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Redistricting Videogame Shows Problems in the System

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the see-games-are-smart-too dept.

Games 322

An anonymous reader writes "This is a cool redistricting game that was launched out of the capitol building in Washington DC last week. It was created by the USC Game Innovation Lab and has been getting lots of press. It's about time someone took on a tough issue like redistricting reform using the power of the internet." It's crazy that gerrymandering is actually good fodder for a video game.

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Slashdotted... (1)

Raistlin77 (754120) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565255)

...before the summary even made it to the front page of Slashdot...

Re:Slashdotted... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19565273)

I see games come pre-slashdotted these days. When did this start to happen?!

Re:Slashdotted... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19565741)

considering this was on digg yesterday, i'd say sites became "pre-slashdotted" as digg's popularity grew.

Works for Me (1)

MutualDisdain (998780) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565379)

The game seems to load fine and work on my browser. Perhaps I am playing from the server...

Sure it's a game (4, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565329)

It's crazy that gerrymandering is actually good fodder for a video game.
Why is that crazy? Gerrymandering, and indeed, much of politics, is a game. It's just played for higher stakes than we're used to when we think of games.

Or did you think that American politics at the highest levels was actually about serving the public?

Re:Sure it's a game (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565465)

So you're saying its more about the highest levels then?

Re:Sure it's a game (5, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565495)

So you're saying its more about the highest levels then?
Yeah. The grind sucks, and most of us never get out of it, but the content for people who've maxed out their level is fantastic.

Re:Sure it's a game (2, Funny)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565521)

Plus, you get people contesting a raid schedule and it becomes all out war.

Re:Sure it's a game (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19565677)

How I mine for oil?

Re:Sure it's a game (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19566389)

First you have to go find someone to teach you all the things you have to know to START the quest for oil. Then you have to do about a 100 quests each involving running from one end of the world to another to get things like mineral rights, epa studies, building permits, etc. Then you have to go buy a piece of land (that may or may not have what you) that is for sale, auction house sometimes has good selection, but availability is poor. Then you have to get lucky and actually find something on your property. Then you have to find someone with a transmute to convert the crude stuff you get out of the ground into oil. Now with the flood of non-like-you people doing the same thing, actually being able to sell the oil for a profit is very low. You're better off just ignoring this profession and buying the oil directly.

Re:Sure it's a game (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565963)

I think it's time to instance the world...

Re:Sure it's a game (4, Interesting)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565929)

However, even serving the public is a game. Games are, at the end, mostly resource management and getting the most benefit for what you do while there's always trade-offs. Politics are the same. Those with an income over $100,000 are obviously not going to need welfare, but for those who are stuck with a lower income and want to stop, welfare is a big help. As a politician who's trying to serve the public, you're trying to do what's best for the most people or, depending one your beliefs, your constituency. There's always going to be some downside to a particular policy. In addition, you have to manage your political party and allies. No matter how you run politics, it's a game.

Re:Sure it's a game (3, Interesting)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566017)

People who spend money tend to be lower class.
People who save money tend to be middle class.
People who invest money tend to be upper class.

People themselves and the decisions they make are the biggest obstacle they have to overcome.
As much as 'people' would like to obliterate `classes`, class warfare will always exist just as some people will like the color green over the color pink.

Re:Sure it's a game (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19566127)

And where you do propose the lower class folks get money to invest? Or to save? Where do you propose the middle class folks get money to invest? Investing requires that you have enough money that you can LOSE some of it and be okay.

Re:Sure it's a game (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19566151)

Your advice is trite unless you can find me someone upper-class who spends less than I do. And not as a percentage of their income -- of course a larger income would give anyone more money to spend on luxuries like wealth-building.

Re:Sure it's a game (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566491)

There's an entire sub-genre of books about people like that. You may know a few and not even realize it. You might even think they are not-well-off.

Economic class is about how you get your money, not how freely you waste it.

Re:Sure it's a game (4, Insightful)

t0rkm3 (666910) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566651)

I think what he's saying is that present behavior allows an estimate of past behavior, past behavior (to some extent) can be linked to current status and then used to predict future status.

Several economists and social scientists have done studies of the wealthy and found that great majority of them have elevated themselves from a lower wealth-class through smart money management. I, myself, started out very poor and have managed to work my way up to have some wealth. This while supporting my wife in a single income family and paying for her continuing education.

I have a high school education from a podunk school from a town of 3000 people. If I can do it, you have no excuses.

It's not how much you spend. It's how you spend it. I don't have cable(I don't watch TV at all), I have two vehicles that I paid cash for, I do all of my own home and car maintenance. I built a gym in my home rather than pay out monthlies. (The equipment paid for itself in 12mos.) I don't eat out much, I don't go to convenience stores except to buy gas. These decisions add up.

