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Open Source Tool Lets Anyone Redistrict New York

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the move-staten-island-a-bit-closer-to-the-bronx dept.

Government 102

First time accepted submitter Micah_Altman writes "As the next redistricting battle shapes up in New York, members of the public have an opportunity to create viable alternatives. Unlike the previously reported crowdsourced redistricting of Los Angeles, the public mapping of New York is based on open source software — anyone can use this to set up their own public web-based redistricting effort."

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102 comments

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Eliminate districts (4, Insightful)

Patrick May (305709) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116956)

Districting only serves to virtually guarantee safe seats for the incumbent parties. We need at large elections to increase the representation of minority views and weaken the established players.

Re:Eliminate districts (5, Informative)

sribe (304414) | more than 2 years ago | (#38116982)

Districting only serves to virtually guarantee safe seats for the incumbent parties. We need at large elections to increase the representation of minority views and weaken the established players.

At-large elections eliminate representation of minority views, duh (consult a history book or two about the civil rights struggles of the 60s).

FAIL (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117074)

Sorry. Baboons shouldn't have civil rights. NAACP = Now Apes Are Called People

Re:FAIL (1)

Taty'sEyes (2373326) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118338)

Is it possible to mod someone down below -1?

Re:Eliminate districts (5, Insightful)

Patrick May (305709) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117218)

Perhaps you should spend some time looking into alternative voting systems before flaming on Slashdot. In an at large system with N representatives for M people, any candidate getting M/N votes will get a seat. That increases the chances of a minority view being heard. In a gerrymandered system, the incumbent parties can ensure that the minority view is spread out over every district, diluting it to insignificance.

Re:Eliminate districts (1, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118230)

In a gerrymandered system, the incumbent parties can ensure that the minority view is spread out over every district, diluting it to insignificance.

In a gerrymandered system, incumbent parties can ensure that the majority view is spread out over every district, diluting it into a minority.

Minority opinions are not supposed to be what get representatives elected.

An optimal election looks like this: If a state has 5 seats, you get a pool of candidates, say 60 people who want to be a representative.

You have 6 elections. First a qualifying election, where voters are asked to vote "Yes" or "No" for each candidate in the pool; for their ballot to be counted, at least 5 Yes votes must be registered, and the rest must be No, but they can vote Yes to as many candidates as they like.

Candidates that get less than 51% are disqualified and removed from the pool.

Then, you have another election to decide the first seat; voters are asked to choose their favorite candidate. Whoever has the plurality wins the second election, and becomes the first representative.

Next, another election is held to decide the second seat. Voters have the knowledge of which candidate already has a seat, and this may influence their decision about who to vote for -- for example, many voters might want to make sure they don't have representation too lopsided towards one political persuasion or the other - they might not to give any single political party too much power.

Whoever gets plurality on Election #2 fills seat # 2, of course the winner of Seat 1 is no longer a candidate, so the vote is divided over a smaller number of candidates, and the voter options are reduced by 1 for the 2nd election.

Then a third election is called to fill seat #3, etc,.

The number of elections required is larger, but the result is a more accurate representation of the public view. The strong winner is chosen quickly, and the losers get a better understanding of what the public wants to better tune their plans and their campaign in between elections, resulting in far better representation for the constituents.

Re:Eliminate districts (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38118742)

An optimal election looks like this: [...]

lol, what a load of crap. maybe you should read about electoral systems before spouting off. here's a start: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_transferable_vote

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

Rolgar (556636) | more than 2 years ago | (#38139556)

The majority would get to pick every candidate. Say, 55% of your voters decide to get a particular set of candidates elected, and they focus all votes on a particular candidate, and get him elected. Then for the second vote, they change and select their second favorite candidate. Executed on a nationwide level, a party with a slight minority would have a significant edge in representation in Congress.

A much better way: Every voter picks their party. Each party gets representation based on the number of voters registered. Party holds an internal election to choose their own representatives, guaranteeing each voter is represented by somebody of their own party assuming their party has enough voters to qualify for a representative.

This would allow parties other than the big 2 to register voters to their cause from across the country, hopefully gaining enough voters to get a few representatives. Over time, if the parties do a good job of communicating their message, maybe they grow to be on par with the larger parties.

Also, instead of having big coalitions formed around the large issues that often aren't in line (for instance libertarians, social conservatives, pro-military Republicans and pro-business Republicans), these would break into small more fluid alliances, matched by similar breaks in the other side (socialists, communists, unionists, social liberals, environmentalists, etc.) that would attempt to form majority coalitions on issues other than their primary interests. So the libertarians and some pro-business Republicans might join with social liberals to try to engage the rest of Congress and the country on the social liberal agenda.

Re:Eliminate districts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38118630)

Exactly, this is what we have in most European countries (notable exception : the UK)
It has better representation for minority views but the downside should also be mentioned. That downside is that it can be very difficult to form a government, because it always has to be a coalition government, or make any other real decision. Consensus is often required.
Belgium is living this scenario right now. Elections were 18 months ago, but there still is no government...
otoh. people in Belgium say the country has never been governed better :-)

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

Wild_dog! (98536) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123892)

We could use a little less governance of the sort we have had for the past 30 or so years on this side of the pond. The middle class is losing ground due to leaders who don't put the citizens first, but their own pocketbooks and the pocketbooks of those who buy them.

