I've been following the latest efforts (in the US) of the GOP to unfairly redraw electoral boundaries and was considering how simple a law could be worded to ensure a more fair allocation of electoral districts. What I came up with is:

  1. All boundary lines must consist of straight line segments
  2. No district may contain an inside angle of greater than 180 degrees
  3. No district may have a major axis greater than 1.5 times its minor axis

I chose the 1.5 number as a starting point. Do the above three restrictions effectively eliminate the tetris/dragon style maps?

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Technically you were never a democracy. You were a republic. There are subtle but important differences. Differences notwithstanding, you are still pretty much f**ked. Not that we're that far behind you on the curve.

commented: You're right. Is that a pun as well? (right?) Wow, too far right. +0

A slightly less restrictive but (I hope) still fair policy might be:

  1. All boundary lines must consist of straight line segments
  2. No district may have a major axis greater than 1.5 times its minor axis
  3. The major and minor axes must lie entirely within the district

Any topologists out there who can confirm the fairness of this?

You still have the problem of densely populated liberal cities surrounded by sparsely populated conservative ones. If the main goal is still to have equal numbers of people in each district do you make a donut around the city? Do you slice it up like a pie? Either of those will violate some of your rules.

Another simple solution is to say that the ratio of the perimeter of a district to its area must be below some value. Or that districts must be draw to minimize the total length of perimeter lines around the district.

It seems that a further restriction would be that each district must have a population between two bounds. Densely populated urban areas would have smaller districts. Rural districts would have larger districts. At least my plan would eliminate the jigsaw districts. No plan is perfect but surely we can pick a plan that is fairer than what we have now.

Regardless of the rules, politicians will find a way to exploit them for their own end. We really need to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and into an independent agency who's leader has to be approved by all major parties.

An independant agency would be composed of individuals, and these individuals all have political leanings. The judiciary is supposed to be apolitical but we've seen the GOP delay appointments under the Obama administration so they could pack the courts with right-wing judges.

Gov'ts have independent advisory boards / agencies on a whole range of issues: science, environment, etc.. and they work just fine. You just need to set a few simple rules:
appointments to the leadership of the advisory board/agency are made by committees composed of equal number of members from each major party - if this becomes unworkable due to constant ties you have a list of independent arbiters assembled by equal suggestions from each party and randomly select an arbiter from this list to resolve ties on important issues.
appointees cannot be affliated with any party and cannot express/publilcly reveal a preference for either party
members of the agency cannot make political comments or publicly give opinions on any political matters outside of their narrow juristdiction.
members cannot accept any gifts/favours from any politicians/lobbists.

(You could even add a clause that redistricting can only be triggered by a successful referendum by the people affected or that a new proposed redistricting has to be approved by the affected people).

Plus you make it a distributed system. Politicians appoint the leadership but most employees are hired by the agency's own system and all redistricting is done by employees hired by the independent agency, but a separate group of individuals is in charge of local redistricting.

With new voting rights legislation proposed (supposedly including an end to gerrymandering) how about this as a simple guideline.

  1. The smallest rectangle that contains a district cannot be more than 1.5 times in one dimension than the other.
  2. The area within the rectangle must be at least 95% district.
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