A Proposal to Redistrict California: Central Coast

This is part of a proposal outlining one possible way to redistrict California.

This post will concentrate on the Central Coast region. There are four congressional districts covered here.

CA-17 (Dark Slate Blue):

Population – 45.5% white, 1.7% black, 43.4% Hispanic, 6.2% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 2.8% other

Majority-Minority District

This district is centered around Santa Cruz and Monterey – affluent, liberal coastal communities. It also includes some more Latino inland communities, such as Salinas and Gilroy. Gilroy specifically has little in common with Santa Cruz or Monterey; given the shape of the other districts, however, there is nowhere else but CA-17 for it to go.

CA-23 (Aquamarine):

Population – 50.7% white, 2.1% black, 40.5% Hispanic, 3.9% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 2.3% other

New White-Majority

CA-23 is one of the more easy districts to draw; it starts at the end of CA-17 and then simply adds population until the end of Santa Barbara County. Unlike its previous incarnation, CA-23 is majority-white. However, the proposed CA-24 is majority-minority (unlike the previous CA-24) – so there’s no regression.

CA-24 (Indigo):

Population – 48.3% white, 1.7% black, 41.1% Hispanic, 6.3% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 2.3% other

Over-18 Population – 53.1% white, 36.3% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District; New Majority-Minority

CA-24 starts where CA-23 ends. It then stretches along the coast of Ventura County; the three centers of population are in Oxnard, Santa Barbara, and Thousand Oaks. To the best of my knowledge, nobody else has mapped Ventura County in this elegant, cleverly compact way. The only weakness is that Thousand Oaks is put in a different district from Simi Valley and Moorpark, both of which have a lot in common with it.

CA-25 (Pale Violet Red, located in the center-right of the map):

Population – 53.0% white, 5.1% black, 30.7% Hispanic, 7.9% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 2.9% other

CA-25 takes in the less urban parts of Ventura and Los Angeles County. Most of its population is located in Simi Valley and the Antelope Valley. Unfortunately, Lancaster is split from its sister city Palmdale – the two really ought to be in one district, but I couldn’t find a way to do it given the constraints I put on this map.

Final Thoughts

Most of the Central Coast keeps communities of interest together extremely well, certainly more effectively than the previous gerrymander. Nevertheless, there are some bad community splits. These splits are ultimately a function of three decisions: the decision not to split San Francisco, the decision to create an Asian-majority district in the South Bay, and the decision not to cross county lines into Central Valley.

The next post will take a look at Los Angeles County.



A Proposal to Redistrict California: Central Valley

This is part of a proposal outlining one possible way to redistrict California.

This post will concentrate on the Central Valley region.


Northern Central Valley

The Northern Central Valley is home to two congressional districts, along with the parts of several others. It is quite easy to redistrict; both congressional districts fit very neatly within the county boundaries:

CA-11 (Chartreuse/Green):

Population – 35.8% white, 7.0% black, 39.6% Hispanic, 13.8% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 3.4% other

Over-18 Population – 40.8% white, 34.8% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District; New Majority-Minority

Since 2000, this district has had the most interesting history in all California. It’s the only district which changed party control since the incumbent-protection 2000 gerrymander; Democrat Jerry McNerney defeated Republican Richard Pombo in 2006. In 2010 Mr. McNerney nearly lost his seat, in an extremely tight race.

The old seat took in parts of the Bay Area and Central Valley. Since the Bay Area’s population growth has lagged behind, this seat now shifts to be entirely Central Valley-based. It also, quite unintentionally, turns from a white-majority district into a Hispanic-plurality one. The main population base is in San Joaquin Valley, centered around the city Stockton. Stockton is both a Bay Area exurb (many people commute there), an independent region of its own, and some of the most productive farmland in America.

CA-18 (Yellow):

Population – 40.2% white, 3.0% black, 47.3% Hispanic, 6.4% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 2.6% other

Over-18 Population – 46.0% white, 41.5% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District

This district takes in all of Merced County and most of Stanislaus County. It’s famous for the rich agriculture grown in it. This primarily agricultural district is home, California-style, to several cities – Modesto and Merced – where most of the population resides.