Re:Eliminate districts (4, Informative)

thue (121682) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117282)

We have an at-large election system here in Denmark, as in much of continental Europe. This proportional representation [wikipedia.org] gives each voter a vastly better opportunity to vote for the candidate which best represents him, instead of just having to vote for the lesser of two evils or throwing your vote away.

Re:Eliminate districts (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117620)

Oh, please, the political situation in Europe isn't any better than it is in the US, you just have more illusion of variety due to the larger number of parties. When push comes to shove, you don't have any more variety than we do, it's just we have less party unity than you do.

People keep repeating that logic and it's no more true now than it was decades back. The party affiliation means little to nothing when politicians aren't required to vote with their party. Some of the Democrats in our legislature are as conservative or more than the GOP pols are.

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

svick (1158077) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117742)

From time to time, new political views get wider attention in Europe. In the past it was the greens, now it's the pirates. And they get into parliaments.

I really don't think it's just an illusion of variety. And I've yet to see any such political party have any kind of success in the US.

Re:Eliminate districts (2)

damiangerous (218679) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117954)

From time to time, new political views get wider attention in Europe. In the past it was the greens, now it's the pirates. And they get into parliaments.

From time to time new political views get wider attention in the US. In the past it was the neocons, now it's the Tea Party. And they get into office.

I've yet to see any such political party have any kind of success in the US.

That's because our political parties contain a much wider spectrum of opinion than yours. Blue Dog Democrats have vastly different views than Progressive Democrats or the Christian Left, for example. Log Cabin Republicans have a different agenda than the Tea Party, Neocons or the Religious Right. These are just a few examples. In Europe these would all be different parties. In the US they are forced to form factions within a superparty.

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

svick (1158077) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118106)

Okay, let's say I support one of those sub-parties? How do I vote for them? I can't. I have to vote for the superparty they are part of and hope that the elected representative will be from the subparty I like.

I don't think that's much of a solution. Why not have one superparty and decide everything by intra-party politics? Oh, wait, we (the eastern Europe) tried that and it didn't work. I have a feeling the US system is dangerously close to that.

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

Wild_dog! (98536) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123962)

I agree... there is a dilution of ones voting power. One gets the choice of voting for some of the things one wants and accepts that a lot of other things they don't want will dominate as well.
It is a choice between greater evils rather than a choice for those who will do most of what one wants.
Not saying it is bad, but it is demoralizing and doesn't lead one to feel like their vote actually matters.

Re:Eliminate districts (3, Interesting)

The Conductor (758639) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119558)

I like to describe it like this: First-past-the-post forces coalition building into the political parties, whereas proportional elections have coalition-building in the legislature. Gerrymandering is like coding theory: The party in control of the districts can trade margin of victory (bit error rate) for number of seats (data rate), but if you design for a large number of seats (high data rate) a small decline in popular support (signal-to-noise ratio) will cause a large number of seats to flip (catastrophic rise in bit error rate).

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

Wild_dog! (98536) | more than 2 years ago | (#38123964)

I love it .... most excellent!

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117958)

Third party votes in America are usually anywhere from 1% to 10% of the vote depending on who's being elected. I think we have a grand total of 1 senator who isn't a Republican or Democrat (he's an Independent.)

Under a proportional system, we would have 1-10% of the House and Senate (that's 1-10 Senators and ~6 - ~54 Representatives in the House) in third party control. Laws have absolutely been decided on a 10% margin, and there's been more than a few controversial congressional decisions that were decided on a 1% margin or even a single vote. It'd be nice to have that single vote outside of two super-powerful political parties.

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

AC-x (735297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119520)

Third party votes in America are usually anywhere from 1% to 10% of the vote depending on who's being elected. I think we have a grand total of 1 senator who isn't a Republican or Democrat (he's an Independent.)

Don't forget that this is skewed by the voting system as many people will vote for the lesser of two evils instead of voting for their true preference, so I'd expect under a proportional system for there to be a large increase in votes to 3rd parties.

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119288)

The party affiliation means little to nothing when politicians aren't required to vote with their party.

But politicians often are required to vote with their party. What do you think whips [wikipedia.org] are for? Politicians who defy the whip can be subject to a number of penalties, including removal from any official office they hold, and being kicked out of the party itself (which is effectively removal from public politics, since they are unlikely to re-win their seat running as an independent).

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

todrules (882424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117746)

Right. They have that in Germany, too. It's one of the reasons that the Nazi party got the influence they did back in the 1930s. If they had districts, they probably never would have had any influence.

Re:Eliminate districts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38118900)

In July 1932 the Nazis won 37.8% of the vote [wikipedia.org] . In a first past the post system they would have won nearly all the seats.

Re:Eliminate districts (2)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119428)

Not true. The Nazis were a populist party and would have gained power anyway. Goering [slashdot.org] testified at his war crimes trial was that, under the British "first past the post" system (which apparently he was a fan of), the Nazis would have won *every seat* at the Reichstag in the 1932 national elections (based on 37.8% of the vote). In the 1938 Anschluss vote, Hitler apparently got the vote of 99.73% of the Austrian people.

