[EM] Re: Automated districting

MIKE OSSIPOFF nkklrp at hotmail.com
Fri Jan 9 03:06:01 PST 2004

Toplak Jurij wrote:

There is no way you can draw rectangles or hexagons or any other shape =
automated districting procedure.

I reply:

Surely a computer program could draw any shapes desired. I agree that 
hexagons couldn't be used for districts because districts can't all be the 
same size.

You continued:

Remember, the districts have to have =

I reply:

The computer program could have available to it a database of residences, a 
population database by house. So there's be nothing to prevent the computer 
from making the districts all have the same population.

You continued:

You must have some certain units when you draw districts, =
as street blocks or even buildings.

I reply:

Sure, the rectangles that I described would cut houses in half. But the 
formula could easily have added rules to systematically avoid dividing 
houses or other dwelling buildings. These added rule could provide for the 
lines to jog to avoid dividing houses.

Similarly, such rules could systematically avoid dividing city blocks. The 
systematic rule would result in the rectangle's side having a sawtooth 
appearance on the city map. No problem.

So yes, at least it's necessary to not divide houses. Maybe it would be 
desired to not divide city blocks. But no, that doesn't make rectangular 
districts infeasible.

You continued:

Whatever you use, you can never draw
rectangles or hexagons and have equal population in them. Try it and you
will see it easily that it is not possible.

I reply:

Ok, you mean that there might be several houses right on the same 
north-south or east-west line so that moving the border to increase the 
population wouldn't be able to add only the needed amount of added 
population? Sure, but, just as the program can have the district border jog 
to not divide houses (or city blocks), so it could likewise have a 
systematic rule to jog, when necessary, to add only the desired population 

So sure, strictly speaking even the interior districts would no longer 
precisely be rectangles, because they'd have house-size, or city block size, 
jogs. But as shown on a state map, they'd still look like rectangles.

So you're only saying that the districts can't _strictly_ be rectangles, 
when they take houses, and maybe city blocks into account. You aren't saying 
that they can't be rectangles with house-size (or city-block-size) jogs in 
their borders.

No disagreement there.

And, as  I said, a computer with a database of population by house could 
make those necessary jogs by a systematic rule.

Alternatively peoiple could do the drawing of the lines, if desired. The 
important thing isn't whether a computer does it. The important thing is 
that it follows rules that don't allow human input.

And even if there were human decisions needed, at the house-jog level, I 
doubt that parties could be seriously favored on that small scale. But why 
would human decisionmaking be needed for what seems like a purely mechanical 
task of making the rectangle borders jog in a prescribed systematic way to 
avoid dividing houses (and maybe city blocks) and to keep district 
populations equal when too many houses are on the same north-south or 
east-west line?

I don't know about you, but I'd have more confidence in rectangles made by a 
simple formula
(simple when we don't count the house-jog rules) than for concave districts 
of irregular shape, especially if human input went into those irregular 
concave shapes.

Mike Ossipoff

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