Why Is Redistricting Difficult?

Regardless of the level of government involved, there are a vast number of possible combinations of census blocks that can be divided into districts. While finite, the number of plans can easily be greater than the number of electrons in the universe. Even though the application of redistricting principles of balance, contiguity, and compactness will reduce the possibilities, there will still be a vast array of possible alternative plans. As a result, it is impossible to compute all of the alternatives and evaluate them.

This should bring a deep sense of humility to anyone who proposes a plan, because she or he will not be likely to know if there is an obviously better alternative possible whatever the evaluation criteria.

Due to the principle of population balance, districts will be smaller in densely populated areas and larger in low density areas. This will make it easier to incorporate whole political units in rural areas and likely impossible to do so in dense urban core areas.

Plans will differ significantly based upon the starting points or centers chosen for one or more districts. Varying the starting points or centers used can be a good way to try to produce better plans.

There is no simple way to determine the number of minority-majority districts that are possible in a redistricting plan. However, when there are issues of proper representation, it is important to try to create one or more of these districts, or your plan will be likely to be rejected if it does not. You should know how many minority-majority districts were previously present as a reduced number of them would make a new plan problematic.

Non-partisan redistricting conducted without any consideration of partisan politics or political data is not immune from having partisan consequences. For this reason, it can be important to evaluate plans for partisan disparities. Ironically, to do so requires using political data. Since you do not control what data is used in MORe, you might need to ask someone with MTR for redistricting and voting data to assist with assessing political biases or voting rights act problems.

It is hoped that public access and participation in the process will increase the diversity of the plans considered and improve the quality of plans adopted. In the past, there have several examples in which plans submitted by the public have been either adopted or have influenced the plans that were adopted.

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