Brian Olson's approach to Hands-Off Redistricting

I ended my last post with a reference to Brian Olson and the work he is doing to test and implement Hands-Off Redistricting algorithms of various kinds, and the success he seems to be having with his most recent work.  I find his blog fascinating and inspiring to flip through, and I recommend it highly.

Brian is zeroing in on an approach that he finds very promising, and just visually perusing his results – which he makes easy to do by clicking through the hyperlinks here – I think he is on to something. Continue reading

Posted in Boundary mathematics, Brian Olson, california, north carolina, OPRA | 2 Comments

Hands-Off Redistricting and Minority Voices

Hands-Off or Hands-On?

Hands-Off or Hands-On?

One of the most common responses I get to the idea of Hands-Off Redistricting is that – though people are uniformly disgusted with gerrymandering – they are concerned that automated approaches might lead to their own set of unintentional injustices.  The concerns I hear fall under two broad themes:

Hands-off approaches may disenfranchise minority interest groups (especially racial ones) by dispersing these communities among Congressional Districts, and Continue reading

Posted in Boundary mathematics, Brian Olson, Gay rights, minority rights, OPRA, Politics of Redistricting, Texas | 3 Comments

A GIS analysis of Gerrymandering compared to OPRA

I ran across a very interesting blog post by a creative GIS specialist named Blake Harvey, on his Geo Ideas blog. In it, he proposed a formula for measuring gerrymandering, and he proposed this ranking for states based on his formula:


Map scraped from Blake Harvey’s Geo Ideas blog post Continue reading

Posted in Boundary mathematics, north carolina, Politics of Redistricting | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

North Carolina gerrymandering and the government shutdown

If you’re visual like me, and focused on the pernicious politics of gerrymandering as I am, you will be drawn to this map North Carolina’s eastern Congressional Districts:

eastern NC Congressional Districts

Google map scraped from, a great site for browsing Continue reading

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How Gerrymandering fits into efforts to shut down the U.S. Government

There is an interesting and timely piece by Ryan Lizza in a recent The New Yorker piece Where the GOP Suicide Caucus Lives.”  The Suicide Caucus is a term originated by Charles Krauthammer to describe the radicals in the House who are willing to commit (purported) political suicide by pushing the government to a shut down, and/or not allowing the government to make debt payments, in order to keep Obamacare from getting underway. This caucus is arguably damaging the nationwide appeal of the Republican party and endangering the national economy, but it is a complete misreading of the situation to imply that these congressional representatives are endangering their own political careers, and that is plainly the result of gerrymandered congressional districts. Continue reading

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Hands-Off Redistricting Strategies

“Hands-Off” has a “Strategy”?

Having argued the case that Congressional districts should be drawn in a hands-off way, it may seem contradictory to write about “strategies” for redistricting.  But the strategies I am thinking about today don’t have to do with political strategies for political ends (e.g. strategies for how to dilute minority votes, or how to make sure the incumbent congressperson wins), but instead pertain to technical strategies for how to best solve the Five Rules for Hands-Off Redistricting. One has to think about this for two reasons: Continue reading

Posted in Boundary mathematics | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Is OPRA a Deterministic or Probabilistic Problem?

An almost universal pair of comments I get from readers so far has been a combination of two observations:

1. Wow, there is so much (social-political and mathematical) complexity to Hands-Off Redistricting!

2. Isn’t there a way to have a computer figure out the best Optimal Proximity arrangement?  Why does it have to be crowd-sourced?

(BTW, I wish everyone could see everyone else’s comments- they are uniformly great so far!  Would you all please consider Following the blog and commenting online??) Continue reading

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A good idea, but is it possible to bring about?

From the posting of the YouTube video HandsOffRedistricting V1 I’ve already received some very thoughtful and interesting responses.  Most were by email so I’ll anonymize the names, but there was a common thread in many of them:

I don’t see a thing wrong with the idea and it should work. There lies the problem. The ‘old system’ works just fine for the party in power when redistributing time rolls around…. I can’t imagine a  congressman taking on the fight without nationwide support behind the concept.  — HK, Texas Continue reading

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Getting Underway

Like many Americans who pay attention, it grates on me to watch the brazen and corrosive politics behind the drawing of Congressional district boundaries.

The political gains to be had from gerrymandering Congressional districts are not going to go away, and trying to make the politics behind redistricting more “fair” is a losing strategy.  The best way to remove redistricting abuse from the American body politic is to rethink our premise behind redistricting, and to start thinking of it as a math problem and not a political problem.

I am as cynical as the next guy (probably more, to be honest) and I have no illusions about what would be involved to make this a reality.  But you’ve got to start somewhere and it beats screaming at the television.

So for starters, I’ve laid out an idea in a YouTube Video called Hands Off Redistricting.  It is about 7 minutes long, and its purpose is to socialize the idea and start to make connections with like-minded people.  Please take a look and leave a comment either here or on YouTube.

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