CA-19 (Yellow-Green):

Population – 54.3% white, 2.1% black, 36.9% Hispanic, 2.8% Asian, 1.5% Native American, 2.4% other

This district is the enormous yellow-green district at the far-right of the first map, stretching from the Lake Tahoe to San Bernardino County. Part of the district is home to national parks amid sparsely populated desert and mountains: Yosemite, Death Valley, Sequoia National Park, and the Mojave Desert. The majority of the people, however, actually live in agricultural Tulare County.


Southern Central Valley

CA-20 (Pink):

Population – 22.8% white, 3.7% black, 68.1% Hispanic, 3.4% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 1.5% other

Over-18 Population – 26.9% white, 62.7% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District; Majority-Hispanic

Here is the first majority-Hispanic district in the proposal, with many more to come. This district is drawn to have as many Hispanics as possible, while at the same time deliberately not entering the cities Fresno or Bakersfield. This rural district is home to some of the richest agriculture in America – yet also some of the poorest communities in California.

Ironically, despite being two-thirds Hispanic, this district may still not represent the Latino population adequately. This is because the Hispanics here are disproportionately young, poor, and undocumented (the undocumented ones often work as fruit-pickers). Indeed, the electorate might actually be majority-white. The ratio of Hispanics living in CA-20 to Hispanics actually voting in CA-20 might be the most skewed in the entire nation, with the exception of South Texas. It is therefore quite possible that a VRA challenge might be attempted here, with the argument that this district ought to take in areas with higher rates of Hispanic voting (i.e. the cities). Such a hypothetical district would be highly gerrymandered, which is why it is not done here.

CA-22 (Sienna/Dark Brown):

Population – 42.8% white, 5.5% black, 44.9% Hispanic, 3.7% Asian, 0.8% Native American, 2.3% other

Over-18 Population – 48.3% white, 39.6% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District; New Majority-Minority

CA-22 takes in the whole of the city Bakersfield (which previously was split into two pieces by the 2000 gerrymander). It then includes all of Kern County. While the district is plurality-Hispanic, whites almost certainly compose a large majority of the actual electorate.

CA-21 (Maroon):

Population – 34.7% white, 6.0% black, 44.9% Hispanic, 11.5% Asian, 0.6% Native American, 2.3% other

Over-18 Population – 40.3% White, 40.1% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District

In the 2000 gerrymander the city of Fresno was chopped up into multiple congressional districts. This proposal remedies that by placing the entirety of Fresno into one congressional district. Credit for this idea goes to the users of swingstateproject.


Final Thoughts

It is possible that this entire region might be subject to a VRA challenge. Hispanics compose strong plurality of this entire region, and one would therefore expect that the plurality or majority of congressmen elected in the Central Valley to be Hispanic. However, it is quite possible – given low Hispanic participation and ability to participate – that every single elected congressman would be white. Even the 2/3 Hispanic district could quite conceivably elect a white congressman who would act contrary to the interests of the Hispanic population (e.g. by announcing strong opposition against the numerous undocumented Hispanic immigrants living in the district, constituents whom said congressman would speak for rather than attack in an ideal world).

This is the trouble with redistricting; drawing congressional districts according to communities of interest and compactness usually hurts minority representation dramatically. A less pretty map could probably send 2 to 3 Hispanics to Congress. On the other hand, it would probably result in spaghetti-style districts that rip apart communities of interest. Thus the conundrum.

The next post will take a look at California’s Central Coast.



A Proposal to Redistrict California: the Bay Area

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

This is part of a proposal outlining one possible way to redistrict California.

This post will concentrate on the Bay Area.


The North Bay

CA-6 (Teal):

Population – 68.4% white, 1.9% black, 21.4% Hispanic, 4.7% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 3.1% other

California’s sixth congressional district is barely changed from its previous incarnation. As in the past, it consists of a Marin County-based district which then stretches north into Sonoma County. It is also surprisingly Hispanic. The wealthy, somewhat rural communities here have a distinctive nature: if one is on a quest for hipster companionship, California’s 6th congressional district is probably the place to go.

CA-7 (Dark Gray):

Population – 43.3% white, 11.2% black, 26.5% Hispanic, 14.0% Asian, 0.4% Native American, 4.6% other

Majority-Minority District

This is an ugly district. It basically puts together all the leftovers that weren’t placed in other Bay Area and Central Valley districts. The core of the population is in Solano County. Substantial population also comes from the northern parts of Contra Costa County. The district finally reaches an arm into Central Valley, between Stockton and Sacramento, to scoop up left-over population from CA-3 and CA-11. The communities do have some things in common, but not much.