For instance, eating out, including StarSucks and QuickTrip, usually accounted for $100 per week in expenses, by eating food that I or my have prepared and avoiding 'convenience food' I am saving at least that much per week.

The "Millionaire Next Door" has several references for further research on the topic. It has survived the empirical evidence gathered from the several millionaires that I have met and do business with.

To change your position in life, you must change your behavior.

Re:Sure it's a game (3, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566135)

As a politician who's trying to serve the public, you're trying to do what's best for the most people or, depending one your beliefs, your constituency.
Hey, I'm pretty cynical, I think there's a problem with your first clause there. Politicians at the highest level aren't trying to serve the public; they are first and foremost focused on electability (that's how they got to the highest level) and then focused on washing the hand that washed them i.e., giving handouts to the companies and groups that got them elected. The political process in the US filters out the more altruistic politicians at the lower levels.

Re:Sure it's a game (3, Funny)

corbettw (214229) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565991)

Gerrymandering, and indeed, much of politics, is a game.

Sweet! Got a link to the cheat codes?

Re:Sure it's a game (5, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566191)

Here's one link [diebold.com]
and here's another. [essvote.com]

Of course, some people would say that gerrymandering is a cheat code as well.

Re:Sure it's a game (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566213)

Re:Sure it's a game (1, Offtopic)

corbettw (214229) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566351)

No, dude, The Prince is the walk through.

Re:Sure it's a game (1, Insightful)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566009)

Why is that crazy? Gerrymandering, and indeed, much of politics, is a game

Your post getting +5 is a great example of how cynicism is often mistaken for intelligence. If you remove the "+5 Cynical", your post says nothing and contributes nothing to the discussion, in fact it's silly: Politics isn't a game, it's real and affects real peoples' lives.

Re:Sure it's a game (2, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566629)

-1 for taking the post too literally. Game != unreal. Many politicians treat the system like a game. It's irrelevant whether or not you call it a game. That's part of his point.

Lessons taught through the difficult curve (5, Informative)

Applekid (993327) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565345)

A good game has a well defined difficulty curve. What I found really interesting about this one is that the final stage is a hypothetical environment where redistricting reform is implemented and you're forced to define zones of near-equal population without any information provided for race or party affiliation.

That "final environment" is impossible to complete while keeping all the incumbents in their seats.

Which is the whole point, AFAIK, one I wholeheartedly agree with.

It's too bad there's no way to download the game and mirror it elsewhere or just hold onto a copy. Little gems like this are likely to disappear after a few months.

Re:Lessons taught through the difficult curve (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19565701)

Parent says: "It's too bad there's no way to download the game and mirror it elsewhere or just hold onto a copy. Little gems like this are likely to disappear after a few months."

Agreed. Can we please abandon Flash as an interactive content-delivery platform? A lot of taxpayer money went into supporting this work, and there's no way for me to get a copy to demo to students when offline, or to make any changes, etc.

Re:Lessons taught through the difficult curve (4, Informative)

Smight (1099639) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565879)

Embedded flash games can easily be copied and saved in firefox... for reference only of course. http://www.cruciallimit.com/blog/?p=20 [cruciallimit.com]

Re:Lessons taught through the difficult curve (0, Troll)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565821)

You AGREE with incumbent protection? Unless I'm reading this wrong, you support the status quo. Argh.

Re:Lessons taught through the difficult curve (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565993)

If I got him right he agrees with the impossibility to keep the incumbents in their seats. I.e. he thinks it's a good thing that you cannot "win" the last scenario.

Re:Lessons taught through the difficult curve (2, Funny)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566113)

That "final environment" is impossible to complete while keeping all the incumbents in their seats.

No it's not. When I did it, the original map had 3 republicans and 1 democrat, and I finally got a map approved (by 3 out of 5 members of the committee, then rejected by the R state legislature, then approved by courts) that resulted in 2 R and 2 D seats.

Re:Lessons taught through the difficult curve (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19566185)

I'm curious. Is it the word "incumbent" that you have trouble understanding, or is it the word "all"?

I thought there already was a redistricting game.. (5, Funny)

DogDude (805747) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565361)

... It's called Qix [wikipedia.org] !

Sim City (1)

Bizzeh (851225) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565377)

isnt this somewhat similar to sim city?

Re:Sim City (1)

BeanThere (28381) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566129)

No, it's nothing like SimCity.

yellow snow (3, Interesting)

Mipoti Gusundar (1028156) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565381)

Most interesting subject and wery different from usual footballs/rollplaying/flightsim nonsence.

I for one am looking forward to EA Sports Enron and Nintendo bookskeeping.

