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The Great SSP Redistricting Contest (Round 1)

by: DavidNYC

Wed Dec 16, 2009 at 10:15 PM EST


Now that we've finally been able to name a winner in our 2009 predictions contest, we're ready to open up some new frontiers. Check it out:

The Short Version: Redistrict New York state so that your map would likely elect at least 26 Democrats and no more than two Republicans. Post your plan as a diary. Win babka.

The Long Version: Dave (of Dave's Redistricting App) and Jeffmd have been hard at work implementing partisan political data for New York, and the results have recently gone live. So you have from now until Sunday night, January 10th, at midnight Eastern in which to post a diary containing your maps & descriptions. Jeff, who has graciously agreed to judge this contest, will then decide which plan he deems "best." There are a few criteria which I'll detail below, and those have to be met in order for your plan to be eligible. But as far as what constitutes the "best" plan, well... this is going to be something like an art contest, and the judge's sense of aesthetics will rule the day. After all, redistricting is as much art as it is science!

Here are the criteria to follow:

0) Not that we would expect anyone to do otherwise, but you have to use Dave's Redistricting App.

1) You must have 28 districts of equal population size, within ~±1% of the ideal district size of 700,334 (i.e., any district between 693,331 and 707,337 will work).

2) You must draw seats for at least 26 Democrats - 26-2, 27-1, and 28-0 plans are all acceptable.

3) Assume that all current incumbents are re-elected in 2010. You will therefore have to eliminate at least one incumbent's district.

4) Your over-arching goal should be to shore up all Democratic seats which are potentially vulnerable. If you choose to eliminate an incumbent Democrat's district, the trade-off should mean bluer districts for remaining incumbents.

5) Not a requirement, but bonus points for screwing Peter King in some fashion

6) Water contiguity is permitted (bonus points for connecting along bridges).

7) Touch-point contiguity is not permitted. (Touch-point contiguity occurs when two geographical units only meet each other at a single point. Think of the famous "Four Corners" in the American southwest: Arizona and Colorado share touch-point contiguity, as do New Mexico and Utah.)

8) VRA compliance is required. VRA-compliant districts should be centered around the geographic areas covered by the the present-day districts listed below. These districts may be re-numbered and re-shaped however you see fit, so long as your final plan includes districts which meet the criteria below. They may also be combined & re-fashioned, especially in the case of NY-10 and NY-11.

We won't require strict adherence to any particular set of numbers, but these are probably pretty decent guidelines:

     • NY-06 area (Jamaica, St. Albans, Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway): 50%+ African-American

     • NY-10 area (Bed-Stuy, Canarsie, East New York, Downtown Brooklyn): 50%+ African-American

     • NY-11 area (Crown Heights, Brownsville, Park Slope, Flatbush): 50%+ African-American

     • NY-12 area (Greenpoint, Bushwick, Glendale, Lower East Side): 48%+ Hispanic

     • NY-15 area (Harlem, Spanish Harlem, Upper West Side, Washington Heights): Majority-minority

     • NY-16 area (South Bronx, Morrisania, High Bridge, Port Morris): 60%+ Hispanic

9) All 28 districts must be described in your writeup. Each district writeup must include:

     • A list of any current incumbents whose homes are in that district. If more than one incumbent lives in a district, you must describe whom you think the district "belongs" to.

     • A brief narrative summary of major counties, cities, towns, and/or neighborhoods encompassed by the district. This list need not - and should not - be exhaustive. It should just hit the high points.

     • Demographic information about racial breakdowns by percentage.

     • 2008 presidential election results, both for the new district and the old district (to the extent there is a corresponding old district).

     • Total population.

10) Your writeup must include maps sufficient to show all 28 districts with reasonable detail. Use zoomed-in maps for densely populated areas. Please make maps no more than 590 pixels wide - any larger and they break the site's formatting on many monitors. But by all means link to full-size images.

11) Your map can be as gerrymandered or as compact as you wish. Bonus points for creativity.

12) Only one entry per user - but you can post your diary at any time during the contest period (again, until midnight Eastern time on Sunday, Jan. 10th).

