Evaluating Multiple Criteria for (Re)districting

dc.contributor.advisorWong, David
dc.contributor.authorRossiter, Kalyn MacKenzie
dc.creatorRossiter, Kalyn MacKenzie
dc.description.abstractCongressional redistricting is the process of delineating boundaries for districts in which voters elect members to the United States House of Representatives. Congressional districts are often redrawn due to changes in population reflected by the decennial census. A major principle is to draw districts that provide quality representation for a large population. Currently, eight criteria should be considered when determining the boundaries of congressional districts and this dissertation focuses on four of those criteria: maintaining the core of previous district, have equal total population size, respect existing local government boundaries, and maintaining communities of interest. These four were chosen because very little has been done in previous research. The remaining four criteria, racial equity, contiguity, compactness, and protecting the incumbent, are not addressed in this research because they are the focus of much of the existing literature. This research tests whether or not each state complies with the four criteria discussed to determine their usefulness and practicalities. The purpose of this research is not only to evaluate each state’s redistricting process, but also to shed light on the process itself in order to simplify the criteria for mapmaking authorities and give the public a better understanding of congressional redistricting. First, I identify a way to define the core of a congressional district and use that definition to examine if all states comply with the criterion. I found that eleven states did not maintain the core of the previous congressional district for all congressional districts and for the remaining states 64% of the core was maintained between the 112th and 113th Congresses. Next, I discuss how eligible voters were defined, and the population size and distribution of those eligible to vote. The results show that the voting eligible population is not evenly distributed among congressional districts in most states and this dissertation argues that the voting eligible population should have a higher priority than the total population in future redistricting. Then, I examine whether states respect existing local government boundaries when delineating congressional districts. The results show that congressional districts often split local boundaries, and school districts and state legislative districts are split most often. Finally, this dissertation evaluates two ways to define a community of interest and then examines the extent that this criterion has been adopted based on each definition. One definition utilizes Thiessen polygons and census designated places, while the other definition uses cluster analysis to group together people with similar demographic characteristics. The results show that the two definitions are suitable for defining a community of interest in most states. Furthermore, the states largely maintain the community of interest boundaries within their congressional districts by only splitting, at most, 17.1% of the communities. On average, both sets of communities of interest were only split about 6% of the time.
dc.format.extent222 pages
dc.rightsCopyright 2015 Kalyn MacKenzie Rossiter
dc.subjectPolitical science
dc.subjectCongressional Districts
dc.subjectPolitical Geography
dc.titleEvaluating Multiple Criteria for (Re)districting
thesis.degree.disciplineEarth Systems and Geoinformation Sciences
thesis.degree.grantorGeorge Mason University


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