Cool Little Intro... (1)

tomshaq (1018286) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565391)

That intro is fairly awesome... How can an animation of a map turning into a dinosaur and eating people not be the coolest thing? I want to get this redistricting game! When does it come out for the Wii? Also a plus of that introduction is the dramatic voice that accompanies that quote.

Re:Cool Little Intro... (1)

mlk (18543) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565533)

It appears to be flash based, so it is out now for the Wii, go grab the Opera browser... :)

Re:Cool Little Intro... (1)

GeckoX (259575) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565667)

Hmm, I immediately thought it was an alligator, and immediately thought that was definitely by intent.

Re:Cool Little Intro... (1)

jnaujok (804613) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565989)

It's a salamander, thus the original name of "Gerrymander" because of Elbridge Gerry. From the Wikipedia article on Gerrymandering:

The word "gerrymander" is named for the Governor of Massachusetts Elbridge Gerry (July 17, 1744 - November 23, 1814), and is a blend of his name with the word "salamander," which was used to describe the appearance of a tortuous electoral district pressed through the Massachusetts legislature in 1812 by Jeffersonian democrats, in order to disadvantage their electoral opponents in the upcoming senatorial election, and reluctantly signed into law by Gerry.

Re:Cool Little Intro... (1)

GeckoX (259575) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566307)

Hmm, except salamanders don't have teeth or attack things quite like that...though I agree that's probably the 'obvious' correlation to be found.

The tongue in cheek correlation I see is that of an alligator. Gerrymandering...alligator...swing state...surely not ;)

So how long... (5, Insightful)

hphoenix (1111877) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565445)

...before they hold a contest to see who can 'redistrict' the best? Nice cash prize for the top 'winners', and the politicos can then use the results to lobby for actual changes. I wonder which side will try it first?

Re:So how long... (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565617)

Considering all the levels are just made up places, and that I'm sure each major party has literally hundreds of people on their payroll across the country doing exactly this, it's probably not necessary.

Re:So how long... (1)

Cannelbrae (157237) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565851)

Please tell me the government has tools to automate something like this.

Pork Barrel Senator (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565507)

LGF UD STRAT!!!

Dumb game (1)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565545)

It's WAY too easy.

Oh wait, I guess that's the point...

One has to ask... (5, Informative)

beef3k (551086) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565563)

1. What... is redistricting [wikipedia.org] ?
2. What... is gerrymandering [wikipedia.org] ?
3. What... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Sincerely,
--
The English-as-a-second-language population

Re:One has to ask... (0, Flamebait)

jjacksonRIAB (1050352) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565649)

3. What... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? American or your mom?

Re:One has to ask... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19565657)

3. What... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
African or European?

Re:One has to ask... (1)

yellowalienbaby (897469) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566049)

Oh, erm. ahh .. I dont know thaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh h h

Re:One has to ask... (3, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566039)

What... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

A Republican or a Democrat?

Re:One has to ask... (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566367)

3. What... is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
What, no link [style.org] ?

*sexy lady voice* (2, Funny)

starbuckr0x (1073378) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565595)

Reticulating splines... and demagogues.

Grand Strategy Guide for Electoral Victory (5, Insightful)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565611)

Step 1: Win an election

Step 2: Gerrymander your seats into safe districts

Step 3: Gerrymander your opponent's into insane districts

Step 4: Win an election

Step 5: Repeat as needed

Seriously, people find ethical lapses in a political system? How is that possible!

I'm looking forward to "ReDistricting 2: Earmarks, or buying of the votes."

Re:Grand Strategy Guide for Electoral Victory (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565853)

If you win a majority in a legislative body, you shouldn't bother with redistricting. After all, the opposing party undoubtedly dabbled in it and look what it got them! Gerrymandering is the "lucky rabbit's foot" of politics.

You can change the districts to have:
1) greater majorities for your party members. You will probably lose some seats, but the remaining guys are secure.
or
2) slimmer majorities for your party members. You could gain some seats, but since the majorities are thinner, there's a greater chance you'll lose everything.

I imagine most parties don't pick two, and fail because of one.

Re:Grand Strategy Guide for Electoral Victory (4, Interesting)

allanc (25681) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566201)

What you're not taking into account is that usually the change in majority comes only from a major, major shift in public perception of the current bunch of weasels, faster than they can compensate for with redistricting. E.g., last Congressional election, and the "Republican Revolution" back in the 90s. And this last time, the new majority party just barely managed to squeak through with a majority. I don't recall how much the Republicans won back in the 90s, but I know that the election immediately following it had them just barely keeping their majority.

The congressional incumbancy rate was 98% in 2000.