I don't know why it's such a surprise that people would vote for this; it is human instinct to back a powerful leader who advocates nationalist policies. The fundamental platform is one that still appeals to many: anti-immigration, a strong national identity, pride in the military, a productive and profitable industrial base, and full employment.

Re:Eliminate districts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120368)

In the 1938 Anschluss vote, Hitler apparently got the vote of 99.73% of the Austrian people.

that was hardly surprising [wikimedia.org]

Re:Eliminate districts (2)

westlake (615356) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118978)

We have an at-large election system here in Denmark, as in much of continental Europe. This proportional representation gives each voter a vastly better opportunity to vote for the candidate which best represents him

Demark has a population of about 5.5 million. 90% Danish. That is half the population of metro New York City and not remotely as ethnically and culturally diverse. Denmark [wikipedia.org]

Adovocates of proportional representation in the states tend to ignore domestic cultural and political realities..

The American voter wants a clear decision.

The amiable non-entites that are everyone's second and third choices do not interest him at all.

Absent some national calamity, he will not stray far from the centrist or center-right candidate with which he is most comfortable.

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 2 years ago | (#38122862)

> The American voter wants a clear decision.

I hope not. If you're sufficiently enamored of strong leadership at the expense of representation, only the führer principle will do.

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

Akzo (1079039) | more than 2 years ago | (#38131166)

As a New Zealander I have to say MMP [wikipedia.org] is a pretty nice voting system.

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117324)

Now if someone could explain why people have gut reactions like this against any suggestion that gerrymandering is anything less than the one true god-given way to run elections, even though the evidence against its usefulness mounts higher every election, we might learn how to do away with this sort of unthinking gospel-following fervor.

What IS it with you people and insisting on a system geared toward rampant abuse and then letting people with interest in misrepresenting the representation do exactly that until the cows come home?

Re:Eliminate districts (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117632)

The problem is that the majority party has to deliberately cede power to the minority party and the voters tend to want their candidates to run the show. It's just like taxes and spending cuts, most people are surprisingly fine with both as long as they hit other people. As soon as it's their taxes and their programs they're suddenly significantly less willing to allow it.

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

todrules (882424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117782)

What IS it with you people and insisting on a system geared toward rampant abuse and then letting people with interest in misrepresenting the representation do exactly that until the cows come home?

Because we like cows?

Re:Eliminate districts (3, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117112)

And the incumbents / established players in charge of districting to begin with... they are going to cede their power and weaken themselves why exactly now?

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117644)

That's one of the rare situations where Initiatives are a reasonable response. Politicians aren't going to do it because the voters don't really want them to, and the ones that do aren't large enough in numbers to make it happen.

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117182)

What might be interesting is an at-large election to vote for re-districting proposals. The top vote getting proposals that, in aggregate, received 50% of the vote could run-off again and again until we spend our entire lives voting on how we vote... that would be fair and equitable, right?

Re:Eliminate districts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117200)

Districting only serves to virtually guarantee safe seats for the incumbent parties

And why is that? Let's think about that.

An incumbent has a higher chance of being elected than the other guy - to the point that he's almost a shoe in; unless he royally screws up.

Why?

Because people insist on sticking to their party regardless of the politician's platform? Maybe.

But it comes down to the people. Like it or not - Bitch all you want but the fact of the matter is that our elected officials reflect the people. Our politicians act the way they do because that's how they get elected. period.

Redistrict all you want - things won't change very much - other than there being an 'R' or 'D' by the name or an 'I'.

Our Government acts like a bunch of morans because the People are a bunch of morans.

Re:Eliminate districts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117306)

Our Government acts like a bunch of morans because the People are a bunch of morans.

Two times. Brilliant.

Re:Eliminate districts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117650)

At least he's consistent.

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 2 years ago | (#38122846)

Inconsistency would have prompted greater questions.

For example, the obvious question is how could someone misspell a word and then properly spell a word? The 'a' and 'o' keys aren't nearby so one could not blame it on a typo.

You missed his point (5, Informative)

pavon (30274) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117680)

But it comes down to the people. Like it or not - Bitch all you want but the fact of the matter is that our elected officials reflect the people. Our politicians act the way they do because that's how they get elected. period.

No they don't. This is demonstrated fact.

Say the House in your state allows 100 representatives. The current system of choosing these 100 representative is to slice up the state into 100 districts, each of which chooses a single representative in a winner take all election. Suppose the Green party has a 10% support of voters across the state. Unless enough of them live in a single district such that they represent more than 50% of the vote in that district, they will not get a single representative.

Even among the major parties, if you have a Democratic leaning state with 60% of the population voting democrat, you will find that more than 60% of the representatives are Democrats because of the same effect. Our current system of voting only represents geographic diversity, not diversity within a region.

Apart from starting a huge hippy commune, the supporters of the Green party will never get the representation they deserve. Even then, chances are that the incumbents will simply change the boundaries of the district that the commune is in to include enough people from neighboring communities to ensure that the Greens don't get enough votes. Likewise for the Libertarians, who have had very limited success thus far with their Free State initiative.

