Monday, January 16, 2012

Redistricting: That ain't no least change

Redistricting MinnesotaIn response to my post last Thursday on the GOP's Redistricting Power Point Tom Freeman had this to say via the Twitter:

you failed redistricting 101

Which perplexed me a bit at first, because I didn't really know what he was talking about. I went back and reread my post and realized he must be referring to my use of the term "least change," which Tom confirmed in his next tweet.

least change is comical

So his point is that since congressional district six needs to lose around 96,000 people to achieve population equity there is no way to draw a least change map. That's too many people to move for the map to be least change.

Which completely misunderstands the meaning of the phrase, least change.

Least change does not mean no change, or a small amount of change, or define any level of change except for the minimum amount required, which could actually be quite a lot. The minimum amount of change required will differ for every state, but regardless of how much change is taking place, there will, by definition, be a least change way of drawing the map.

watch the hearing again

Again, this statement completely misses the point of what a least change map is, but whatever, I'm past that now. Tom's point with this statement seems to be that simply keeping the current configuration and just making adjustments to the district boundaries is an unworkable solution and that I would benefit from watching the GOP lawyers spin this point to the judges once again.

The reality is that this is simply not true. There is nothing about the demographic and population trends in Minnesota that say we have to blow up the map and start over. To the contrary, and as I said yesterday, it's because of where this growth occurred that a reworking of the current map is possible.

Observe (this is the "court map" I draw back in June):

A least change example

The current map
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The differences between the two

As you can clearly see, there is nothing about the current configuration that prevents a least change map from being drawn.


What if we look at it like this; 96,000 people is less than 15% of the new ideal district size of 662,618. Is less than 15% significant and does it really matter?

Because we didn't lose any seats, and because all of the population growth occurred in districts two and six, a least change map is not only possible, but probably the route the court will go.


What's interesting to me is the apparent disconnect in Tom's argument. He was very concerned about those 96,000 people in congressional district six and what might become of them, and yet the GOP's redistricting Power Point spent a total of one sentence each in support of their drawing of districts two through six, which hold a total of 3.3 million people.

That must have been quite the significant sentence! So let's take a look:

6th District: A North and East Metro exurban district, similar to the Zachman 6th district
5th District: Minneapolis and nearby northern suburbs, resulting in a minority opportunity district
4th District: St. Paul and nearby suburbs, resulting in a minority opportunity district
3rd District: A West Metro district
2nd District: A “South of the River” District, combining similar communities in the south metro

Wow, those are quite significant sentence's after all!

Oh and what is the second part of that very significant sentence describing the sixth district? Oh yea, "similar to the Zachman 6th district."

In other words; least change!

And that's the district that needs to move 96,000 people out of it and yet the GOP still managed to draw it "similar to the Zachman 6th district."


logical impossibility

I asked Tom a number of times during our Twitter discussion and he didn't answered my question, so I'll ask it again here: Given where all the population growth took place (hint: in the exurbs) why was it necessary to blow up districts seven and eight?

I suspect that the reason Tom hasn't answered this question is because there is no reason, besides a partisan one. And so to defend the GOP's plan he's left with trying to distract and obfuscate.


  1. Perhaps some readers would like to watch Mike Dean's (Common Cause exec. dir.) interview on redistricting from last Friday the 13th:

  2. Dean's comment about "least change" in the California context is very interesting.

  3. Well, the brand new independent commission in California completely blew up the map. But Dean's absolutely right about the old map being a finely crafted bipartisan gerrymander. In the last decade, one congressional district, out of 53, has changed parties.