Re:Grand Strategy Guide for Electoral Victory (1)

Homr Zodyssey (905161) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566591)

Thats not really how it works. For simplicity, lets say we have 5 districts with 100 people each. This is how they voted in the last election.

District 1: R=60 D=40
District 2: R=60 D=40
District 3: R=60 D=40
District 4: R=40 D=60
District 5: R=40 D=60

Now, lets say we redraw districts #4 and #5 base on how people voted so that its more like:

District 4: R=60 D=40
District 5: R=20 D=80

Yay! The Rs picked up another seat! We don't have a slimmer majority anywhere...we just consolidated our opponents so that they can't get as many people in office.

What about multi-member districts with STV? (4, Interesting)

ckd (72611) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565647)

One of the big issues in redistricting is minority representation (or non-representation), which leads to districts that consist of urban regions connected by a thin corridor or other similarly bogus shapes. Instead of artificially trying to group minorities (or party strongholds, or whatever) into specific geographical areas, though, why not remove that layer and replace it with a system that inherently represents various groups proportionally?

Using a single transferable vote [wikipedia.org] system like that used for Cambridge (MA) municipal elections could work quite well. In the city council race, there are 9 seats, and any group capable of generating at least 10% of the total votes can elect a councillor of their own, even if that group is spread from one end of Cambridge to the other. Some councillors do have unofficial "districts" where their support is strongest, but this is not a requirement in any way.

STV elections also avoid the "wasted vote" problem with independent or smaller-party candidates, since voters can put one of those as their #1 choice, and if they don't win, those votes transfer down the ballot to the #2 or later choice as necessary.

With the current breakdown of seats by state, a system with a maximum of 11 seats in a district would allow all but 11 states to operate as one large multi-member district; raising the threshold to 13 would add Georgia, New Jersey, and North Carolina to the single-election list.

To use Massachusetts as an example: the current 10 seats in the House are all held by the Democratic Party. I doubt there's any viable redistricting that would allow the Republicans to win even one seat. Under a 10 member STV system, though, the 13% of the state that's registered Republican could elect at least one, and with support from unenrolled voters, possibly more.

Re:What about multi-member districts with STV? (0, Flamebait)

butlerdi (705651) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565721)

It seems funny that the state best known for it's part in the American revolution has an all democratic house ..... Are the Republicans too much like the king ....

Re:What about multi-member districts with STV? (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565901)

Which State? I can't think of any whose entire House is filled with Democrats only. For best known for its part in the American Revolution, I'm thinking of a Commonwealth, not a State. In any case, everyone involved in the American Revolution has been dead for several hundred years (give or take a few years), and it's quite probable that the people around now do not share the ideals or principles of the American Revolution. Look at the Republican Revolution of 1994, didn't even take them more than a year or two to dump their commitment to limited and Constitutional government and go bonkers on bloating government spending and power as fast as possible. And those were many of the same people from 1994 to functional repudiation shortly thereafter. Very few people are principled or truly believe in ideas. When it comes to politicians, I can count them on one hand.

Re:What about multi-member districts with STV? (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566019)

It seems funny that the state best known for it's part in the American revolution has an all democratic house ..... Are the Republicans too much like the king ....
yes, because neither the demographics of Massachusetts, nor the nature of the government have changed a bit in 231 years.

Re:What about multi-member districts with STV? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19565733)

STV has a serious problem. It is the only seriously proposed voting system I've ever heard of which fails the monotonicity criterion [wikipedia.org] . This means that voting for someone can cause them to lose. I.e., if you don't vote for them, they win; if you do vote for them, they lose (assuming everyone else votes the same way in both cases). This actually holds for any instant run-off systems (i.e., with more than one transfer). This is fucked up. Just say no to STV.

Re:What about multi-member districts with STV? (0)

deanoaz (843940) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566407)

>>> This means that voting for someone can cause them to lose.

I call bogus on this. In an instant runoff election you can vote for your true preference first. If they don't win, you haven't wasted your vote because your second preference comes into play if no candidate has achieved a majority.

The example shown in the parent's link does not impress me. It shows all voters with the same primary preference also having the same secondary preference to create an unlikely scenario. It also pretends that the candidate who ultimately lost did so because she gained support. This is not true. She lost because another candidate LOST support, thereby putting her voters' second choice into play. The same thing would have happened if those primary votes had gone to some another candidate not listed in the example.

This manufactured quibble is no reason to stay with the current system of voting for the lesser of two evils every time.

Re:What about multi-member districts with STV? (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565859)

Some councillors do have unofficial "districts" where their support is strongest, but this is not a requirement in any way.