On the other hand, if you had a proportional election across the entire state this wouldn't be a problem. That has the downside that individual politicians get lost in the sea of the party. Alternately, if you did away with voting districts, and just had each county elect a handful of representatives*, then you will still be voting for individuals, but would give much greater chance for third parties and result in a House that is more representative of the views of the people.

* In the case where the counties are huge (which is a problem in itself), still have districting, but make the districts 3-4 times larger than they currently are and elect 3-4 times the number of representatives per district.

Interesting - but you missed my point. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119274)

I understand the above And thanks for explaining the downside of pooling everyone in the state into one big election - I didn't understand thta before.

But it just amazes me that folks are so beholden to their party and that they automatically vote for the incumbent so that redistricting works.That's my point.

If people voted using their heads, redistricting wouldn't work.They would look at: the issues that are actually important to them and their community (not what some pundit says is important), what the candidate stood for, their track record if any, and vote accordingly. But that doesn't happen.The fact that voting results can be so calculated in such a simple matter as just corralling like minded people together just proves to me that the general public are mindless sheep.

Re:You missed his point (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119486)

That has the downside that individual politicians get lost in the sea of the party.

This isn't really a downside, it's just an acknowledgement of what already happens. Next time there's an election, ask your friends and colleagues how they voted. If your experience is anything like mine, they will invariably say "Party X". Then ask them who they actually voted for (assuming you live in a country where you vote for a person rather than a party). It is illuminating - in my experience, the majority of people have no idea who they voted for. Most go into the polling station completely ignorant as to who their local politicians are. They only know (or care) about the parties and the leaders they saw on TV, and the vast majority make their decision on how to vote based on that. They look for the party name on the voting paper. In effect, a local politician can be completely unknown, and do no campaigning whatsoever, but in a region that is dominated by their party they will still be elected.

Re:Eliminate districts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117334)

District representatives can be more responsive to their constituents, especially in larger states, because they only represent a small fraction of the voters in the state. It's always clear what voters they represent, it's not a shifting subset of the electorate of the state as would be the case with at-large voting. District reps typically hold town meetings and have office hours that nearly any constituent can attend without driving for hours. They can walk their district and get to know store owners and neighborhood association leaders on a first name basis. They can become expert on local issues affecting a small set of neighborhoods.

This is precisely as was envisioned by the authors of the Constitution. Yes, gerrymandering throws a wrench into that, but not a fatal wrench if the courts act to curb some of the more flagrant abuses.

Re:Eliminate districts (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117602)

Bullshit, that's a false dichotomy here in WA and in IA there's districting that's not done on a partisan basis. The net result is that any decisions that benefit one party tend to benefit the other.

If you think that at large elections help minority views, then you haven't been following politics around here. The GOP has for years been trying to split the state for the purposes of electing senators so that they don't have to convince urban voters from the western portion of the state to vote for them.

Re:Eliminate districts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38123026)

In the Netherlands, where we have proportional representation, some years back a political party (D66) proposed a type of district system that maintains proportionality. Part of the seats in parliament would be assigned to district representatives. Each district would have a number of representatives roughly proportional to its population size. You would vote for both a party and for a candidate representative, not necessarily from the party you voted for. The vote for parties would proportionally determine the numbers of seats they would get in parliament, the chosen representatives would be assigned seats first and the remaining seats would be assigned in the same manner we do now. I hope I reproduced the idea correctly.

They proposed this because proportional representation puts a distance between voters and politicians. You can't write your representative in the Netherlands the way Americans are used to. You can write politicians or their parties, but there is no-one in parliament representing your local or regional interests. This idea tried to combine the best of both worlds. It didn't make it, a majority in parliament thought it was too complicated.

Good idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38116984)

I'd like to redistrict it to keep the fucking worthless god damned niggers out of my area. I thought the US was supposed to be a 1st world nation not some third world hell hole with dark skinned low IQ savages roaming freely.

Every time I see a nigger it makes me want to puke. If I've hurt any of you nigger loving hippies feelings well that's too damn bad but you can kiss my ass.

Re:Good idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117046)

Now go back to your cave.

Re:Good idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117088)

You're trying too hard at this "trolling" business. It's embarrassing.

Re:Good idea (-1, Troll)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117180)

The racial trolling has really gone down in quality lately. It used to be some quick hits, or very long complicated posts that seemed to require a few hours of prep time before hitting the copy/paste combo on the poster's system. It feels like the death throngs of a group of people who just aren't adapting to new ignoring techniques.

I blame Microsoft.

(Clearly they're hiring away the quality trolls to defend their slimy actions in recent months.)

Re:Good idea (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117308)

I cannot wait until you get that incurable, slow, lingering cancer that causes your every moment on Earth to be an unbearable agony.

Re:Good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38122332)

Reverse vitiligo?

A novel concept ... (5, Insightful)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117080)

Solve the problem once, and not more than once.

Standardize on a re-districting algorithm, and use it.

Social Securities funds wouldn't be in the toilet, if someone just hit re-calc once a year, on the spreadsheet that contained formulas that accounted for the dynamic nature of the population. Instead, we get to argue over static numbers until the sun explodes.

Dumb.

