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Redistricting Game results, part 5: The best options

How should the DC Council redraw DC's wards? Based on the results of the Redistricting Game, one of these two ways:

In past parts, we discussed fun maps, what residents of each area want, how much to change the wards, and what changes appeared on the most maps. We determined that by and large respondents prefer making more minor changes, modifying few areas even if it means the wards don't end up equal in population.

Therefore, the key questions are: What are those minimal paths to satisfy the redistricting rules, and which ones will make people happiest?

This table shows the key information we need to make that decision. It lists the areas that the highest percentage of maps moved into Ward 8, into Ward 7, or out of Ward 2, plus a few others also with high percentages of maps moving each one.

Area (Census Tract)Pop.From WardTo WardAllRes.Losing WardGaining WardArea Res.
Fairlawn S. (76.05)3,0317857%61%46%52%3/6: 50%
Fort McNair (110)3,7156824%23%19%21%3/64: 5%
Buzzard Point (64)2,1396818%16%12%21%3/16: 19%
Hill East (68.04)3,6706754%53%45%58%0/4: 0%
Anacostia Park (111)05739%41%40%31%N/A
Arboretum (111)5685727%28%25%22%1/4: 25%
Langston (89.04)3,3095725%26%28%17%0/3: 0%
Fort Lincoln (90)2,7325722%23%18%20%1/4: 25%
Fairlawn N. (76.01)4,3558712%11%21%14%4/12: 33%
Carver (89.03)2,6335710%10%9%6%0/3: 0%
Rosedale (79.01)3,822678%8%8%3%0/3: 0%
Langdon/Gtwy. (111)2,996577%7%8%9%1/3: 33%
Gallery Place (58)5982638%37%37%39%2/6: 33%
Mt. Vernon Sq. (48.02)2,8172630%29%30%25%17/75: 23%
15&T (43)1,2942128%30%30%41%11/44: 25%
Shaw (48.01)2,1132522%23%22%24%7/70: 10%
Downtown (58)3862618%17%17%18%1/5: 20%
17&T (42.01)2,5372116%16%14%20%18/58: 31%
Burleith (3)2,2352313%13%13%18%9/52: 17%
Mt. Vernon Sq (48.02)2,8172511%12%11%13%6/75: 8%
"Chimney" (46/48.02)309658%8%11%9%4/10: 40%
Riggs Park S. (95.07)1,4894522%22%20%19%0/3: 0%
Howard U (34)4,0861512%13%14%20%5/38: 13%
Kingman Park (79.03)1,7747612%13%35%15%34/38: 89%

The percentage labeled "All" is the percentage of all maps that moved this area between the two specified wards. "Res." is the percentage of DC residents that moved it. "Losing Ward" is the percentage of people in the ward it would leave, and "Gaining Ward" the percentage of people in the ward it would go to. Finally, "Area Res." shows how many people who said they live in that particular area moved their own area between the two wards.

For example, take Ward 7 part of Census Tract 76.05, which covers the southern part of the Fairlawn neighborhood. As we discussed before, a plurality of residents chose to move, and a majority of overall maps showed it moving.

57% of all maps, 61% of DC resident maps, 46% of Ward 7 maps, and 52% of Ward 8 maps including moving this area, and 3 of the 6 residents who filled out maps likewise moved it (2 others kept it in Ward 7 and one moved it to 6).

Based on this, it's a clear choice to move this area into Ward 8. Fortunately, it has enough people that Ward 8 then exceeds the required minimum; not only that, it actually puts Ward 8 near the average for all wards.

What about the other options, like crossing the river as Marion Barry has suggested? The other two top choices are Census Tract 110 (Fort McNair) and 64 (Buzzard Point), both with around 20% of maps moving each. This is so much less popular, even with Ward 8 residents themselves, and very unpopular with residents of those particular areas.

