State Senate Plan
By: Lee Sparrow, George Mason University
The intention of this paper is to provide the reader with an understanding of the methodology used to produce my redistricting plan for the New York State Senate. The redistricting plan was produced utilizing the open source software District Builder (Altman & McDonald) provided for the project, and using 2010 Census data to populate the software. This paper will examine the rationale behind the overall design of the produced redistricting map and will also justify the map’s design in terms of the criteria laid out by the competition controllers, namely; contiguity; compactness; equipopulation; compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act; encompassing of communities of interest; and respect of existing political subdivisions (redistrictny: Overview). In meeting these criteria, it is hoped that this plan will be suitable for further consideration.
REDISTRICTING MAP OVERVIEW
In producing my redistricting map, no information was available on the home locations of the district incumbents. It can therefore be said that this map was produced without any consideration towards incumbents. On reviewing the map of existing districts for the state of New York, it was noted that the compactness required improvement, in order to produce a district map that could in future be edited, rather than requiring a new map to be produced from scratch.
With this in mind, compactness was the main focus for the production of my map, over the requirements for equipopulation, respecting existing political subdivisions and non-interference with communities of interest. My map was planned and produced in four sections. Firstly, I began at the eastern tip of Long Island, moved down to the edge of Brooklyn (Districts 1-9). Secondly the districts for Staten Island were constructed (Districts 23 and 24). Thirdly, and by far the majority of the labor expended in in producing this map was the organizing the districts within Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens (Districts 10-35, less 23 and 24) as this was where the minority districts were created in support of the voting rights act. The final section of the map involved the districts for up-state New York (Districts 37-62).
My redistricting map meets the requirement for contiguity in that all districts within the map are contiguous, with no “point contiguity” or “touch-point" contiguity.
In order to meet the equal population requirements, districts for the New York State Senate have an ideal (prison adjusted) population of 311,508, based on the 2010 census results. For the purposes of the competition, this figure has been given a ±0.5% margin. As has been stated earlier, other than meeting the requirement, I believed that producing a more flexible product was of more benefit than being as precise in meeting the ideal as this would impact on other requirements such as the need to be respectful of existing political subdivisions. That said, the maximum deviation of population from the ideal on the map I have submitted is ±0.46%, meeting the requirement.
Federal Voting Rights Act
As described in Thornburg V. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 49 (1986), minority-majority districts must be created where a minority group is “sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district” (redistrictny: Competition). In the case of districts for the New York State Senate, using the 2010 census data, this equates to a requirement for Eight African American districts and six Hispanic/Latino districts within the state. My map meets these requirements.
It should also be noted that while District 17 of my map is currently an African-American opportunity district, it is also a Hispanic/Latino influence district where they have 41% of the overall Voting Age Population (VAP). Depending on demographic changes, this is likely to require the inclusion of an additional Hispanic/Latino opportunity district when districts are next redrawn. In addition, I have created an Asian-American influence district in District 11, where 48.75% of the population is in this minority. It is also highly likely in this case that New York will get its first Asian American Opportunity State Senate district when the districts redrawn following the 2020 census.
Communities of Interest
The competition criteria set a somewhat vague requirement that submissions should “seek to draw maps that minimize the division of counties, cities, towns, and Indian reservations between districts” because “counties, cities, and other political subdivisions give New Yorkers a sense of place and shared interests” (redistrictny: Competition). To the greatest extent practicable, this requirement has been included into my map. It was quite simple to achieve in eastern Long Island and up-state New York, where the low population density made it a relatively simple task.
However, when redistricting urban areas, it seemed more prudent to come to the aid of the population, rather than those to whom the existing lower level subdivisions had a purpose. To that aim, I have attempted to utilize “natural” divisions such as highways, major roads and railways to delineate my districts rather than those currently in place. This has required redistricting down to the voter block level in certain cases (see District 26/29 border for example). It was also necessary to encroach on the boundaries of the cities in up-state New York, due to their relatively high population density in relation to the surrounding countryside, in order to get the districts there to meet the equipopulation requirement.
The splits report generated as part of the District Builder software shows that I have created 93 county boundary splits, 83 sub-county boundary splits and 470 voter district splits – the vast majority of the latter occurring within the urban centers for the reasons stated above.
When verified, my plan received a competitiveness score of 23. Within the bounds of the district map there are 23 highly competitive districts (those with a partisan differential of less than or equal to 5%) and 12 additional generally competitive districts (those with a partisan differential of less than or equal to 10%). Compared with the existing State Senate District map, the plan produced for the competition has an additional 13 highly competitive districts and an additional 12 competitive districts over the entirety of the state. The table below shows the partisan differential for the State Senate Districts that were created in my plan.
Key: ______ Highly Competitive
______ Generally Competitive
Table 1: Partisan Differential by State Senate District
Whilst not providing a plan that has an equal number of Democratic and Republican leaning districts, my plan does improve on the existing State Senate district map in terms of fairness, with more Republican leaning districts (eight versus six) and an increased number of competitive districts among the remainder (35 versus 23).
As stated earlier, the main focus of my redistricting plan was to provide a flexible product which could be easily altered to meet future needs. To this end, compactness was the main focus when conducting the redistricting process. Using the Schwartzberg compactness scale, the State Senate district map produced has an average compactness of 66.56%, with only one district that is significantly below 50%. In this case, it was necessary to have one district with a lower than anticipated compactness in order to fulfill the Voting Rights Act requirement for the sixth Hispanic/Latino opportunity district (District 34 - 41.14% compactness).
In conclusion, I believe the map that I have produced meets all the requirements of the redistricting competition to varying degrees. It takes no account of the home locations of incumbents so will presumably not be popular amongst them, but that is not, and should not be a consideration when conducting the redistricting process. Due to its relatively high compactness rating, the strength of this plan is its flexibility - - as a product that can be manipulated quite easily in the future.
Overview (November 28, 2011). Redistrictny.org. Retrieved on December 01, 2011
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