Re:A novel concept ... (3, Insightful)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117474)

That never works because by in large people are not willing to pay for the costs of all the programs they like.

Bill Clinton tried to do that with Medicare. Payouts were tied to funding... automatic cuts were supposed to be made. And of course the medical associations and lobbyists made a fuss.. the cuts are postponed...

It would be the same with social security. If the plans calls for automatic increases in contributions, people will make a fuss. If it calls for cuts in benefits.. people will make a fuss... and the government will cave.

You can see this in action. Sweden for example is known to have one of the best 'formula' based pension systems...taking into account the economy, age, expected life span... All was wonderful of course when nothing bad was demanded by the formula. When the economic downturn occurred and it demanded pension cuts for the elderly... the government caved. it compensated for the loss of pension income with tax cuts for the elderly to make up the difference. So basically, even the swedes were unable to follow the formula when it came to take the bad side of the formula.

If things are not politically possible, they're not possible. Not recognizing that... is even dumber.

Re:A novel concept ... (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118438)

You gave examples of how formulas for very complex and dynamic specific budgets failed to model them to the satisfaction of the people.

The redistricting problem is one that a formula can model well, if it's parametrized to include the voting of the people. Just as the Constitution is a set of rules that's highly parameterized by voting (at multiple levels, in multiple cycles) to select the actual implementation, and even the judging after accusations a person has broken a law.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119574)

If things are not politically possible, they're not possible. Not recognizing that... is even dumber.

Politics has little to do with reality. You can argue over whether people are paying enough, or too little, or receiving enough, or too little ... but in doing so you are operating a political system that ignores reality and creates and solves the same problem over and over again, for the sake of solving a problem. No amount of democratic procedure can solve a reality based problem, due to the fact that democracy ( allowing everyone to have an opinion, or a vote, and using the results to pass legislation ) can pacify the public while at the same time, ignoring the nature and reality of the issue at hand. Politicians regularly use the complex nature of issues in order to gain power at the expense of properly modeling and dealing with reality, and the system will continue to be flawed until it addresses reality. This is ideology driven decisions and politics, not data driven mathematically sound problem solving.

While Sweden may in fact have had one of the best formulas, it too was flawed, if it ran into trouble during a downturn, and required people to argue over it to save it.

As a software engineer, I can tell you, if large, complex pieces of software, were not split into logical compartments ( modules ), each solving a smaller problem, then you can pretty much guarantee that the entire system will fail / suck. While Social Security may exist legislatively and administratively as a separate program / department, financially the funds are co-mingled and combined with the larger systems budget. This produces the situation where congress and the public wastes all of its political thought and effort, trying to determine if its fixed or broke, and if broke how to fix it. It is mind boggling how much intellectual capital and opportunity is wasted on a math formula with no more than 5 or 6 terms.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38120810)

I'm sorry... I really don't get your point. I'm honestly unsure if you're agreeing or disagreeing with me.

If what you're saying is there are rational reasonable ways to solve a problem, then I'm afraid, I just have to repeat my line:

"If things are not politically possible, they're not possible. Not recognizing that... is even dumber."

Not taking into account human variables is simply ignorance. One, I'd argue the vast majority of academics are guilty of. It's like trying to solve a math equation while purposefully ignoring one of the biggest and most important variables.

The academics can sit around and design the perfect and fair pension system, most optimal transit system, most useful healthcare system, but if it doesn't gain the general support of the people and they're not willing to pay the costs... it will fail. And it is simply ignorance on the part of experts not to take into account the most important variable... humans.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38121846)

Not taking into account human variables is simply ignorance.

from wikipedia:

Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services[1]

Economic values *are* human variables. I didn't realize this needed to be stated.

The political aspect of a topic, for example, social security, is "Do we need to provide a mechanism for retirement and disability income." It is a yes or no question, and needs to be resolved politically. That debate occoured a long time ago. The economic mechanics and mathematical structure of providing and budgeting for said service, is a mathematical formula, which can be optimized, and is devoid of political debate in an ideal world.

The current system, rather than use mathematical optimization, involves 500+ monkeys and the public arguing over whether to change the number 5 to a 6 or a 4.

Hope this clarifies.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117660)

The solution is to make the process either non-partisan or bipartisan. Doing that has done wonders for our local politics.

Even better if you institute a top two primary system. We often times end up choosing between Democrats and in some other parts of the state they choose between Republicans, but it has the effect of pushing the legislature towards the middle as in all cases the less extreme candidate won. Normally in cases like this the more extreme candidate would win as that would be what it would take to win the primary and which ever Democrat won the primary would win the final election.

Re:A novel concept ... (2)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117882)

The budget supercommitte is bipartisan. That's /not/ a guaranteed recipe for success.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119660)

Except that in the case of the supercomittee they can just do nothing and deal with the consequences of the default plan. In terms of districting there is no default, and as a result the people selected to make the decision reflect that.

In terms of the supercomittee on the budget, that's more or less what I'd expect, nobody told the GOP that they lost the 2008 elections and they've been behaving like self entitled brats ever since. The Democrats can't cave as doing so is just going to encourage that sort of bad behavior and since there's a default plan what you end up with is gridlock.