Next, let's look at Ward 7. There is another clear top choice among map makers generally: the southern half of Census Tract 68.04, Hill East area. 54% of all respondents, 53% of residents, 45% of Ward 6 residents, and 52% of Ward 7 residents chose to move into Ward 7. Moving this area would also bring Ward 7 into compliance.

It's not quite as much of a slam dunk, however, since all 4 of the people who made maps and live in the area said they don't want to move. Is there a way to bring Ward 7 up to the necessary size by moving areas that had some adherents?

There is a way: move the Arboretum, Fort Lincoln, and the Langdon and Gateway neighborhoods, which is about ¾ of the huge Census Tract 111, into Ward 7. Let's call this the Gateway scenario.

We only had a few people in each and so the sample size is small, but some people there did pick these changes. Some people in tract 76.01 (Fairlawn) also included moving on their maps, but that's in Ward 8, so it doesn't solve anything; moving it to Ward 7 just makes 8 too small again.

If these three areas move, we can also satisfy another request: The people in Kingman Park's tract 79.03, the one piece of Ward 7 west of the Anacostia, really want to be back in 6. 38 of them made maps, and 89% moved their neighborhood back into Ward 6. With the moves from Ward 5, it would be possible to put Kingman Park into Ward 6, whereas just moving Hill East doesn't give Ward 7 enough people to also lose Kingman Park.

What about Ward 2? It needs to give up some territory. Under the Hill East option, Ward 2 could give it away to one of several wards. Under the Gateway scenario, it has to give up land to Ward 5, because that ward would need to add people.

The third section of the table shows the possibilities for Ward 2. A lot of people moved the area around gallery Place over to 6, but that doesn't have enough people to make much of a difference. If Ward 6 loses Hill East, then there are 2 best options: give the Ward 2 portion of Census Tract 4.82, which is northeast of Mount Vernon Square, to Ward 6, or the area southwest of 14th and U (the southern half of Census Tract 43) back to Ward 1.

They both were included in maps at about the same rate, around 30% each. People living in the areas picked moving at about the same rate, 25% each. The other people of Ward 1 were more likely to add the area next to them onto their maps compared to people of Ward 6, but is partly be due to the fact that more people in Ward 6 didn't move Hill East to Ward 7 at all; just among maps from Ward 6 residents which did switch Hill East, 36% put the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood into Ward 6.

The population numbers do provide a clear answer. If the southwest corner of 14th and U moves, then Ward 1 would become the largest ward, with 77,491, and Ward 6 the smallest, with 72,298. If, instead, Mount Vernon Square moves to Ward 6, they're much more equal: 76,197 for Ward 1 and 75,745 for Ward 6.

Therefore, here is the best option for the Hill East scenario:

Click for larger and interactive version.

As for the Gateway scenario, there are 2 sections of Ward 2 which were switched to Ward 5 in at least a significant proportion of maps: Mount Vernon Square's 48.02 again, moved to Ward 5 in 11% of maps, and the Ward 2 portion of Tract 48.01 in Shaw to the north.

The "chimney."
In addition, a lot of people moved the "chimney," a couple blocks cut out of two census tracts from Wards and 5 in the last redistricting, into Ward 5, and in fact a plurality of the 10 people in that area also put it in Ward 5 in their maps. It could join the others in Ward 5 and reunify the two census tracts it cuts pieces out of, 48.01 and 46.

Adding those three pieces to Ward 5 makes it meet the minimum, and therefore here is a working Gateway scenario:

Click for larger and interactive version.

Which is better? There's no definitive answer. If the goal is to move little land and few people, then Hill East is better. But as it turns out, more residents might be happy with the Gateway scenario.

To estimate that, let's look again at the areas which move under each. Except for Anacostia Park, which has no people, we know the population of each area and how many residents made maps. Let's make the rough assumption that those people are representative of the entire area, so that if 1/3 of the mapmakers in an area of 3,000 people chose to move into a particular ward while 2/3 chose not to, we assume that 1,000 people would like to move and 2,000 would not.

