It's the redistricting, stupid

I always did like calculus...from "Nate Silver's Political Calculus" column at the NYT:

In the chart below, I’ve detailed the population shifts in different regions of New York State, as well as the attendant changes in the number of congressional districts that they require. Although New York City grew at the same rate, 2.1 percent, as the rest of the state between 2000 and 2010, the number of congressional districts it can support has declined from 12.2 to 11.4 because of the overall reduction in the state’s allotment. The slowest growth in New York City has been in Brooklyn and Queens...

Now I get it. I may be stupid, but I'm slow: 

It is looking more likely that Rep. Anthony Weiner, embroiled in a sexting scandal, could lose his 9th Congressional District as part of a redistricting deal, multiple New York Democratic sources told CNN on Wednesday.

New York will lose two seats when the U.S. House gets reconfigured to reflect population shifts recorded in the 2010 U.S. census. The state's redistricting will be decided by the New York State Assembly in Albany, the capital, with the expected result being an overhaul that would cut a Republican seat upstate and a Democratic seat downstate.

Weiner's district is in Brooklyn and Queens in New York City...

[....] Two of the sources, both Democratic strategists in New York, said that scenario helps explain why New York Democrats haven't rushed to call for Weiner to resign. Many prefer for Weiner to stay, making it more likely his district will get cut and not theirs, according to the two sources.

What, no honor amongst thieves? I'm shocked, shocked...

"Redistricting Shades N.Y. Race"

Subhead: "Corwin Victory Might Ultimately Squeeze Out an Upstate GOP Freshman"

Curiouser and curiouser. At RollCall:

Capitol Hill's Republican elite — including Speaker John Boehner( Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) — have been among Jane Corwin's most active supporters in western New York's suddenly competitive 26th district special election.

But the Empire State's own Republican delegation, particularly those upstate freshmen who occupy nearby districts, have done little, if anything, to help their prospective GOP colleague to date....

[....] There is widespread fear that a victory by Corwin, a two-term state lawmaker with stronger ties to the state House than the GOP freshmen in the delegation, could shift the balance of power in the looming redistricting process.

New York will lose two Congressional seats in 2012 because of population losses. One of those seats will likely be upstate. And state lawmakers in a divided Legislature will ultimately pick the winners and losers when they redraw the districts in the coming months...

[....] Rep. Richard Hanna, whose 24th district is beyond [Tom} Reed's to the east, is the only delegation member so far who offered to visit the 26th district to help Corwin, according to Corwin spokesman Matthew Harakal...

Read the rest.

Separated at birth? Slaying the Jabberwock/Gerrymander

Over the years, people have remarked on the similarity of John Tenniel's illustration of the Jabberwock from Lewis Carroll's 1872 Through the Looking Glass to the 1812 political cartoon satirizing the drawing of election district lines in Gov. Elbridge Gerry's Massachusetts.  When I was sitting at the League of Women Voters' presentation on redistricting back in January in Ithaca and listening to the clearly partisan complaints about gerrymandered election districts, the number-crunching side of my brain was thinking that there must be some geometric algorithm or linear programming something-or-other that will slay this beast—it can't be that hard.

Well, in some sense it's not.  In words, the objective standard is this:

...The degree of contrivance behind the design of a set of districts is directly related to the oddness of the shapes employed to reach the election-rigging objective.

Mathematically, that translates to this:

...if you take the square of the perimeter of any shape, and divide it by the shape’s area, you arrive at a number, which can be called its irregularity. For example the irregularity of any square, regardless of its size, equals 16 (because (4s)2/s2 = 16.) On the other hand, the irregularity of a rectangle whose long side is 10 times the length of its short side is 48.4 (because (22s)2/10s2 = 48.4.) The odder and more contrived the shape, the higher will be its irregularity.

So it's mathematically possible to create (nearly) equal population districts with a minimum total irregularity.

There are other considerations, of course, which have to be addressed. And let's face it: "Many politicians will resist such reform, as it will cost them their ability to fix elections in their own favor."  No kidding.  But it's not as though gerrymandering is a problem whose solution is so arcane that mere mortals can't possibly wrap their minds around it. So do it already.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"

He chortled in his joy.

Redistricting--Discover the Networks

The NY League of Women Voters (LWV) held redistricting information sessions today in Ithaca. Their PowerPoint presentation may be found here, and the position paper supporting it here.

The "Discover the Networks" in the post title refers to David Horowitz's website of that name, which is described as "a guide to the political left." It's a treasure trove, a veritable candy store, of information about all those groups and individuals that you always suspected were connected, only you weren't sure how. Now you'll know. The national LWV has its very own page here. Enjoy.

Redistricting--everything's connected

The post immediately preceding this one reminded me of a little blurb in the Ithaca Journal a couple of days ago:

Laura Ladd Bierman, executive director of the League of Women Voters New York State, and Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director, will describe how electoral district lines have been established, the reasons they believe reform is needed and what state residents can do to influence change in New York state government at an event in Ithaca Jan. 26.

The sessions will be held from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and 7 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at the second floor annex of the First Unitarian Church of Ithaca, at Buffalo and Aurora streets. The sessions will be based on data obtained from the New York Public Interest Research Group and additional material from the Brennan Center for Justice and Citizens Union of the City of New York. Legislative districts are due to be redrawn following results of the 2010 Census.

In order to get the gist of where this is probably going, here's a quote from the Brennan Center for Justice website:

The conservative movement rose, in part, because it relies on a pinched and narrow view of the role of law, the Constitution, and government.

Hmmm....might be interesting to go hear what these folks have to say. January 26th is a Wednesday; I presume they're presenting the same program twice (once in the afternoon, once in the evening).

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