Worse is the fact that a lot of the GOP candidates ran on a platform of creating gridlock and have been extremely blunt about their goals.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118518)

The solution is to give a simple framework in which the people can vote for their own district's boundaries, and then vote for the officials representing the district. Parties in general are anti-democratic, and have worked against both democracy and the republic's integrity. Even if we let these private political clubs exist, with their frameworks for graft, bribery and other corruption, they should have no special advantage in getting on a ballot. Anyone with a minimum fraction (like 1-5%) of eligible voters signing a petition should be on the ballot, and the petition should be required for each general election.

I favor letting each zipcode vote every 10 years on which of the surrounding zipcodes they prefer to associate into a district, in preferred order. Then use simple stats to aggregate them according to their own preferences, into the number of districts allocated to the state. Let the people say where there districts are, and who represents them.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119666)

Indeed, seems the only thing that the parties around here can agree upon is that the voters don't know how to pick candidates for the final election. They sued to get the previous system tossed and have been trying to get the new system tossed as well.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119800)

Politicians agreeing that voters don't know how to pick politicians is the most powerful truism of all.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 2 years ago | (#38122882)

> I favor letting each zipcode vote

That would open the door to gerrymandered zipcodes, I would think.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38124318)

The zipcodes are already set, and have an accepted basis for setting them. Gerrymandering zipcodes would be a lot more obvious than gerrymandering districts, which makes it harder. But of course ultimately any basis for districting can be gerrymandered, if the people don't pay attention. Zipcodes are easier to pay attention to.

The main advantage to zipcodes is that they're small in population, and lots of their population sees each other at the post office, parks, and other, private places in the area. Zipcodes are actually a lot more like the original US Congressional districts, with average population of 30,000 [oxfordjournals.org] , which is about the largest group of people that any American can really relate to directly (a large auditorium or medium arena). Everyone notices when their zipcode changes, and can relate to the other people in their zipcode. Plus there's a government office everyone understands in practically every zipcode, where people can vote, and where they can file their taxes, etc.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

trenobus (730756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118084)

The general principle is that if people can agree on the goals of some process or system, an algorithmic or machine learning approach may be the best way to instantiate the agreement. For the principles of drawing political districts, it seems to me that such an agreement might be achievable. Whether geographic political districts still make sense is another matter.

Of course there should be a way to appeal the decisions of a computer program to a human authority, based on either a failure of the program to implement its stated goals, or a constitutional challenge to the original goals.

With a machine learning approach to policy, the policy could be made malleable to changing conditions, including both new data and feedback from a political process.

But for social security, I think we are still far from any general agreement about its goals, let alone how to run it. Lots of people think it shouldn't exist. Lots of people think everyone should have it. Few people think the current system is really that great, and that would be mainly current beneficiaries.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118432)

There are already many algorithms [wikipedia.org] for similar problems.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118538)

Funny how the current beneficiaries think Social Security is pretty great, as has always been the case since SS was implemented. And funny how the people who dislike it always dislike it only in principle, until they receive it.

That sounds like SS is pretty great. Even if the people suck.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118930)

Yes. It's also funny how it's been known for 60's years Social Security was going to run out of money, but the current crop of beneficiaries, who marched the streets in the name of fairness, equality, and civility, didn't do a damn thing about it. They left it for their kids to sort out.

A simple dynamic algorithm that took into account cost of living, average income, worker / beneficiary ratio, with some ARIMA sprinkled in for adaptation would have insured the proper payments in -> out. If you wanted to make it really special, you'd have it fund itself using tariffs against goods imported from whatever nation is bleeding us dry that decade, instead of prancing around singing the praises of free trade while we go broke.

It's not rocket science, its evolution. Let the machines do what the machines do best, and keep the politicians out of it.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119230)

Except SS isn't running out of money. Because the current beneficiaries, both Baby Boomers and older, did what was necessary: increased their contributions starting in the 1980s to cover the current beneficiaries. Though they deserve little credit for it; it was Alan Greenspan who raised taxes to protect Americans' pensions. Just as most Baby Boomers and their parents never marched in any streets, but rather voted for what those who did march opposed.

Eventually, in the late 2030s, SS might not have the money to pay benefits. Over a quarter century from now. In fact the SS surplus will continue to grow through at least 2024, a decade and a half from now. Sometime during that decade of actual decline we have to do something. Like what the generation before us did: remove the arbitrary SS $105K income tax cap, and stop SS from being a regressive tax that leaves the poorer with disproportionately less of their income while they work. Tax everyone at the same rate, excluding income below the poverty line, and pay everyone 150% of the poverty line when they retire at 65.

I'd like to see the receipts from SS taxes that buy Treasury bonds mailed to the taxpayer each year along with any tax refund, instead of held by the SS office. Give every American an actual document that shows they're invested in their country and in the success of their government in remaining able to pay off those bonds when they retire. All the years like the last few, when Treasuries beat the market and other investments people make, giving them an assured (if not luxurious) base for retirement would educate them better than the easily lied about system.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119344)

Except SS isn't running out of money.

