(cross-posted with my new Substack) Lots of pixels have been spilled on a legal theory once considered fringe, the Independent State Legislatu...
The Princeton Gerrymandering Project is expanding!
Anyone interested in containing partisan gerrymanders is waiting for several major decisions from the Supreme Court this month. But no matter which way those decisions go, the next stage of reform will be local. For this reason, my team at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project is making plans to expand our research efforts, which bridge mathematics and the law, to individual states.
Here’s what we have planned ahead in our effort to fix a major bug in democracy.
The Princeton Gerrymandering Project seeks to bridge the gap between mathematics and the law to achieve fair representation through redistricting reform. This work is nonpartisan. Previously, we developed standards for detecting partisan inequality of opportunity and outcome (see this Stanford Law Review article and this Harvard Law Review Blog post). These standards offer one way to put guardrails on the redistricting process.
Adding A Dose of Federalism
A potentially far stronger route to reform goes through individual states – a federalist approach. Our Project has now expanded to include map-drawing, computational, and legal expertise. This interdisciplinary team aims to give activists and legislators the tools they need to detect offenses and craft bombproof, bipartisan reform.
Our statistics have been used to demonstrate just how unfair a gerrymander can be. Our geospatial analyst has experience in drawing demonstrative maps that have been used by state reformers to identify extreme gerrymanders and neutral alternatives. And working with legal collaborators, we have filed a brief to turn the math into a standard of fairness that can be expressed in terms of law.
In the future, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project seeks to achieve:
- State Reports—Reformers across the country are interested in understanding how statistics and the law apply in unique ways to their own states. We will prepare reports that include demonstration maps, as well as statistical and legal analyses to help good-government groups craft bombproof reform strategies. We will target states such as Michigan and Virginia, where the need is great, and reform efforts are strong or growing.
- Improved Communication—Redistricting actors are currently divided into mathematical, activist, and legal spheres. Our interdisciplinary team will bridge this gap. We will show statisticians how to advance reform, activists how to write secure laws, lawyers how to create rigorous arguments.
- Precinct Data Hub—Currently, there is no central repository of precinct-level geographic data from across the country available to the public. We plan to collect this data from counties and state governments across the country and provide it to the public in a usable format. Any person or organization, without regard for party or issue interests, will be able access the data to draw new maps and evaluate the fairness of proposed maps in the 2020 cycle.
We’ll say more about our work in the weeks and months ahead. I hope you can support our work to fix bugs in democracy.