Here are the areas that move in the Hill East scenario but not in the Gateway:

AreaPop.FromTo% want move% Don'tHappierLess happy
Hill East (68.04)3,670670%100%03,670
Mt. Vernon Sq (48.02)2,8172623%69%6391,944
639 immediate residents become happier, and 5,614 immediate residents become less happy, for about an 8.8:1 ratio.

In the Gateway scenario:

AreaPop.FromTo% want move% Don'tHappierLess happy
Arboretum (111)5685725%75%142426
Fort Lincoln (90)2,7325725%75%6832,049
Langdon/Gateway (111)2,9965733%67%9991,997
Shaw (48.01)2,1132510%66%2111,395
Mt. Vernon Sq (48.02)2,817258%69%2251,944
"Chimney" (46/48.02)3096540%30%12493
Kingman Park (79.03)1,7747689%11%1,587195

This is an extremely rough guess based on little data, which means you can easily completely disregard it. For one thing, the Hill East area has very few people right now except for people in the DC Jail. Those folks probably don't share the same feelings about which ward they'd like to be in as the 4 who filled out maps.

However, a lot of development is planned here, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the people who are likely to move in to this area would indeed prefer to be in Ward 6 along with their neighbors just to the west. Perhaps, therefore, it all evens out, and thousands of people would indeed be unhappy with the Hill East scenario as compared to the Gateway.

Finally, as we discussed yesterday, politics will certainly play into it. We know Tommy Wells will not like the Hill East scenario and Harry Thomas, Jr. will not like the Gateway scenario.

There are ways to adjust these scenarios. In general, the Redistricting Game limited people to moving whole census tracts, because those are easy chunks to move, and because making ward boundaries conform to census tracts makes it much easier to make demographic computations for individual wards, like determining the rate of homeownership or one of many other things.

But Gateway and Langdon are part of an enormous census tract, 111, which I split into four pieces to provide options. It could be split other ways, giving Ward 7 a little less of Ward 5 and then Ward 5 less of 2 in turn. Ward 5 could keep the Walmart site at Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue, NE. Let's call this the Simpler Gateway scenario:

This wouldn't make the Kingman Park people happy, but more of the Langdon, Shaw, and Mount Vernon Square folks who don't want to move would be happier this way, and it's certainly more politically palatable, though still not what Thomas would like.

What do you think is best?

The DC Council is having its hearings next week, on Monday, April 25 in the evening and Wednesday, April 27 in the morning. If you'd like to testify, contact Carol Sadler at (202) 724-8198 or You can also email the 3 Councilmembers on the redistricting committee, Michael Brown (at-large), Jack Evans (ward 2) and Phil Mendelson (at-large).

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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As a Ward 5 resident, I find this pretty interesting. It's going to make Tommy Thomas upset since he'll likely lose some reliable votes and big development projects (Ft. Lincoln), but I like these options.

by BeltwayInsider on Apr 22, 2011 11:26 am • linkreport

I think moving census tract 68.04, site of the Hill East Waterfront/Res 13/DC General project from ward 6 to 7 is a recipe for disaster. Oversight of those development plans (and current uses) has already been an explosive issue in ANC 6B which recently formed a Hill East Task Force. That development will be the primary retail area and a new hub for the surrounding neighborhood. The idea that the project would be overseen by an ANC populated by people across the river rather than people across the street seems crazy to me. Carver Langston strikes me as a far better fit for Ward 7, or perhaps even moving Buzzards Point to Ward 8.

by Sean on Apr 22, 2011 11:32 am • linkreport

You've done a great job exploring citizen-centric redistricting options. There's a politician-centric option that ought to be possible:

Contributions to political campaign committees are matters of public record, and the office of campaign finance makes available lists that include the dollar amount and street address of donors. So it should be possible to convert the street addresses into census tracts and then compute both the number of donors, value of donations, and fraction of total donations that each census tract switch would move out of a ward. We could then see which tract moves would most strongly cause a councilmember to no longer represent his or her donors.