Right, so if we do that for House elections, who is my Congressman? Who do I write my concerns to? Who do I go to if I have a problem with a Federal agency? Is my Congressman going to ignore me if I'm obviously somebody who didn't vote for him because he doesn't have a "district" that I live in?

Re:What about multi-member districts with STV? (3, Interesting)

arodland (127775) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566121)

Er... with the current system there's pretty good odds that the only representative that's technically "yours" is a guy you didn't vote for and who doesn't agree with you. With multiple-member districts and proportional representation, there's a much better chance that at least one of the members from your district (whether that's a state or something a bit smaller) will be available to support you.

Take the example from the parent. Suppose you are one of the 13% of registered Republicans in MA. Who do you write to? The Democrat from your district, the Democrat junior senator, or the Democrat senior senator? But if MA was a single district with 10 seats, you'd end up with one guy who could argue your position on the floor, anyway. And representing the range of issues that people care about seems more important than representing purely geographical areas anyway. Especially when those geographical areas can be redrawn at will by those in power to represent purely political interests.

Re:What about multi-member districts with STV? (1)

segfaultcoredump (226031) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566147)

The case you give is more likely in a 'regular' district. You are a democrat writing about an issue of interest to only a democrat and you happen to be writing to a republican congressman since you are in a 'red' state and thus in the minority (lets say 48% to 52%). They will know that you didnt vote for them and may blow you off. If, however, you have one of each, you can cherry pick which one to send the letter to based on the one that is more likely to care about your issue.

Compare this to the 1:1 ratio, and you can see the advantages of being able to route the letter to the elected official most likely to care about your case.

It also has some interesting games from the point of how many politicians to field. Lets say only the top 2 will be elected. Does your party field 2 candidates in the hopes of getting both but at the risk of loosing both (if the other party does the same) or do you only put up 1 and guarantee a spot? 3rd party candidates can also wreak havoc with this sort of setup (which is a good thing in my view)

Re:What about multi-member districts with STV? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566365)

and any group capable of generating at least 10% of the total votes can elect a councillor of their own, even if that group is spread from one end of Cambridge to the other.
And that's the problem with your idea.

How do you bring jobs to your 'district' when its constituants are spread across the state? How do you solve problems for people living on the other side of the State? Do you know the officials in their county? Do those officials care who you are, if you only represent (single digit)% of their population?

Government, in its many forms, has almost always been about helping/ruling/oppressing people in a distinct geographic location.

Redistricting vs. politics as usual (5, Informative)

Howard2nd (162784) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565761)

I live in Florida - 20 years ago we tried to setup a logical redistricting system and were run out of town. The Republicans and Democrats would prefer to abuse each other every census. Any changes might allow for a thrid party and that will unite them against the people they represent everytime.

Remember that most states have 'winner-take-all' electoral votes, because the Republicans got with the Democrats to stop Teddy Roosevelt and his Bull Moose party.

Re:Redistricting vs. politics as usual (1)

asphaltjesus (978804) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565897)

Kudos to you sir in your knowledge of American history and participating in government. There are very few of us.

I live in Florida

Well, there's your first problem right there... It's a joke people.

Re:Redistricting vs. politics as usual (1)

packrat0x (798359) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566397)

[Quote]
I live in Florida - 20 years ago we tried to setup a logical redistricting system and were run out of town. The Republicans and Democrats would prefer to abuse each other every census. Any changes might allow for a thrid party and that will unite them against the people they represent everytime.
[/Quote]

I live in Florida as well. Our "Redistricting" 20 years ago was done by 3 Federal Judges.

Florida law requires districts to be Contiguous and Compact. Well, the districts were contiguous, even if only a few feet wide in some places. They were definitely not compact. And this was done by supposedly independent and fair minded (Federal) judges. That redistricting plan was the ugliest in the history of Florida.

Remember, politics is not about what is best, politics is about the least objectionable alternative.

How would you ban gerrymandering? (1)

Palmyst (1065142) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565789)

Let us say you want to pass a state law or a national constitutional amendment that bars gerrymandering. How exactly would you word such a statute? It needs to remain flexible enough so that electoral districts can be changed in the future in response to population changes, but still not allow the "crazy shape" districts that are now common.

Any ideas? Schwarzenneger's proposal simply moves the redistricting authority from the elected representatives to a panel of appointed jurists. This gets rid of the conflict of interest issue to some extent, but not entirely, since jurists will also have party affinities, probably coinciding with that of the appointer. We should instead look for some prescriptive changes to the redistricting geometry itself.

My idea would be to say that districts should be drawn in such a way that the least number of smaller entities such as cities, towns or counties are split among them. For example, the law could prescribe that not more than one city, town, or county should be partially included in a district. I admit this is not a well thought out idea. It is something I am throwing out out there, and looking for new ideas from people.

