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Redistricting Game results, part 1: The fun part

3,981 maps solving DC's redistricting puzzle were created using our Redistricting Game. What did people choose, and what conclusions can we draw? How should the DC Council redraw the ward boundaries?

The Redistricting Game wasn't just a game, and a lot of people made very serious maps trying to solve the redistricting problem in a realistic way. We'll take a close look at those maps this week.

Other people did inject some more whimsy into their maps, like these amusing maps from Zmapper where wards are stripes. In one, 7 wards cross the river. In the other, all touch the Potomac and DC's northeast border.

What about giving each Councilmember a piece of downtown? That would encourage everyone to care about that area, and give every ward a variety of densities from the greatest to the least. It would be easy to make sure every ward had a fair share of Capital Bikeshare stations or streetcar lines in such a system.

A few users wish Tommy Wells represented downtown. The map on the left changes this with minimal other modifications; the one on the right also tries for close to equal population.

On the left map below, the entire Red Line from Friendship Heights to New York Avenue is all in Ward 3. On the right, Ward 8 gets DC's north-south axis along South Capitol and North Capitol Streets almost all the way from one end to the other, while Ward 4 gets all of Georgia Avenue, Ward 1 all of 16th Street, and Ward 3 all of Connecticut Avenue.

Most of the maps don't take extreme measures just to create entertaining visual patterns. Most people tried to solve the redistricting problem while also keeping wards compact and generally in their current forms.

218 maps made the fewest number of changes, 3. There are a number of ways to do this. Here were the 4 most popular, zoomed in around the areas where the changes are:

On the flip side, here are the maps with the greatest number of changed areas:

The map below at left is closest to perfect equality in ward population, given the constraints of the tool which required moving whole census tracts as one. Naturally, if you can break up the tracts, there are infinite ways to make the wards come out as equal as possible. The right map is the least equal, with the highest standard deviation among ward sizes.

Wards 7 and 8 have to get larger, while 2 has to get smaller. That almost always requires changing something about 6 or 5 as well. There is one exception, if Ward 8 takes over part of the Mall and then one of the two tracts of Foggy Bottom (but not both, which would move too many people).

Who made the maps? The first step of the game asked people which of the areas they lived in. Based on that, we know their ward, assuming they were being honest and knew how to locate their homes on a map.


The first number, Started, is the number of times someone in that ward started the game. Completed is the number of times they finished a valid map. And the third number makes my best guess as to which ones are the same person, using the IP address and their choice of home area, and combines those likely duplicates into one.

I'm sure some people will suggest that the higher rates of maps being generated in some wards means that we should ignore all the results and instead just go with the recommendations of small committees selected by ward councilmembers, but a better solution is to be sure to look at the results for residents of each ward individually to see if there are differences. As I go through the analysis, I'll do just that.

In upcoming parts, we'll start looking at the serious topics to try to generate real, not-a-game policy recommendations.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Fun results, David.

The first map you show from Zmapper (with the NW-to-SE "striping" of Wards) would guarantee that Marion Barry gets gerrymandered out of office - which means it wouldn't happen, as nobody in Council has the cojones to touch the third rail that is Marion Barry.

Otherwise, I find it unsurprising that:

a. Most of the participants in this exercise were from Wards 1, 2, 3 and 6, as I'd imagine that a majority of GGW's readership, as well as a majority of the crowd who gets their DC info from the 'net, is from said Wards; and

b. Many of the maps did the minimal nip-and-tuck reapportioning of Wards.

by Rudi on Apr 18, 2011 11:44 am • linkreport

Cool report! And that was me with the Ward 3 Red Line map. :)

by tom veil on Apr 18, 2011 12:21 pm • linkreport

Its definitely interesting to see what the impact of having the wards more linear like that. Would that shift more power to at large members since they don't necessarily have to worry about the same disparate interests that someone tied to a ward would? Would this possibly lead to more diverse (not just race but also intelectually) or would it serve to water down the council as a whole because CM's would really have to stake out the most central position possible. And would it be anymore equitable or could we see CM's just focusing on the western halfs of their districts more?

by canaan on Apr 18, 2011 12:33 pm • linkreport

If one "stripes" wards doesn't it defeat the purpose of having ward representation? The purpose of that is to allow for the representation of interests that have somewhat greater commonality (be it economic development, bike lanes, or dog parks) by different members. If every CM represents the same cross section of interests, why not just have 13 at large seats?