by thm on Apr 22, 2011 11:48 am • linkreport

Following up on Sean's comment: if 68.04 is moved from 6 to 7, it could create an interesting scenario 10 years from now. If the redevelopment of Reservation 13 moves forward between now and then, 68.04 will have gained considerable population. (I hope Reservation 13 does move forward -- I will be really bummed if 10 years from now my Metro station entrance is still bordered by a huge surface parking lot on one side and a one-way speedway for Maryland commuters on the other side. BTW, MPD could make a bundle ticketing speeders and stop sign scofflaws on that stretch of 19th Street SE.)

by rg on Apr 22, 2011 12:00 pm • linkreport

Tracts are too big; precincts are full of legacy gerrymandering relics: work on the block level, instead. It would also be helpful to have incumbent and former council (and potentially even ANC) candidates' registration addresses displayed on the map, so we could understand how drawing a new set of districts would affect the political landscape. All official candidates' addresses become public record when they file and should be relatively easy to obtain from DCBOEE.

by duplo on Apr 22, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

first a question: when you split MVSQ into the people who want to move & dont want to you differentiate between the ones who want to move to ward 5 and the ones who wish to move to ward 6?

From what i have heard from fellow residents, wanting to stay in ward 2 is frequently motivated by parking.

right now MVSNA covers the mount vernon sq HD and the triangle - we are split ward 2/6 (with a tiny chunk of 5). that's hard enough to deal with, i cant imagine a 3 way with a big chunk of ward 5. yeesh.

by Si Kailian on Apr 22, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport

Si: Mount Vernon Square appears twice in the big table there, once for Ward 2->6 and once for 2->5. 23% of MVS residents wanted to move to 6, but only 8% to 5 (and the rest wanted to stay).

About parking, I don't see why the Council couldn't simply set up a new policy that divorces parking zones from ward boundaries, and for now sets the new parking zones at the exact boundaries of the wards pre-redistricting. Then however MVS moves, it's still in zone 2.

As for MVSNA, good point. In the Gateway scenario, there are many different ways one could give part of eastern Ward 2 to Ward 5; it could be all of MVS and none of Shaw, or all of Shaw and none of MVS, or one of nearly countless other options.

by David Alpert on Apr 22, 2011 12:38 pm • linkreport

I like the "Simpler Gateway" scenario best. As easy as it would be to move Hill East to ward 7, that tract really is part of the Hill and should stay there. I worry about the impact on Reservation 13 development, assuming that is actually going to happen, as I live right near there.

General question: What is the best way to encourage our representatives to go with a particular option versus another? Does attending meetings really help? What about emailing Council members? I really have no idea how DC politics works. Sorry if this seems naive.

by Nicoli on Apr 22, 2011 12:53 pm • linkreport

@David Alpert: We determined that by and large respondents prefer making more minor changes, modifying few areas even if it means the wards don't end up equal in population.

If respondents preferred abolishing elections altogether, should we do it?

Some principles, like equal representation, are too important to relegate to polls.

by David desJardins on Apr 22, 2011 4:31 pm • linkreport

The Chimney on your map with population 309 is bordered by what streets? The map seems to have North Capitol going North and South and East and West.

by Dan Maceda on Apr 23, 2011 8:53 am • linkreport

The "chimney" is bounded by N St, 4th St, NY Ave, and Kirby St (=2nd St), all NW. It means that Ward 6 has all four corners of the NJ/NY/3rd pileup. Google seems to think "North Capitol Street" is a neighborhood name for the Sursum Corda area.

by Payton on Apr 23, 2011 10:21 am • linkreport

Why lock up the member's neighborhood from being redistricted? They should be fair game like the rest of us.

by Patrick on Jun 2, 2011 4:44 pm • linkreport

Look at mines

by Carlos on Dec 16, 2011 4:45 pm • linkreport

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