Maybe it is impossible. Maybe not. Let us discuss and figure out.

Re:How would you ban gerrymandering? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19565915)

My proposal is to use already predefined areas of land and have a computer determine the most population equal arrangement of contiguous areas. Use zip codes, which aren't gerrymandered and don't really change, and have a computer with population census data set up which blocks of multiple contiguous zip codes are closest in population. Then, also it's quite easy to tell which district is yours, it's the one that includes your zip code.

Mathematical modeling (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566103)

One answer: mathematical modeling of the shape. Topology is one area that is handmade for this stuff, and I believe Washington (working from memory here, so please correct me) already implemented something like that. Want to make a donut voting district? Complex topological shape, try again. The main problem is creating the mathematical model of the voting district. I'm sure lawyer-weasels can drag out the process of approving the mathematical model of the proposed district, rendering it rather ineffective.

Just short of that, I like Ahnuld's proposal, as it at least removes the main problem behind gerrymandering: conflict of interest. Judges might have party affiliations, but at least their jobs don't depend on the rejigging of voting districts.

On a side note, I'm astounded at the number of conflicts of interests that are allowed to persist in the current political system. People get to vote on their own salary increases? Get to vote on whether they need auditing of their finances? Am I the only one who sees this as just inviting abuse?

Re:How would you ban gerrymandering? (3, Interesting)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566217)

To my thinking, the solution is simple: mandate convexity of the districts, with an exception for irregular district borders at state boundaries. Districting would then become a sort of Voronoi diagram [wikipedia.org] over a non-uniform space due to population density. This would reduce the problem to one of choosing the centroids of each district, which would be much harder to manipulate inappropriately due to the complexity of the problem. Still, you could define the locations of the centroids based on some metric such as maximization of distance between the centroids.

Re:How would you ban gerrymandering? (1)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566229)

In the game, at least, under the "reform" rules, the independent jury is made up of half Rs and half Ds plus one neutral, plus you don't get to see the political makeup of areas when you're drawing the map, only population. Unlike other levels, where you can see R voters and D voters and draw the maps to balance them out as you like. There was also a compactness rule - maps in the reform level can't have crazy-shaped districts that snake around each other, etc. It's hard to tell the details of that rule, though, your idea of limiting the number of towns/counties in one district might have something to do with it.

Re:How would you ban gerrymandering? (2, Interesting)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566241)

Let us say you want to pass a state law or a national constitutional amendment that bars gerrymandering. How exactly would you word such a statute? It needs to remain flexible enough so that electoral districts can be changed in the future in response to population changes, but still not allow the "crazy shape" districts that are now common.

Define an algorithm that takes population distribution (but not race, age, political affiliation, etc.) as input, and tries to make districts of equal population while minimizing the ratio of circumference to surface area (i.e., trying to make the districts as close to circular as possible). Then just implement it and run it after every census.

Re:How would you ban gerrymandering? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19566533)

Race has been mandated as a redistricting concern.
The basic rule for any solution needs to figure out the estimated split for each concern by population, then draw the districts such that a similar percentage of the represented appear over the entire population of districts. Simply stated, if a state is 70% white, 20% black and 10% other minorities, then the created districts need to represent those biases. The same for each of the political parties all the while avoiding strange district shapes.

An honest algorithm should be possible, but that will never be allowed without public outcry and a grass roots constitutional amendment campaign.

Majority rule is a dangerous thing.

Re:How would you ban gerrymandering? (1)

kebes (861706) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566329)

People have proposed to specify a mathematical algorithm that would split a state into a set number of districts along population lines. Really it would be easy to have an 'approved' algorithm whose only input was population distribution (and NOT political affiliation).

One example from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] .

Here's a question... (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566511)

Why do we need districting anymore? Why not just use one representative per county and be done with it?

-Rick

Re:Here's a question... (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566677)

Yeah! That way Iowa, with its 99 counties, can have more representatives than Florida, with just 67.

Or wait.. then the Florida legislature redraws the state to have 1000 counties! Woo hoo they run the country!

Proportional Representation (3, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565799)

Largely solves the redistricting problem.

 

Re:Proportional Representation (3, Insightful)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566145)

Exactly, but that's probably why nobody will ever implement proportional representation.

Yeah, I know that's cynical...

The other thing that would "fix" the system is keep authority within appropriate geographic extents; for instance, what is good for people and what people in California want is generally not the same as those in South Carolina - the only things that should be Federal are those that apply equally to everyone, and a lot of the current legislative system on the Federal lever has gone well beyond those boundaries.

It's not just the US, either; the EU has the same problem...

Re:Proportional Representation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19566439)

Proportional representation?

