Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'I Cut, You Pick' - It Works for Drawing Legislative Districts, Too

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'I Cut, You Pick' - It Works for Drawing Legislative Districts, Too

Article excerpt

It's no secret that elected officials can act like spoiled children, not the least when it comes to dividing their state into districts.

Now a team of Carnegie Mellon University researchers is applying a childhood principle - one kid splits the candy bar while the other picks a piece - to a proposal for redrawing district boundaries.

The approach requires one party to divide the state into districts, each with the same number of voters. The other party would select one district to "freeze," so no further changes could be made to it, and re-map the remaining districts as it likes. The first party then selects a new district to freeze in turn. The parties would take turns keeping some boundaries and redrawing others until the map is complete - in the case of Pennsylvania and its 18 districts, 17 cycles.

"Each party can pursue a strategy that guarantees it something that it wants," said computer-science professor Ariel Procaccia, in a statement. "Competition between political parties doesn't have to mean that the division into districts can't be fair."

The researchers - Mr. Procaccia, professor of mathematical sciences Wesley Pegden and visiting computer science student Dingli Yu - have written a paper showing the approach is workable and fair, no matter which side goes first.

Gerrymandering is a concern, for Democrats especially, in states like Pennsylvania, which elected 13 of 18 Republican Congressman in 2016 even though voters split narrowly in statewide races.

Congressional districts are drafted by a legislature and signed by the governor: The legislature's own map is crafted through a bipartisan commission with one party holding the balance of power. While both processes entail some negotiation, they tend to produce maps that tilt one way.

That has prompted reformers to propose having the lines drawn by independent commissions. By contrast, rather than hating the players, the CMU proposal suggests changing the game.

"I think it's pretty likely that 20 years from now, people and politicians will still be drawing districts," said Mr. …

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