Little House (Seat) on the Prairie: Compactness, Gerrymandering, and Population Distribution

Allan Borodin, Omer Lev, Nisarg Shah, Tyrone Strangway

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

Abstract

Gerrymandering is the process of creating electoral districts for partisan advantage, allowing a party to win more seats than what is reasonable for their vote. While research on gerrymandering has recently grown, many issues are still not fully understood such as what influences the degree to which a party can gerrymander and what techniques can be used to counter it. One commonly suggested (and, in some US states, mandated) requirement is that districts be “geographically compact”. However, there are many competing compactness definitions and the impact of compactness on the gerrymandering abilities of the parties is not well understood. Also not well understood is how the growing urban-rural divide between supporters of different parties impacts redistricting. We develop a modular, scalable, and efficient algorithm that can design districts for various criteria. We confirm its effectiveness on several US states by pitting it against maps “hand-drawn” by political experts. Using real data from US political elections we use our algorithm to study the interaction between population distribution, partisanship, and geographic compactness. We find that compactness can lead to more fair plans (compared to implemented plans) and limit gerrymandering potential, but there is a consistent asymmetry where the party with rural supporters has an advantage. We also show there are plans which are fair from a partisan perspective, but they are far from optimally compact.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, AAMAS 2022
PublisherInternational Foundation for Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (IFAAMAS)
Pages154-162
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781713854333
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022
Event21st International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, AAMAS 2022 - Auckland, Virtual, New Zealand
Duration: 9 May 202213 May 2022

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Joint Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, AAMAS
Volume1
ISSN (Print)1548-8403
ISSN (Electronic)1558-2914

Conference

Conference21st International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, AAMAS 2022
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
CityAuckland, Virtual
Period9/05/2213/05/22

Keywords

  • Compactness
  • Fairness
  • Gerrymandering
  • Redistricting
  • Social Choice
  • Voting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering

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