You mean like the House of Representatives?

Good, but part of the problem (3, Insightful)

bahwi (43111) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565875)

The game is good, making it easy for people to understand what is going on is great. But the whole political system is turning into a game. It's about winning, not the better policies. Remember those blogs after the 04 elections? "Seeing RED?!!" etc.. (Democrats do it too, just haven't been having big wins, once they do it'll be just as disgusting!)

It's about winning, which is what the last support of Bush is hanging on about right now, WE won, it's OUR victory, you can't say anything about it because YOU LOST. And it's really not about that. But making it a game, making it a badge "Proud Republican", "Texas Democrat" is not the way to go. If you're views are mostly in line with the Democrats there's a few republicans out there that you should vote for to stay in line with your views. And vice-versa.

It's the dumbing down of the process into a game. King of the Hill did it correctly when Bill said "I voted yesterday. I guessed right 4 out of 5 times." or something to that effect.

Oh, but this game is on the right track, explaining a complex concept to people in an easy to understand way is a great thing.

Serious Games (1)

JorgeSchmt (905156) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565909)

It's nice to see a game that makes a serious statement about a political topic and doesn't suck! I hope the whole serious games industry is getting ready to be taken as valid social commentary.. and not just 'beat up bin laden' type of crap. I think eventually we will all be playing games like this the same way we watch documentaries or read non-fiction... as long as titles like this that actually have some polish continue to be released.

Too often... (2, Insightful)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565913)

Re-gerrymandering districts is more about incumbency protection (on BOTH sides of the aisle, often cooperating - there are stories about this that repeat themselves every ten years).

Georgia just completed its own cases...Louisiana had a particularly notorious case of blatantly obvious (even to the most hard-lined) one that literally snaked halfway around the state.

I don't necessarily agree with the "proportional" proposal unless there was some way to keep it local - I want someone who leaves nearby as my rep, not someone who is in the same party miles away. Neither the opposition NOR someone who doesn't live close by will have my political interests primarily at heart. Of course, someone who lives closely AND is in the same political boat probably won't, either...

Choose Our Own Districts By the Numbers (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565945)

The best system for districting the US seems to me to be the one based on post offices. Each post office does define a community, especially in Federal services terms. It serves a small group of people who live very close, sharing mostly the same conditions other than those inside their private dwellings - which are also likely to be similar (and even homeless locals have the same access). It is the most common face of the Federal government, directly serving the community. And it already services election procedures like registration and delivery of election info.

I like the system where each person in a post office's service area (usually a ZIP code or two) selects the neighboring postal zones (up to the state border) to which they're most "connected" in order of "closeness" (as defined by the person selecting). Then all the responses are tabulated purely statistically to generate a map of the most interconnected regions, in a quantity equal to the number of representatives allowed in the state. There could be a second round to accommodate exceptions, like tiny islands (below some predetermined population size) or extremes of minimum/maximum populations in different districts, where the exceptional zones select their associations, as do the neighboring candidates for association to accept association with the exceptional zones.

We should choose our own fellow constituents who choose our mutual representatives. As long as the politicians themselves mediate the process with any discretion, the process will primarily serve them and their parties or other interest groups. We've got the stats and the sense of our neighbors to do it equitably and quickly. We should redistrict at least 10-20% of districts every odd-numbered year for reelection to the House of Representatives on the following year. After no more than a decade or two we should have equitable districts without a hasty conversion that will generate unmanageable sabotage from the existing order.

Re:Choose Our Own Districts By the Numbers (1)

EL_mal0 (777947) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566265)

While we're at it, let's switch over to metric time.

Re:Choose Our Own Districts By the Numbers (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566425)

OK, now 1 second is 1 second long.

How insightful of you to notice that the redistricting plan I described would be that simple. But so much more effective.

Sorry (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566507)

Politics is not about being effective.

Re:Choose Our Own Districts By the Numbers (1)

kebes (861706) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566539)

The best system for districting the US seems to me to be the one based on post offices. Each post office does define a community, especially in Federal services terms.
Not to be a cynic (because the idea you present does have merit), but wouldn't this simply result in new political games where they work hard to open new post offices, and close old ones, so as to redefine political boundaries? This is bad in two ways: (1) it still allows for rigging the votes; and (2) it would impose severe inefficiencies into the postal system.

The proposals to have districting based on an approved mathematical algorithm (which takes population distribution as an input, but no other factors, like political affiliation, race, etc.) which generates the district boundaries is the only fair way. Leaving the districting in the hands of the people (with their inherent biases) will always cause problems. With an algorithm, anyone can verify that the presented distribution indeed matches what it's supposed to (assuming the input population data has not been tampered with).

