Skip to content
CityLab
Justice

Why Computers Alone Can't Eliminate Corruption in Redistricting

America’s political geography makes defining an algorithm that doesn’t disenfranchise voters incredibly difficult.
relates to Why Computers Alone Can't Eliminate Corruption in Redistricting

For some time now, computer scientists have been trying to eliminate corruption in the U.S. Congressional redistricting process by passing on the decision-making to computers. Ideally, if a computer could auto-generate boundary lines based on predefined algorithms and updated census numbers, the dark art of gerrymandering would be completely eliminated. No longer would politicians be able to choose their constituents rather than the other way around. States would be divided into equally populous regions according to pre-defined algorithms, and politicians would have no control over the outcome. Complex software programs like Maptitude, Red­Appl, and autoBound are already being used to design and gerrymander districts. So why not let them fully automate the process?

Algorithmic redistricting appears ideal in vision, but it is almost impossible in practice. At its most basic, drawing equally populous regions should be a very solvable problem. A simple splitline algorithm can repeatedly halve a state into subdivisions until the optimum population-per-area is achieved.