13) Please email your saved .DRF.XML to Jeff (jeffmd [at] swingstateproject [dot] com). Dave has instructions for locating your file in his help file (scroll down to the section "Saved Files"), for Mac OS, Windows XP, and Windows Vista. Do not post this file online.

If you have any questions or need any clarifications, please feel free to ask in comments. To the winner goes the babka!

P.S. To assist you, a list of each represenative's area of residence is below the fold. If you have more detailed information about any of them, please let us know in comments.

UPDATE: Please put the phrase "Contest Entry:" at the start of your diary title, and please also put the tag "redistricting contest" in your tags.

Also, here's a helpful map of NYC neighborhoods (warning: large PDF).

UPDATE 2: There are special instructions for turning on the political (Obama vs. McCain) data:

To access this new data, you need to check the "Use Test Data" checkbox in the upper right corner of the app before selecting New York State. (Because the data format is different than I have been using, I've separated it into a separate directory on the server.)
DavidNYC :: The Great SSP Redistricting Contest (Round 1)
NY-01 Bishop Southampton village NY-16 Serrano South Bronx
NY-02 Israel Huntington village NY-17 Engel Riverdale
NY-03 King Seaford (Oyster Bay) NY-18 Lowey Harrison
NY-04 McCarthy Mineola (North Hempstead) NY-19 Hall Dover Plains (Dover)
NY-05 Ackerman Roslyn Heights (North Hempstead) NY-20 Murphy Glens Falls
NY-06 Meeks Far Rockaway NY-21 Tonko Amsterdam
NY-07 Crowley Woodside NY-22 Hinchey Hurley
NY-08 Nadler Upper West Side NY-23 Owens Plattsburgh
NY-09 Weiner Forest Hills NY-24 Arcuri Utica
NY-10 Towns East New York NY-25 Maffei DeWitt
NY-11 Clarke Flatbush NY-26 Lee Clarence
NY-12 Velazquez Williamsburg NY-27 Higgins Buffalo South District
NY-13 McMahon Staten Island NY-28 Slaughter Fairport (Perinton)
NY-14 Maloney Upper East Side NY-29 Massa Corning
NY-15 Rangel Harlem
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Curious why you decided to not allow touch-point
contiguity. It's allowed in the real world, and if prohibited here limits some of the best options to achieve the other goals.  

Later contests
Will have different rules.

[ Parent ]
Fair enough
In any case, this gives me an excuse to take a fresh look.

[ Parent ]
Also
I think it may be banned in some states (see this Ohio redistricting contest, for instance).

[ Parent ]
I guess that's possible
As a matter of Federal law, it's not though (there are examples in North Carolina, and in the 2002 Georgia map, which was cleared by the D.C. Circuit).

I do not believe that New York has limited itself any any way beyond the Federal requirements.  


[ Parent ]
No
But I believe there are cases which indicate that less touch-point is preferred to more touch-point, even if that's just ridiculous O'Connor-inspired nonsense.

[ Parent ]
heh
She's one of the four who thinks that gerrymandering isn't justiciable. It might give Kennedy an upset stomach, but he still wouldn't do anything about it.

I'm thinking I should try to sell you all on my national bipartisan redistricting commission (Congress can probably create one by statute) so we can do away with these by-state differences.  


[ Parent ]
But as I recall
With VRA cases, she was a key objector to "ugly-looking" districts.

[ Parent ]
Yup, she was
Although, I'm actually OK with the Scalia/O'Connor response to that (politicians can consider politics and we won't review that, but race considerations get strict scrutiny). Stevens argued for looking at oddly-shaped districts but using a lower standard of review if such districts reflected political instead of racial concerns. I don't think anybody else was buying.  

[ Parent ]
Where are they planned for?
Presumably a California one, due to the untapped potential there, but where else are you thinking of going for once Dave gets the political data?

[ Parent ]
We haven't decided yet (eom)


[ Parent ]
What is touch-point contiguity?
  I realize that by asking that question I am admitting to starting from behind in the contest.  

24, Male, GA-05

[ Parent ]
Here's the basic version
Imagine a square divided by length and width by crosshairs (i.e., a four-pane window). Each quadrant is contiguous with the one diagonally across from it.  

