
Fryer, R. G. Jr., and Holden, R.. 2011. “Measuring the Compactness of Political Districting Plans.” The Journal of Law and Economics 54(3):493535. doi:10.1086/661511.
Glover, F. 1989. “Tabu Search Part I.” ORSA Journal on Computing 1(3):190206. doi:10.1287/ijoc.1.3.190.
Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368 (1963).
Grofman, B. 1985. “Criteria for Districting: A Social Science Perspective.” UCLA Law Review 33:77184.
Grofman, B. 1991. “Lessons from the American Experience: What Happens After One Person-One Vote? Implications of the United States Experience for Canada.” In Drawing Boundaries: Legislatures, Courts, and Electoral Values, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: Fifth House Publishers.
Grofman, B., Handley, L., and Lublin, D.. 2001. “Drawing Effective Miority Districts: A Conceptual Framework and Some Empirical Evidence.” North Carolina Law Review 79:13831430.
Grofman, B., and King, G.. 2007. “The Future of Partisan Symmetry as a Judicial Test for Partisan Gerrymandering after LULAC v. Perry.” Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy 6(1):235. doi:10.1089/elj.2006.6002.
Hofeller, T., and Grofman, B.. 1990. “Comparing the Compactness of California Congressional Districts under Three Different Plans: 1980, 1982, and 1984.” In Effective Representation, edited by Grofman, B., 281288. New York: Agathon.
Illinois State Board of Elections, “Election Vote Totals Results.” Accessed May 7, 2017.
Kaufman, A., King, G., and Komisarchik, M.. 2017. How to Measure Legislative District Compactness If You Only Know it When You See It. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.
Kurland, P., and Lerner, R.. 2000. The Founders’ Constitution, vol. 2, Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1, University of Chicago Press. For arguments on the use of Article 1, Section 4 for maintaining fair districts, see in particular Madison at the Federal Convention and back home at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, or Appendix G.1.
Lake County, Illinois, “Voting Precincts.” 2016. Website points to current precincts.
Levy, J.Precincts (current).” In Chicago Data Portal. Updated August 23, 2016. Accessed May 1, 2017.
Louisiana House of Representatives, “2012 Louisiana Precinct Shapefile.” Updated February 14, 2013. Accessed May 16, 2017.
Louisiana House of Representatives, “2016 Louisiana Precinct Shapefile.” Updated September 9, 2016. Accessed May 16, 2017.
Louisiana Secretary of State, “Election Results by Parish: Official Results for Election Date 11/06/2012 (Presidential Electors).” Accessed May 17, 2017. Parish-level returns can be downloaded systematically, as shown in the replication repoistories.
Louisiana Secretary of State, “Election Results by Parish: Official Results for Election Date 11/08/2016 (Presidential Electors).” Accessed May 17, 2017. Parish-level returns can be downloaded systematically, as shown in the replication repoistories.
Lublin, D. 1999. “Racial Redistricting and African-American Representation: A Critique of ‘Do Majority-Minority Districts Maximize Substantive Black Representation in Congress?’The American Political Science Review 93(1):183186. doi:10.2307/2585769.
Lublin, D., Brunell, T. L., Grofman, B., and Handley, L.. 2009. “Has the Voting Rights Act Outlived Its Usefulness? In a Word, ‘No’.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 34(4:):525553. doi:10.2307/20680256.
Minnesota Geographic Information Services, “Election Results.” Minnesota Legislature. Updated February 12, 2009. Accessed November 17, 2017. ftp://ftp.commissions.leg.state.mn.us/pub/gis/shape/elec08.zip.
Minnesota Geographic Information Services, “Election Results.” Minnesota Legislature. Updated November 9, 2016. Accessed November 17, 2017. ftp://ftp.commissions.leg.state.mn.us/pub/gis/shape/elec2016.zip.
Minnesota Geographic Information Services, “Election Results.” Minnesota Legislature. Updated January 24, 2013. Accessed November 17, 2017. ftp://ftp.commissions.leg.state.mn.us/pub/gis/shape/elec2012.zip.
Niemi, R. G., Grofman, B., Carlucci, C., and Hofeller, T.. 1990. “Measuring Compactness and the Role of a Compactness Standard in a Test for Partisan and Racial Gerrymandering.” The Journal of Politics 52(4):11551181. doi:10.2307/2131686.
North Carolina State Board of Elections, “SBE Precincts 09012012.” Updated August 31, 2012. Accessed May 7, 2017.
North Carolina State Board of Elections, “Precinct Election Results: 11/06/2012.” Updated Jan 22 2013. Accessed May 6, 2017.
North Carolina State Board of Elections, “Precinct Election Results: 11/08/2016.” Updated December 16, 2016a. Accessed May 6, 2017.
North Carolina State Board of Elections, “SBE Precincts 20161004.” Updated October 4, 2016b. Accessed May 7, 2017.