by ah on Apr 18, 2011 1:34 pm • linkreport

@canaan, Wouldn't having the wards be more linear actually result in the Ward CMs being more like the At Large CMs? I.e., They'd no longer have 'core consituencies' to look out for ... and to play up to. And that would negate the entire Homerule Act reason of being for the Ward CMs. (I.e., Probably wouldn't legally be technically feasible).

by Lance on Apr 18, 2011 1:35 pm • linkreport

I don't know, I was rather just sort of throwing it out there. I also don't know enough about the home rule act to comment. DC is definitely the only "state" and probably one of a handful of cities where stratification like this would actually physically work but I think its interesting to think about.

tl;dr I'd like to see more arguments for or against some of the maps.

by Canaan on Apr 18, 2011 1:42 pm • linkreport

Awesome, thanks David for featuring my map that had everyone sharing a piece of downtown! (3977)

by MLD on Apr 18, 2011 2:18 pm • linkreport

Very cool, David. All the maps are great - except for the ones that knock me out of Tommy Wells' Ward!

by Shipsa01 on Apr 18, 2011 4:14 pm • linkreport

I drew the "closest to perfect equality in ward population" map!

I think it fits pretty closely to people's mental map of the city. Especially wards 1,3 and 4.

The only outlier is Bolling AFB. Let's use it!

by Ward 2 on Apr 18, 2011 4:16 pm • linkreport

Where I live, in ward 6 near RFK, the whole redistricting issue is compounded by DC having only 8 parking zones. It seems inevitable that Ward 7 will have to expand further over the river into Kingman Park/Langston/Barney Circle - at least including Reservation 13 and the DC Jail.

People on the eastern and northern fringes of ward 6 who count themselves as hill residents will flip out if their ward suddenly changes to 5 or 7 - but if they can still park in the nearest business area, they would more easily accept changing ward boundaries. It's ridiculous that residents of N. Kingman Park have Zone 7 stickers when they are tied more to Capitol Hill and Near NE.

De-coupling parking zones from ward redistricting would make more sense for drivers and make the redistricting process a lot less contentious than it already is.

by Hill Borderline Resident on Apr 18, 2011 4:48 pm • linkreport

I found the striping - based upon NE or NW direction or streets/bus lines - fascinating. Those really made me think of coherent or connect communities much more than the current 'because they're nearby'.

I tried to make the zones around business areas or parks, but I lacked sufficient local knowledge to do so. It stuck me as odd that the non-federal parks were split among districts or that districts included commercial areas that were not connected at all.

by Crissa on Apr 19, 2011 3:26 am • linkreport

@Hill Borderline Resident -- in the late 1980s when I first moved to DC, the part of the H St. neighborhood north of H St. and south of Florida Ave. was in Ward 2. From the standpoint of parking stickers (I didn't have a car), it meant you could park with impunity in Dupont Circle and Georgetown.

In Ward 4, I don't know if this is the case in other wards, parking permits in some areas are zoned not according to the whole ward, but to the ANC geography.

I know in places like Ward 5, a lot of outlying residents drive into Brookland and park up the streets close to the Metro. So I think that's kind of what's going on with the subward parking permits in Ward 4, except that parking by the Metro doesn't seem to be a big issue.

by Richard Layman on Apr 19, 2011 11:05 am • linkreport

FWIW, I made a map with something like 7 changes. I think I gave one or two W7 tract to W8 and some of W2 (the downtown stuff) to W6, and a change or two to W7 wrt W6, without any changes to wards 1, 3, 4, and 5.

by Richard Layman on Apr 19, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport

I do liked the striped map on the right. It does keep some communities together while making council members more accountable to a variety of people and situations. This is a good time to decouple parking stickers with Ward placement as that does influence greatly what Ward I would want to be/stay in.

by mcb on Apr 20, 2011 6:29 pm • linkreport

Hill East seems to be struggling for its own identity. Getting re-districted into Ward 7 that might change that.

by Packherd on Apr 22, 2011 3:33 pm • linkreport

My community (Kingman Park) which is in Ward 7 is west of the river! (only part of 7 that is this way) Crazy! We were in Ward 6- 10 years ago. It would be nice if our community could return to Ward 6 because most of our community issues are related to Ward 6 and not Ward 7!

Kingman Park need to go back to Ward 6!

by asilerod on Apr 25, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

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