[ Parent ]
Because they touch at (0,0)


[ Parent ]
Thanks.
   Got it.  There are more opportunities for touch-point than I would have imagined.  

24, Male, GA-05

[ Parent ]
Or perhaps more simply
A piece in checkers or a bishop in chess can only move diagonally to a square which is connected to its current square at one corner. Those squares share touch-point contiguity.

Or maybe better for this site: New Mexico and Utah have touch-point contiguity, as do Arizona and Colorado (the famous "Four Corners").


[ Parent ]
Yup, Four Corners is the best real-world example
This is why I'll never write a text book.

[ Parent ]
Odd.
   The partisan data isn't showing up for me.  No matter how much I outline it still says Obama 0%, McCain 0%.

24, Male, GA-05

Did you follow Dave's instructions?
To access this new data, you need to check the "Use Test Data" checkbox in the upper right corner of the app before selecting New York State. (Because the data format is different than I have been using, I've separated it into a separate directory on the server.)


[ Parent ]
Bad!
  I slapped myself on the wrist for not reading Dave's directions.

24, Male, GA-05

[ Parent ]
For those of us who have never been to New York.
Is there any resource out there that maps out the specific parts of New York City?  I'm not talking Queens v. The Bronx, I mean more specific like Morningside Heights vs. Ozone Park vs. Williamsburg, etc.

These are a little on the artistic side, but it's a place to start:
Brooklyn

Manhattan

I'm sure there's something better out there, but I just stumbled across these a couple hours ago, and I still had em open in another tab.  And they're cool.

28, gay guy, Democrat, CA-08


[ Parent ]
This is my New York City reference map
http://gis.nyc.gov/doitt/nycit...

But you have to plug in an address, cross-streets, a zip code, or any of several other things. It gives you street-level and even building-level mapping, though.

"I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat!"
--  Will Rogers  


[ Parent ]
"5) bonus points for screwing Peter King in some fashion"
lol

My prediction:
The majority of maps made will be knocking out Peter King.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, that should not have been part of it
Because it's just gonna get me to completely eviscerate his district, even if it would be smarter not to.

But what the hey, I do great at subjective tests. And I certainly couldn't do worse than the last contest.

Kansan by birth, Californian by choice, and Gay by the grace of God.


[ Parent ]
Holy crap, this contest reads like a freakin' final exam
I'm not one of the redistricting types, so I probably won't be participating.

Have fun, y'all!

party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01


NY 16
NY-16 area (South Bronx, Morrisania, High Bridge, Port Morris): 60%+ Hispanic

60%+ is excessive under the VRA - which generally supports 50%. (This is not the place to argue that 50%+ is already excessive to ensure a minority wins the election).

Are you going to require a supermajority Hispanic district in the NY 16 area - or just a VRA compatible district?

Also, do you want a specific title for the contest diary?


not all of them are citizens
so maybe you need 60% to make sure a Hispanic gets elected.

26, male, Dem, NJ-12

[ Parent ]
Is that a concern in the Bronx?
I suppose the VRA guidelines, to the extent they exist, may not drill down to this level of specificity, but aren't most Hispanic Bronx residents Puerto Rican, and therefore US citizens by definition?  

36, M, Democrat, MD-03

[ Parent ]
5) Not a requirement, but bonus points for screwing Peter King in some fashion
Love it!  There is always one GOP Representative who sticks out in their state in the minds of left-leaning individuals as "that one".

Bachmann of Minnesota, Wilson of South Carolina, Blackburn of Tennessee, Gohmert of Texas, etc


How about a full third of the Texas delegation or so?


party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01

[ Parent ]
Yeah
I actually thought for a little while over which Texas Rep to list but I remembered Rachel Maddow's special on Louie Gohmert and he's just sticking out like a sore thumb on health care.  

I am also gonna update my Texas map soon using everyones suggestions and after a period of greater research to see if I can get a 19-D 17-R Texas Map :)


[ Parent ]
King isn't that objectionable
He's about as irritating as the average fairly senior backbencher. It's just that New York only has two Republican congressmen these days, and Chris Lee is too new and obscure to receive the hate.

