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A Proposal to End the Practice of Gerrymandering

Using a precise mathematical formula, it is possible to redraw district lines fairly and bring competitiveness back to congressional races.

by
Robert Zubrin

Bio

May 3, 2011 - 12:05 am
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Definition: Gerrymandering is a practice of political corruption that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan, incumbent-protected, and neutral districts. (reference: Wikipedia)

Across the nation, America’s politicos are currently engaged in the artful redrawing of congressional district boundaries for their own benefit. Thus, the voting public is once again faced with the brazen practice of political corruption by its alleged representatives.

The practice of gerrymandering is technically legal, and indeed, will soon celebrate its 200th anniversary in this country. However, it remains the case that, as it is a method of rigging elections to secure office holders against the judgment of the voters, it is a crime against democracy. It is time to end it.

But how can this be done? While it is apparent that weird district shapes are clearly contrived by conspiracies of politicians desiring to disenfranchise the electorate, what objective standard is there for assigning fair boundaries?

In fact there is a standard. The degree of contrivance behind the design of a set of districts is directly related to the oddness of the shapes employed to reach the election-rigging objective. There is a precise mathematical way to measure such malformation. That is, if you take the square of the perimeter of any shape, and divide it by the shape’s area, you arrive at a number, which can be called its irregularity. For example the irregularity of any square, regardless of its size, equals 16 (because (4s)2/s2 = 16.) On the other hand, the irregularity of a rectangle whose long side is 10 times the length of its short side is 48.4 (because (22s)2/10s2 = 48.4.) The odder and more contrived the shape, the higher will be its irregularity.

Now congressional districts need to have equal population sizes, so the task of dividing a state fairly is more complicated than simply slicing it up into low-irregularity shapes. Still, there is a solution which can be objectively ascertained that does accomplish the goal of creating equal population districts with the minimum total irregularity. This can be found either by humans or computers.

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