San Francisco and the East Bay

CA-8 (Slate Blue):

Population – 46.3% white, 5.9% black, 13.4% Hispanic, 30.4% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 3.7% other

Majority-Minority District

San Francisco. Enough said.

CA-9 (Cyan):

Population – 36.3% white, 16.5% black, 21.2% Hispanic, 21.1% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 4.6% other

Majority-Minority District

This is another one of California’s great melting-pot congressional districts. It’s composed of a core of inner East Bay Area cities: Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond. Generally these cities are considered the “poorer” parts of the Bay Area, although in reality they are richer than the national median. Indeed, there are pockets of great wealth here. Finally, these communities are famous (or infamous) for their liberalism, second only to San Francisco.

CA-10 (Deep Pink):

Population – 57.2% white, 5.4% black, 19.7% Hispanic, 13.4% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 4.1% other

This district is composed of East Bay suburbs, including the Tri-Valley. This region, one of the richest in America, has long been carved up, for political purposes, into separate congressional districts. Here, for the first time, they will be in one compact district.

CA-13 (Dark Salmon):

Population – 33.0% white, 13.7% black, 29.8% Hispanic, 19.5% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 3.7% other

Majority-Minority District

This district is somewhat of a hybrid between the two districts above. Part of it is composed of the inner East Bay: Hayward, San Leandro, and part of Oakland. The other part is composed of East Bay suburbs: Dublin, Pleasanton, and Livermore.

To be honest, the East Bay suburbs and the the inner East Bay cities should be in separate districts. Unfortunately, trying to actually put those communities where they belong creates some very awkward-looking districts.


The South Bay

CA-12 (Cornflower Blue):

Population – 39.6% white, 2.3% black, 21.5% Hispanic, 32.8% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 3.7% other

Majority-Minority District

This district is somewhat difficult to see, since it’s not fully in the picture. It goes from South San Francisco into San Mateo County, which is the core of the district. Silicon Valley is the main word associated with this district.

CA-14 (Olive):

Population – 42.7% white, 2.6% black, 20.5% Hispanic, 30.4% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 3.6% other

Majority-Minority District; New Majority-Minority

Like CA-12, this district is the center of Silicon Valley. Its extremely wealthy San Jose suburbs are home to many of the technology industry’s most famous companies.

CA-15 (Dark Orange):

Population – 23.1% white, 3.2% black, 18.8% Hispanic, 50.9% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 3.8% other

Majority-Minority District; New Majority-Asian

Here we encounter the first district in which whites do not compose the largest racial group. The San Francisco Bay Area is home to the largest population of Asian-Americans in the United States, and this district is intentionally drawn to be majority Asian under the VRA. Over 99% of the population lives in the western half of the district; the eastern half is simply mountains whose purpose is to make the district look more compact.

One ought to note that although Asians are the majority of the district’s population, the actual electorate will almost certainly be majority-white (given low Asian voter participation, registration, and citizenship rates). However, because Asians are very spread out in the Bay Area, it is impossible to increase the Asian percentage much further without very obvious gerrymandering.

CA-16 (Lime):

Population – 33.7% white, 2.8% black, 38.4% Hispanic, 21.9% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 2.9% other

Over-18 Population – 37.2% White, 34.2% Hispanic

Majority-Minority District

The second district in which whites are not the largest ethnicity, CA-16 is plurality Hispanic (and there are many more districts like it to come). Like CA-15, this district intentionally draws Hispanics together. However, the over-18 population is still plurality white; there are just not enough Hispanics in the South Bay to effectively create a compact, Hispanic-controlled district. The district itself is essentially composed of downtown San Jose.


Here is a picture of the overall Bay Area:

Link to Picture of the Overall Bay Area

The next post will take a look at California’s Central Valley.




A Proposal to Redistrict California: Northern California and Sacramento

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Right now states across the nation are engaging in congressional redistricting, as mandated by law after the 2010 Census. Most redistricting is in the hands of politicians and thus heavily corrupted; the political party in control of the process is now busily gerrymandering districts to ensure it stays in power.

California is an exception to this rule; it is undergoing a unique experiment with a citizen’s redistricting committee. This committee will draw districts according to communities of interest rather than political expediency.