District Strength (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 7 years ago | (#19565969)

How or what does a district really do? Perhaps I'm naive but isn't a vote a vote? What matters what district you're in? If 100 people vote, 51 for x and 49 for y. It shouldn't matter who voted where.

Re:District Strength (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566497)

Let's say you have 150 people, where 100 of them vote for political party X and the other 50 favor party Y. You want to put these people into 2 districts. But how do you distribute them?

First, lets assume that you favor party X. In that case, you want to put 50 X-type and 25 Y-type people in each district, allowing party X to win elections in both.

Now, assume you favor party Y. In this case, you want to put all 50 Y-types in one district, along with 25 X-types, allowing party Y to win that district. (The other district just gets 100% X-types; you don't have enough support to do anything about that.)

Anyway, the gist of it is that, depending on how you divide people, you can give an advantage to one or the other political party. That's the basis of gerrymandering. Get it now?

Interoperability (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566007)

I heard that playing this videogame about political redistricting will affect any savegames of "Wall Street Kid" [wikipedia.org] you may have going.

Why try to patch a broken system? (1, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566159)

While I can see the need to patch a broken OS, every Windows user already knows where it ends. So why try the same in politics where you don't have to support "legacy applications"?

Gerrymandering is only possible (or rather, makes sense) because of an underlying "winner takes it all" system. If every vote counted, which is far from reality currently in the US, it would not matter at all in what district you cast it. It comes into the big, national pool and whether you're from Alabama or New York does not matter.

I can see the historical reasons for this kind of election, but frankly, we outlived this system by at the very least 50 years. With modern technology and information traveling around the globe in a second, there is no need for an electoral college and other forms of more indirection between the people and their representatives. And there is certainly no need for "all or nothing" situations anymore.

Of course, this change will not come from the two big parties who would have to deal with smaller groups eating away at their power base. Neither of them would willingly even think of abandoning that concept, and they will most likely team up against any attempt to change it. If such a change is to happen, it has to come from the "bottom" of the political pyramid. Unfortunately, that would require a LOT of people get off their rears and actually care about the country.

Re:Why try to patch a broken system? (1, Informative)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566623)

With modern technology and information traveling around the globe in a second, there is no need for an electoral college and other forms of more indirection between the people and their representatives.

It's a common fallacy to assume that the role of the electoral college was simply to overcome the shortcomings of communications methods of the time, but being common makes it no less a fallacy. The electoral college's primary purpose is specifically to ensure that even states with low populations have a say in the presidential election. The disproportionate weight of a vote cast in Montana compared to one cast in California is intentional - no matter how much the residents of the coasts may want to mock "flyover country," the founders recognized that denying "flyover country" an effective voice in government is a fantastic way to foster civil unrest.

This approach goes hand in hand with the intent to have separate states under a minimal federal government, rather than the curious inversion of the Constitution we have now.

Whether or not these are good goals is a different issue, of course.

But you're incorrect that it's the major parties which would most fight elimination of the electoral college. Rather, it's every state which has only two votes in the electoral college, since it's those states which would suffer in its absence.

cheat codes! (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566341)

They should make cheat codes where you can annex part of Mexico and Canada for new districts :P

Tried this in California already (2, Informative)

Fongboy (712864) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566375)

Those of you from California might remember this from Schwarzenegger's last "special election". It was that thing about having retired judges do the redistricting instead of the politicians. Unfortunately, the politicians ran a bunch of FUD ads and scared the people of the state into believing that it was giving judges some mysterious power over them... and of course the ads conveniently never mentioned "redistricting" or what exactly the hell the judges were going to do. Heck, even that old People's Court judge/actor was hired to be a part of an ad. So you know... if this famous guy is saying it's bad... I have no idea what the hell he's talking about, but hey if he's famous he must be telling the truth! So the people of California, being the dumb sheep they are, voted down the redistricting proposition. Nice job Californians, you just screwed all of us over again. Sorry, I'm a bit bitter. =)

Go to proxy voting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19566601)

One big district, each politician gets as much political power as he gets votes. No gerrymandering, no primaries, very few wasted votes, and political parties would actually work against politicians, since they are more powerful if they don't split up support. Minor parties would also get representatives whose power accurately reflect their overall support -- you'd see Libertarians, Greens, Communists, Constitutionalists, Socialists, and what-have-you -- instead of splitting everything between Democrats and Republicans.

Flying arcade game machines (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 7 years ago | (#19566671)

This is a cool redistricting game that was launched out of the capitol building in Washington DC last week.


Did anybody else get the image of a 80's-era arcade videogame chassis flying out the front door of the Capitol?

I, for one... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19566691)

... welcome our gerrymandering overlords.
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