[ Parent ]
oh rly?
We're talking about Peter King, the Irish terrorism sympathizer, right?  The same guy who ripped President Clinton for initially denying Gerry Adams a visa into the U.S., and then bitched enough to where Clinton finally relented.

[ Parent ]
Bachmann
I expect Bachmann to be the odd one out if MN loses a seat.  Her district is a weird hybrid of the St Cloud and Twin Cities areas, and she lives on an extreme edge of it.

With 7 districts, you would reasonably get 4 districts in the Metro Area (Ellison, McCollum, Paulsen, and Kline), and then 3 based in the other 3 major cities -- Duluth, St Cloud, and Rochester.  It's much easier geographically to give St Cloud to Peterson than it is to preserve a district that stretches from St Cloud to Stillwater.  Also, as a committee chair, Peterson does a lot more for the state than Bachmann ever has.

I could imagine an interesting Bachmann/Kline primary in a district that would span the South and East exurbs.


[ Parent ]
SSP = best political blog ever
This is awesome. I can't wait to see what ya'll come up with.

If your like me and couldn't redistrict Wyoming to save your life check out http://www.redistrictinggame.org/ for a decent n00b starter.


Look, s/he made a funny!
Redistricting Wyoming. Hah hah.

"I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat!"
--  Will Rogers  


[ Parent ]
oh man
I loved that game! Curiously, my plans always seemed to get shot down in the courts whenever I did some octopus-looking districts with some touch-point contiguity going on

[ Parent ]
Hi Everyone
Dave here (the author of the app for those who haven't seen me post before).

A couple of notes:
-- please let me know of any bugs or difficulties; I'll keep checking here at SSP and will try to respond quickly to issues.
-- the locations of the drf.xml files on the Mac is in the help file.
-- when you are done, the drf.xml would be helpful to Jeff as he judges, because he can zoom and pan around. When you create Area Maps (zoomed in areas) they are saved in the drf.xml, so he can cycle thru them.
-- you don't really need to submit the map.xml. That is simply a vehicle to turn the area maps and overall map into JPGs (which requires a Windows tool that you can get from my website). But really, everyone mostly uses Print Screen to capture the bits and turn them into an image.
-- the new CD labels are movable!!! (but the locations are not saved in the drf.xml, so you'll have to reposition after you reload).

Good luck!


The new CD labels are movable!
Yay!!!

Thank you for all the work you have done with this application.

I have an urge to redistrict the Texas State House which is 150 districts!  


[ Parent ]
Forgive me if this is a stupid question but...
Is the plus or minus 1% rule referring to 1% of the population as a whole or 1% of that district's standard deviation?

1% refers to 1% of the a district's ideal population
Since the ideal district size is 700,334, any district size between 693,331 and 707,337 will satisfy the population requirement.

[ Parent ]
That's what I thought
But I wanted to make sure, just to know what kind of window I had.  Thanks Jeff.

[ Parent ]
help!
I saved my map to work on it later.  I tried to open the file from the File Menu and it says there's an error reading the drf.xml file.  Did I miss a step somewhere?  TIA

Are you still have the problem?
If you saw the item in your File menu, then you already selected the state. Did you check the "Use Test Data" checkbox (assuming you are doing NY)? If you still have the problem, email me: redistricting@gardow.com.

[ Parent ]
Incumbent addresses
Here are the addresses and voting districts of most of the representatives, largely based on New York voter registrations.  I've omitted the full address numbers for privacy.