This post, and the ones following it, will outline one possible way to redistrict California. It uses the program Dave’s Redistricting Application, which allows anybody to draw congressional districts. Credit should be given to the many users on swingstateproject.com, whose maps of California provided much of the basis for this drawing. Particular inspiration was taken from the maps of users DrPhillips and roguemapper (whose maps everybody should look at too).

Because California is such a big and complex state, the proposal will be divided into eight regions:

1. Northern California and Sacramento

2. the Bay Area

3. Central Valley

4. Central Coast

5. Los Angeles County

6. Orange County

7. the Inland Empire

8. San Diego

Each region will be the subject of one post. I have also sent this proposal to the California Redistricting Committee.

In drawing these districts, several factors have been considered. These are outlined below, in order of importance:

Equal Population – Congressional districts must have equal population, to the exact person. This proposal puts each congressional district to below 1,000 people of the target. This is actually a hard barrier to meet, since the voting districts of California are incredibly large (some have over 100,00 people) and difficult to deal with.

The Voting Rights Act – The Federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) mandates the creation of majority-minority districts under certain circumstances and regulates the use of race in drawing congressional districts. It is an incredibly complex piece of legislation, with numerous court cases, and something I admittedly don’t fully understand. This proposal attempts to follow the VRA as best as possible, by not regressing current majority-minority districts (easy to do, given the growth of California’s minority population). It also draws new majority-minority districts where reasonably possible – a very subjective thing, true, but so is the VRA.

Communities of Interest – Drawing congressional districts that put together like communities is an extremely important part of this proposal. Too often California’s politicians have gerrymandered together unlike communities for their own political ends (which is the reason California now has an independent redistricting commission). This proposal attempts to stop that.

Compactness – No more weirdly shaped, spaghetti-style congressional districts. Unfortunately, compactness and the VRA do not go together – drawing majority-minority districts often leads to less compact districts. Since the VRA is supreme by federal law, it takes precedence; here compactness is sacrificed several times to the VRA’s mandate. Nevertheless, compactness is still a priority.

County and Town Lines – Town lines are useful indicators of communities of interest, while county lines aid compactness. This proposal attempts its best to respect both.

Partisanship – Actually, this proposal does not consider the political leanings of a community; it was drawn entirely without political data. Speculation of how these districts would vote is entirely absent from this proposal.

Now, let’s begin with Northern California and Sacramento:

Northern California

Link to Picture of Northern California

CA-1 (Blue):

Population – 59.6% white, 1.5% black, 27.3% Hispanic, 7.0% Asian, 1.6% Native American, 3.1% other

This district ranges from the vineyards of Napa Valley to the marijuana groves of Mendocino County. It covers a lot of space, but almost all the people live in the medium-sized towns and cities along the coast and dotted throughout the rest of the district (interestingly, it’s a lot less white than I initially expected). Perhaps the biggest problem with this district is that it divides the city Napa in two, the consequence of decisions made elsewhere in the map.

It is possible to advocate for a coastal district stretching from upper Sonoma County to the top of the state. This proposal decided not to do that for the sake of compactness; nevertheless, such a district would be well worth considering.

CA-2 (Green)

Population – 78.0% white, 1.4% black, 11.8% Hispanic, 2.4% Asian, 2.9% Native American, 3.6% other

This enormous district covers the northern-most portion of California. Like CA-1, there’s a lot of land covered here – but most of it is just empty space. Most of the population actually lives along the coast and in Redding.

CA-4 (Red)

Population – 79.1% white, 1.0% black, 11.9% Hispanic, 4.2% Asian, 0.8% Native American, 3.0% other

This district is composed of two entities. First are the exurbs of Sacramento, located in Placer County and composing the about half of the district’s population. They are joined by the communities in the mountainous Sierra Nevada, too small by themselves to form a single district.


Sacramento County is populous enough to support about two districts.

Link to Picture of Sacramento

CA-3 (Purple)

Population – 57.3% white, 7.7% black, 16.3% Hispanic, 13.4% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 4.8% other

CA-3 previously constituted a very gerrymandered district connecting suburban Sacramento with a bunch of unrelated communities. Since suburban Sacramento’s population has grown so much, it shrinks rapidly to compose only the eastern and southern suburbs of Sacramento.