Wikipedia ... "Assets in 2010 were $2.6 trillion, an amount that is expected to be adequate to cover the next 10 years. In 2023, total income and interest earned on assets are projected to no longer cover expenditures for Social Security, as demographic shifts burden the system. By 2035, the ratio of potential retirees to working age persons will be 37 percent — there will be less than three potential income earners for every retiree in the population. The trust fund would then be exhausted by 2036 without legislative action.[9]"

It is in fact, running out of money.

Eventually, in the late 2030s, SS might not have the money to pay benefits.

There is no maybe about it. If left unchanged, it *will* run out of money. If the changes you suggested are made, it will mean that the new generation pays in more, and receives less, than the previous generation. This is proof the current static constants and formulas are flawed.

Almost a day doesn't go by, where you can't turn the on tv news, and see politicians from both sides, using the Social Security program as a weapon of fear, in an attempt to get re-elected. They keep telling people it's in danger, you better vote for me, I'll fix it. A dynamic formula would give the talking heads something else to talk about, and finally put out the fire.

A privately operated insurance company, isn't allowed to mix pension/benefit funds with operating funds. Our wise leaders realized this was a bad idea. They also exempted themselves from the same high standard, and regularly remind us of why its a bad idea.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119394)

fyi ... My point was more about the fact that, Social Security, the issue and the program, is in fact, dynamic in nature. A dynamic algorithm, that continually adjusted to insure its integrity, is more productive, than the members of congress, constantly wasting time and effort, manually adjusting the algorithm by committee.

It wasnt my intention to imply, Soc Sec as a mechanism is doomed, or unfixable. Only that it would be nice if congress could finally stop arguing about it, and fucking with it, and use math to insure its continual integrity.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119654)

Social Security well prepared for retirement of baby boomers in 2016 [epi.org]
According to the latest annual report of the Social Security trustees, 2016 is the first year in which Social Security will no longer receive more in taxes than it pays out in benefits (SSA 2001). Yet from 2016 to 2024, the Social Security trust fund will actually continue to grow as its assets earn interest. Then, from 2025 to 2038, Social Security will be able to meet its obligations to retired baby boomers by selling its accumulated assets. This is, in fact, why the assets were accumulated in the first place.

SS is running out of money the same as you are dying. Except that between now and 2038 SS will have plenty of time to make small changes that ensure it continues to pay its way. The changes I propose do not mean anyone receives less benefits. They simply shift the burden out of the absurd current system that is harder for the poorer onto a system that actually taxes the richest the same as everyone but the poorest. Only the richest (over $105K:year income) will pay more, and not much more; everyone else will pay less.

Privately operated insurance corps are allowed to do whatever they damn please. The CDSes that crashed the economy were insurance products. The health insurers that are robbing Americans while the HCR law waits to kick in can do whatever they damn please. The Social Security fund is by far the most reliable retirement fund, because it is allowed to invest in only the safest investment that actually grows: Treasury bonds.

It's strange that you have noticed that the political class and their media servants is on a terror campaign against Social Security, but that you seem to be buying into so much of the fear they're inventing.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

fsckmnky (2505008) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119728)

"make small changes"

You really have missed the entire point of this post, while simultaneously providing evidence to back it up.

Keep up the good work Euler.

Re:A novel concept ... (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119794)

Nobody denies that some changes are necessary. What some people are lying to say is that it needs either radical change, or should be eliminated.

Even without changes the fund only grows until 2024. Even without changes the fund pays full benefits through 2038. I really don't know what the point of your post is now, but the point about SS is simply that it needs only small changes to remain the most successful and popular government program of all time, except perhaps the Revolutionary War and WWII.

Let them eat cake (4, Insightful)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117134)

Shouldn't it be 3d? That way they can draw lines so people living on top floors can vote and the people on the ground floor can eat cake.

Re:Let them eat cake (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117378)

Easy: You can vote if you live in Manhattan and your residence is above 200 feet above MCPL (mean central park level).

Re:Let them eat cake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119110)

||||||||
US | THEM
||||||||

A little too pragmatic, perhaps.

Ooh, I want One! (4, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117136)

Since we're redistricting this year anyway, I want my own one-house district! A representative will have to work hard to gain all the votes in Brucistan, but it will be well worth making the effort!

Re:Ooh, I want One! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117684)

Would the candidate not be required to reside in Brucistan in order to be on the ticket?

Re:Ooh, I want One! (1)

Soralin (2437154) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118586)

Greyfox votes for Greyfox to be representative of Greyfox. Greyfox wins 100% of the vote.

The real problem (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117204)

The real problem with these cities isn't so much "minorities". The problem is with the Africans (I'll refer to them as niggers from here on). The Asians, Indians, Persians, etc don't really cause any problems from what I've seen but the niggers sure do. A lot of the liberal Marxist types like to talk out both sides of their mouths about how evolution is fact but at the same time try to tell me we are all equal in intelligence and capabilities. You can't have it both ways. I myself do believe in evolution and it appears to me that niggers are less evolved than other races.

Why is it that you see Whites, Indians, and Orientals working at high tech. firms but not niggers?

Forget redistricting. The problem lies with utterly useless niggers. Redistricting won't solve anything until the nigger problem is resolved.

Why not use the same software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117210)

that schools in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision are using to reorganize their conferences?