01-Bishop: Wooley St., Southampton (Southampton 6)
02-Israel: Dix Hwy., Dix Hills (Huntington 100)
03-King: Roth Rd., Seaford (Hempstead 36)
04-McCarthy: Nancy Rd., Mineola (North Hempstead 111)
05-Ackerman: Deer Run, Roslyn Heights (North Hempstead 99)
06-Meeks: 194-xx 109th Rd., St. Albans (Queens 33-28)
07-Crowley: 48-xx 65th St., Woodside (Queens 30-45)
08-Nadler: 3xx W. 70th St., Upper West Side (Manhattan 35-67)
09-Weiner: 0xx Ascan Ave., Forest Hills (Queens 28-36)
10-Towns: Highland Blvd., East New York (Brooklyn 54-56)
11-Clarke: 2xx Midwood St., Prospect Gardens (Brooklyn 43-78)
12-Velázquez: Woodhull St., Carroll Gardens (Brooklyn 52-100)
13-McMahon: Westbury Ave., Staten Island (Staten Island 61-35)
14-Maloney: ???
15-Rangel: 0xx W. 135th St., Harlem (Manhattan 70-31)
16-Serrano: 9xx Grand Concourse, South Bronx around Yankee Stadium (Bronx 77-74)
17-Engel: 49xx Henry Hudson Pkwy. W., Riverdale (Bronx 81-67)
18-Lowey: Beverly Rd., Rye (Harrison 10)
19-Hall: Ridge Rd., Dover Plains (Dover 1)
20-Murphy: 6xx Glen St., Glens Falls (Glens Falls 5)
21-Tonko: Princeton St., Amsterdam (City of Amsterdam 1)
22-Hinchey: Brucken Rd., Hurley (Hurley 3)
23-Owens: Blue Heron Way, Plattsburgh (Plattsburgh 3)
24-Arcuri: Crestway, Utica (Utica 4)
25-Maffei: N. Pebble Hill Rd., Syracuse (DeWitt 3)
26-Lee: ???
27-Higgins: Morgan Rd., Buffalo (Buffalo South 19)
28-Slaughter: Manor Hill Dr., Fairport (Perinton 14)
29-Massa: Upper Delevan Ave., Corning (City of Corning)

Note that Nydia Velázquez lives in Carroll Gardens, not Williamsburg.  And Gregory Meeks lives in St. Albans, not Far Rockaway.


Uh oh, my Brooklyn is a bit off
It's OK though.

[ Parent ]
Velázquez
Velázquez lives 1/2 a block from the 11th district, 3 blocks from the 8th district, and nowhere near the two core areas of her district (Bushwick/Greenpoint and Sunset Park).  From this, I conclude one of the following things:
1) She believes she has sufficient clout to get the redistricters to connect her residence to the Hispanic areas of Brooklyn.  This dynamic explains the funny shape of Brady's PA-01 district -- he wants to live in Overbrook Park but doesn't want to represent most of West Philly.
2) She expects to retire before the 2012 election.
3) She rents, and is happy to move following districting.
4) Either she or I hasn't thought this through well.

I look dimly on representatives who want to live in places that are substantially different from their constituents' residences.  I'm not creating a district just so that Nydia Velázquez can represent Bushwick while living in Carroll Gardens.


[ Parent ]
Honestly, I don't think it matters
She lives close enough to be credible. And her constituents presumably know her.

[ Parent ]
How did you research this?
And how did you determine that you had the right person - e.g., I'm sure there is more than one John Hall.

[ Parent ]
https://voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/
https://voterlookup.elections....

The form requires DOB (available for politicians at Wikipedia) and ZIP code, so it's hard to get the wrong John Hall.


[ Parent ]
VRA in Queens
In real life, is there actually  a requirement for a 50% Black district in SE Queens? Section 5 of the VRA does not apply to Queens.  It seems to me that a solidly Democratic plurality-Black district would pass Section 2.

Different parts of the VRA
Section 5 is preclearance, and you are correct - it does not apply to Queens. However, this provision of the law does not govern minority vote dilution. That is covered by Section 2, which applies nationwide.

[ Parent ]
Ahh
OK, I guess that settles that.

[ Parent ]
Ideal District Size
The contest guidelines indicate 700,334 as the ideal district size, but Dave's app defaults to 696,082 as the average district size. What am I missing?

29, Male, Dem, NY-20

Never Mind
Figured it out.

29, Male, Dem, NY-20

[ Parent ]
another snag!
I'm all finished with my map and work and all, and I tried to send the file.  I followed the posted Vista pathway through all the junk folders and such, and attached the file.  But when I tried to send the email, it said that there was no file specified.  I clicked on the file and it said it had 0 bytes.  Help!


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