CA-5 (Gold)

Population – 38.6% white, 12.3% black, 26.8% Hispanic, 17.2% Asian, 0.6% Native American, 4.6% other

Majority-Minority District

A wonderful example of California’s amazing diversity, CA-5 takes in downtown Sacramento itself. Whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are almost equally distributed – with whites composing a plurality despite being just 38.6% of the population. Moreover, this area is one of the most racially integrated in the United States; the district does not lump together a bunch of 90% white, 90% black, 90% Hispanic, and 90% Asian communities in one (as too often happens elsewhere). Rather, each people of different races actually live in the same neighborhoods.

The next post will take a look at the Bay Area.



There's more...

Packing Blacks

This is the first part in a series of posts examining how to create super-packed congressional districts of one race. The next part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Packing Blacks

In drawing the districts that will elect America’s congressman and state legislatures, race is of paramount importance. This is because of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), a complicated piece of legislation which regulates how race is used in congressional redistricting. The VRA is supreme to almost every other consideration in redistricting, except the stipulation that districts must have equal population.

The VRA prohibits packing minorities. For instance, an 80% black district that weaves through unrelated areas, taking in only the black-majority parts, is illegal.

Let’s pretend, however, that the VRA doesn’t exist. For curiosity’s sake, what is the blackest district you can possibly make in the United States?

This post will answer that question, using Dave’s Redistricting Application – a tool which allows anybody to create congressional districts.

It is both easy and hard to create an extremely black congressional district.

The easy part is that blacks live in extremely segregated areas. In a completely integrated society, every congressional district would be no more and no less than 12.6% black, since blacks compose 12.6% of America’s population.

In reality, however, segregation has left many areas more than 90% black, while their surroundings are 90% white. Take Cleveland:

Link to Map of Cleveland by Race

It is relatively easy to pack all these blacks into a cohesive unit:

Link to Map of Cleveland Partial Congressional District

It took less than five minutes to draw this. This district is 90.9% black.

Here, however, comes the hard part. Notice how there are only 247,777 residents of the district. Each congressional district in Ohio needs to have 721,032 residents. To achieve adequate population, the district must add more than 470,000 people. As the picture makes obvious, adding people from outside the black parts of Cleveland will heavily dilute the district’s black percentage (it may end up less than 50% black as one begins adding 95% white precincts).

The solution is to run the district to other highly segregated black parts of Ohio. Unfortunately, doing this involves going through 95% white areas. This will inevitably dilute the black percentage.

One encounters similar troubles with most inner-city areas that have a substantial black population. Once one runs out of 90% black precincts, the black population dwindles fast.

Concentrated populations of blacks are, of course, not just found in inner-cities. A number of Southern states – places like Mississippi – contain substantial black populations. Unfortunately for a mapmaker, however, many Southern blacks live in rural areas – and these rural areas are much more integrated than places like Cleveland. In Alabama, for instance, the most black a district can get is about 81.5%. In many cities, moreover, the black population is dwindling; in Los Angeles nowadays it is simply impossible to create even a black-majority congressional district.

If only there existed an extremely segregated city like Cleveland, except with enough 95% black precincts to fill an entire congressional district…

Well, welcome to Chicago:

Link to Map of Chicago by Race

In Chicago it is (barely) possible to create a congressional district composed of only the dark blue precincts in this picture:

Link to Map of 94.6% Black Congressional District

This monstrosity is a 94.6% black congressional district, linking together almost all the blacks in Chicago. It is possible to get a ~93% black district without linking the South Side to the Lawndale area; one would simply start adding more 70 and 80% precincts in the suburbs south of Chicago. However, linking the two together makes the district slightly blacker.

It is an interesting exercise to guess how this district voted in 2008. Nationally blacks gave 95% of the vote to President Barack Obama. However, blacks tend to be more Democratic in more segregated areas, so the black vote was probably more Democratic in Chicago than nationwide. Moreover, the non-black vote also tends to be extremely Democratic in inner-cities; in Washington, for instance, 86% of whites supported the president. Finally, given Mr. Obama’s roots in Chicago, individuals of all races would be even more likely to vote for him than otherwise would be the case.

My guess is that this district voted 99% Democratic in 2008. (Edit: Presidential data for Illinois has been released, and it turns out that my guess was right.)

Blacks, of course, are not the only race which can be packed into congressional districts like these. It is possible – and even easier – to do the same with Hispanics. The next post will examine how to pack Hispanics.





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