Hmm, on second thought...

Redistricting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117258)

it's an art practiced by vampires. Who else would want to snoop on their neighbors, so they track voters. While there are valid reasons to redistrict, mostly the reasons are because of the scumbag vampires

Re:Redistricting (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117450)

Yeah, man. Down with vampires. I'm so sick of their horrible garlic breath and bad accents. And what's with them getting all the best housing? The living deserve spooky old mansions too!

Re:Redistricting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38117536)

I would think that vampires are the one group that you'd never need to worry about having garlic breath.

Will they use it? (1)

LordNacho (1909280) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117262)

TFA says they're gonna take the results to Albany. Is the state under any obligation to look at this?

Also, on a somewhat related note, is there any desire amongst Americans to have proportional representation? There's pros and cons of course.

Not really useful? (4, Informative)

el_flynn (1279) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117266)

The tool just teaches you how to redistrict - but has absolutely no real-life outcome. "It's full of smoke-filled back room dealmaking by political insiders with little public input" - highly doubtful that this will ever change.

It's like watching Man vs Wild.

Re:Not really useful? (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118394)

The redistricting that state politicians actually enact comes from the people who have access to those politicians. The people with access have tools to create and analyze the districting that serves them best.

Until now, the public hasn't had a tool like that, so the people with access have all the advantages. Those people still have their access advantage, but that's partly because most people never have anything worthwhile to say to the politicians, certainly not in a form that politicians can understand. But with this tool lots of people can compose and present an argument, in terms both they and their representatives understand.

A tool like this can't solve problems on its own. But it does help in rebalancing the advantages enjoyed by the better funded, more exclusively focused, and hence better organized people who have the access. It can motivate other people to insist on access, or better use the limited access they already have.

And the more a tool like this makes districting better represent the people in general, the more access the people in general will get. Of course much more has to change, but change has to start somewhere, even if somewhere that cannot complete the change.

Re:Not really useful? (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118504)

It also ignores all the weird legal and court based rulings that have to be followed.
For instance in Texas they are in a new redistricting and had the courts disallow the recent attempt not because they cut out minorities, they increased the number of district with a majority of minorities but because they did not account for the historic voting rate of people in those new districts.
Try configuring all the laws like that into some software that any person can use.

Maybe they got the idea from GTA IV? (2)

zoom-ping (905112) | more than 2 years ago | (#38117976)

Is it like Civil Service [youtube.com] game advertized in GTA IV radio?

Get the Source Code (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118286)

It's not obvious from the link to the blog how to get the source code. But you can get it [publicmapping.org] , and read how to [publicmapping.org] set it up either on your own server or the Amazon hosting the project seems to prefer. The source is hosted at github, though there's a required R stats package hosted at sourceforge.

Districts Made of Zipcodes (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38118370)

I want to use this SW to redistrict NY composed of its zipcode areas. Anyone know where I can get the zipcode population and boundaries GIS data, and have ideas on how to integrate that data with the source code [publicmapping.org] of this project's app?

FWIW, I want to use other zipcode data, the demographics data, to aggregate zipcodes into the districts. I also want to simulate the self-selection aggregation method, where each zipcode's voters vote with which of the other zipcodes bordering theirs they want their zipcode to aggregate, in order of preference. The SW crunches the numbers and shows the districts built by consensus. Voting every 10 years would give every election cycle a chance to replace the holder of every level of office governing the zipcode, along with a new census report. Supporters of different maps could draw the districts according to the associations they prefer, and push specific associations in each zipcode before the election.

Re: ArcGIS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38119324)

ArcGIS will provide just about anything you want for GIS data, if you can code in Python.

Re: ArcGIS (1)

Lotana (842533) | more than 2 years ago | (#38121970)

ArcGIS is fucking expensive though. I use it for work and we are paying huge amounts in license fees. A single license is cheaper ($1500 I believe) but is still a very hard expensive exercise.

You need shapefiles of the New York zip code boundaries. Quick Google search gives me this:

http://www.census.gov/geo/www/cob/z52000.html#shp [census.gov]

If you want to view and edit shapefiles and don't want to pay or pirate ArcGIS, there are several open source alternatives. I recommend QuantumGIS [qgis.org] . It has all the facilities for most common tasks and also scriptable using Python.

If QuantumGIS is not your cup of tea, MapWindow [mapwindow.org] is another good one. It is much more lightweight and also can do majority of common functions.

Do Wall Street & Park Avenue need representati (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38119382)

...given that they don't seem to have any problem convincing my/your/our members of Congress to represent them instead of us?

The Redistricting Game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38120988)

http://www.redistrictinggame.org/ [redistrictinggame.org]

Unsupervised Learning (1)

JMaxxx (2512794) | more than 2 years ago | (#38121188)

Districting is clearly a mistake as geography isn't the only thing guiding people's wishes for their representatives. However these are the rules, so maybe you could use unsupervised learning on political surveys with geographic data to create the districts. That way at the very least people will be represented in a way that has the least conflict between the wishes of members of the district and the politicians that represent them.

My one wish (1)

bgspence (155914) | more than 2 years ago | (#38121312)

Disallow concave redistricting shapes

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