Polsby, D. D., and Popper, R. D.. 1991. “The Third Criterion: Compactness as a Procedural Safeguard Against Partisan Gerrymandering.” Yale Law & Policy Review 9:301353.
Reock, E. C. 1961. “A Note: Measuring Compactness as a Requirement of Legislative Apportionment.” Midwest Journal of Political Science 5(1):7074. doi:10.2307/2109043.
Rucho v. Common Cause, 588 U.S. (2019).
Saxon, J. 2019. “Replication Data for: Reviving Legislative Avenues for Gerrymandering Reform with a Flexible, Automated Tool.” Harvard Dataverse. doi:10.7910/DVN/NIPYJ8.
Schwartzberg, J. E. 1966. “Reapportionment, Gerrymanders, and the Notion of Compactness.” Minnesota Law Review 50:443452.
Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1993).
Spann, A., Kane, D., and Gulotta, D.. 2007. “Electoral Redistricting with Moment of Inertia and Diminishing Halves Models.” UMAP Journal 28(3):281299.
Stephanopoulos, N. 2013. “Our Electoral Exceptionalism.” University of Chicago Law Review 80:769858.
Stephanopoulos, N., and McGhee, E.. 2015. “Partisan Gerrymandering and the Efficiency Gap.” University of Chicago Law Review 82:831900.
Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, “Map Selection.” Accessed August 14, 2017. County files may be downloaded individually, as demonstrated in replication files. Modification dates by county range between June 7, 2012 and August 14, 2017 (in response to a correction, requested by the author).
Tennessee Secretary of State, “2016 Election: United States President, Results by Precinct.” Updated December 13, 2016. Accessed August 14, 2017.
Texas Legislative Council, “2008 General Election Returns.” Accessed May 3, 2017. ftp://ftpgis1.tlc.state.tx.us/elections/2008_General_Election_Returns.csv.
Texas Legislative Council, “2014 General Election Returns.” Accessed March 19, 2019. ftp://ftpgis1.tlc.state.tx.us/elections/2014_General_Election_Returns.csv.
Texas Legislative Council, “2016 General Election Returns.” Accessed May 3, 2017. ftp://ftpgis1.tlc.state.tx.us/elections/2008_General_Election_Returns.csv.
Texas Legislative Council, “Voting Tabulation Districts.” Updated February 7, 2017. Accessed May 3, 2017. ftp://ftpgis1.tlc.state.tx.us/2011_Redistricting_Data/VTDs/Geography/VTDs.zip.
Texas Legislative Council, “2018 General Election Returns.” Accessed March 19, 2019. ftp://ftpgis1.tlc.state.tx.us/elections/2018_General_Election_Returns.csv.
U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Historian, “Black-American Representatives and Senators by Congress, 1870–Present.” Accessed August 4, 2017a.
U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Historian, “Hispanic-American Representatives and Senators by Congress, 1822–Present.” Accessed August 4, 2017b.
U.S. House of Representatives, Press Gallery, “Demographics.” Accessed June 17, 2017.
US Cenus Bureau, “Congressional District TIGER Shapefiles, 111th Congress.” Updated March 1, 2012. Accessed February 1, 2018. ftp://ftp2.census.gov/geo/tiger/GENZ2010/. The Congressional District files are of the form gz_2010_[USPS]_500_11_500k.
US Cenus Bureau, “Congressional District TIGER Shapefiles, 107th Congress.” Updated June 20, 2013. Accessed February 1, 2018.
US Cenus Bureau, “2015 TIGER/Line Shapefiles: Congressional Districts (114).” Updated August 13, 2015. Accessed February 1, 2018.
US Cenus Bureau, “Cartographic Boundary Files - Shapefile.” Updated April 4, 2016. Accessed August 30, 2016. ftp://ftp2.census.gov/geo/tiger/GENZ2015/shp/.
US Cenus Bureau, “American Community Survey 5-Year Data (2009–2017).” 2018. Data series has been updated since data were retrieved.
Weaver, J. B., and Hess, S. W.. 1963. “A Procedure for Nonpartisan Districting: Development of Computer Techniques.” The Yale Law Journal 73(2):288308. doi:10.2307/794769.
Wisconsin Legislative Technology Services Bureau, “2002–2010 WI Election Data with 2011 Wards.” Updated October 3, 2017. Accessed May 15, 2017. Note: dataset has been updated and moved since data were retrieved.
Wisconsin Legislative Technology Services Bureau, “2012–2020 WI Election Data with 2017 Wards.” Updated October 19, 2018. Accessed May 15, 2017. Note: dataset has been updated and moved since data were retrieved.
Young, H. P. 1988. “Measuring the Compactness of Legislative Districts.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 13(1):105115.
MathJax
MathJax is a JavaScript display engine for mathematics. For more information see http://www.mathjax.org.

Keywords

Type Description Title
UNKNOWN
Supplementary materials

Saxon Dataset
Dataset

 Unknown
UNKNOWN
Supplementary materials

Saxon supplementary material
Saxon supplementary material

 Unknown (1.1 MB)
1.1 MB

Reviving Legislative Avenues for Gerrymandering Reform with a Flexible, Automated Tool

  • James Saxon (a1)

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.