Azavea Atlas

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Pennsylvania Congressional Redistricting: We Have a Plan!

After months of only rumors leaking out of the Pennsylvania Capitol about the redrawing of the state’s congressional districts, a map was finally released yesterday. It was supposed to be released last week. Then it was delayed until Monday. Then Tuesday. Then a PDF came out yesterday and the shapefile, which allows us to do a geographic analysis, early this morning. The Cicero team couldn’t wait to get our hands on it!

At first glance we were taken aback, most notably by District 7, which got more “Wow what is that?” remarks in the office than the earthquake. There is a lot to say about this monstrosity, certain to be a poster child for future gerrymandering studies. We’ve been able to perform some basic GIS analysis on the new districts today and will present some findings below. Next week, we’ll write about some of the methods used to create the numbers we are presenting.

First off, here’s the numbers you have been waiting for: compactness, demographics and voting tendency for the current and proposed congressional districts:

UPDATE 12/19/2011: We have added statistics for the Democratic congressional redistricting proposal:

As you can see, using both the Polsby-Popper and Schwartzberg methods of calculating district compactness (read up about how those are calculated by taking a look at our gerrymandering white paper), the proposed congressional districts are slightly less compact than the districts currently in effect. While that may not seem like a lot, keep in mind that Pennsylvania’s current districts are already some of the least compact in the nation, according to our study. District 7, represented by Patrick Meehan (R), takes the honor of having the eighth least compact congressional district in the nation. Of all the newly drawn congressional districts, it is the fifth least compact in the nation. Have a look for yourself:


Crunching the Numbers on Ohio’s Redistricting Proposal

Ohio’s General Assembly recently released its redistricting proposal for the state’s 16 congressional districts. Due to its sluggish population growth over the past decade, the state lost two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. This has made the task of redrawing the state’s congressional boundaries – minus two seats – extra contentious. In 2010, Republicans took control of all three branches of state government in Ohio. Because the state’s constitution requires the legislature draw up and Governor approve new districts, the Republican party controls the entire process from start to finish.

The proposal has met with marked controversy from some groups in Ohio. Here’s a look at how the districts shape up using two measures of compactness, Polsby-Popper and Schwartzberg. For more detailed information on how each is calculated and why compactness is important for legislative districts, see Azavea’s Redistricting 2010 White Paper.

 Congressional  District

 Polsby-Popper  (current)

 Polsby-Popper  (proposed)

 Schwartzberg  (current)

 Schwartzberg  (proposed)

 1  33.3  15.7  57.7  39.6
 2  24  15.9  48.9  39.8
 3  21.4  42  46.3  20.5
 4  29  16.9  53.9  41.2
 5  25.6  37.8  50.6  61.5
 6  11.2  14.7  33.5  38.4
 7  20  11.6  44.8  34
 8  22.4  29.3  47.4  54.1
 9  20.2  3.7  47.6  19.3
 10  26.5  21.8  51.4  46.7
 11  31.9  7  56.4  26.4
 12  27.3  21.4  52.2  46.2
 13  10.4  8.4  32.3  28.9
 14  37.1  26.2  60.9  51.2
 15  21.4  7.3  46.3  26.9
 16  34.2  11.1  58.5  33.3
 17  20.9  N/A  45.7  N/A
 18  16.4  N/A  40.5  N/A
 Statewide  Average  24.1  15.8  48.6  38

First, it’s important to note that in the proposed plan the target population is met for each of the districts to within one person. However, this is not without its drawbacks when it comes to compactness. It appears that the redrawing has resulted in much less compact districts overall. Note that the statewide average is now considerably lower using the Polsby-Popper and Schwartzberg methods of measuring compactness. If these districts went into effect today, Ohio on average would have some of the least compact congressional districts in the nation. The Midwest Democracy Network, which recently held a redistricting competition in Ohio, said that the proposed plan scores lower than any of their user submitted plans.

A Closer Look: District 15

Perhaps one of the most interesting changes comes in the form of District 15 in Central Ohio, represented by freshmen Representative Steven Strivers. The district is transformed from a compact area representing much of Columbus city and its western suburbs to a meandering one that snakes from northeast of Dayton to over 100 miles east before reversing direction and heading back west.

How does the district expand to all this new geographic territory? By removing much of the densely populated areas of Columbus. But the district still does include certain slivers of the city, such as a finger that extends into downtown. The district is also barely contiguous as its boundaries weave in and out of the city limits. In one part of Southwest Columbus, a sliver of the district is only as wide as a major roadway, skipping over a shopping center to include a car dealership on the other side.

What do you think? Join the conversation by following the Cicero Twitter account. Throughout the next several weeks we’ll be following up with redistricting across the U.S. on this blog and our Twitter. is Live — Political Gerrymandering Research

I wanted to share a quick note that we launched today.

Redistricting the Nation allows the public to:

  • Enter their address (nation-wide) and view the “shape” of their federal, state, and local election districts.
  • Learn who is in charge of drawing the boundaries of their election districts (e.g., independent commissions or elected representatives).
  • Compare the “compactness” scores of their election district to other, similar districts (less compact and unusually shaped districts are more likely to be gerrymandered).
  • Draw new district boundaries on a map and generate compactness scores for the new district.
2009-10-21_1647-RTNscreenshot Screenshot

Redistricting Top 10: CA-23 (1)

You’re such a wonder that I think I’ll stay in bed.

              –Rufus Wainwright

California’s 23rd Congressional District is at the very top of our Top Ten list!

CA-23—a long, skinny strip of land along California’s central coast—is a product of the state legislature’s latest bi-partisan gerrymander. Several California representatives have admitted that the post-2000 Census redistricting effort was an “incumbent retention plan” for both political parties. CA-23 is in good company; the district joins CA-15(#12), CA-53 (#13), CA-38 (#15), and CA-7 (#18) at the top of our least compact Congressional District list, making California a true “wonder” when it comes to gerrymandering.

California's 23rd Congressional District: The least compact U.S. House District

California's 23rd congressional district: The least compact U.S. House District

Hope (and a reason to get out of bed) is in sight. In November 2008, Californians narrowly passed Proposition 11—an amendment to the state constitution that places the authority to draw state-level district boundaries in the hands of an independent, 14-member commission.  The task of redrawing Congressional districts was not part of Proposition 11, though a Congressional Redistricting Initiative may be added to the November 2010 ballot, just in time for the post-2010 Census redistricting process.

And with that we officially launch Redistricting the Nation!

Redistricting Top 10: FL-22 (2)

The Sunshine State makes a second appearance on our Top Ten list with FL-22—a classic example of an incumbent gerrymander. Florida’s 22nd Congressional District starts its beach crawl in Jupiter and ends in a flourish around Fort Lauderdale (without including much of the city proper). Republican redistricters handcrafted FL-22 after the 2000 Census by removing a heavily Democratic section of Miami-Dade County and extending the district boundaries further into Palm Beach County. Their goal was to provide a safe seat for Republican Clay Shaw, who was soundly re-elected in 2002 and 2004, serving a total of 13 terms in office. Democrat Ron Klein later defeated Shaw in the 2006 election.

Florida's 22nd Congressional District: The 2nd least compact U.S. House District

Florida's 22nd Congressional District: The 2nd least compact U.S. House District

Tomorrow morning we’ll unveil the #1 least compact congressional district before launching our hotly-anticipated Redistricting the Nation site. Stay tuned!