Calculating Partisan Gerrymandering (Part III of a III-part series)

Transforming a percentage into a probability of victory is fairly easy. Convert a percentage into the log odds of the percentage, multiply that by some integer, and convert that back into a percentage.

By what integer should I multiply the log-odds(percentage)? The answer varies.

I first tried this out with Michigan’s presidential vote in 2012. Michigan is known, after all, to be a high-quality gerrymander on the federal level. The result, somewhat surprisingly, was that given low enough number the log-odds(percentage) is multiplied by [i.e., given high enough values of voter swinginess] it was the Democrats who were favored under that House map (i.e., the 2011 House map in MI was a dummymander), due to the safety of the Dem seats and the complete lack of safety of the Republicans’ seats (or so it appeared) that year.

The first row in the below table is the number the log-odds (percentage) was multiplied by to produce the estimated probabilities of victory in the below rows.

However, by the 2016 presidential election numbers, the Republicans became clearly favored due to the newfound safety of their seats and a newfound danger to the Dem seats:

Note: the two-party HRC percentage is listed as over 50% in the above table due to more Democratic districts having lower voter turnout, and each district being counted equally during averaging the vote.

The number one should multiply the log-odds percentage by remains to be debated with historical statistical evidence; but I would be surprised if it were not within the range of three to twenty.

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How to actually measure partisan gerrymandering (Part II of a three-part series)

I. NC plan>>>PA plan
In the previous post, I attempted to show the tradeoffs available to a designer of a gerrymander with this graph (see previous post for an explanation):

This approach would work well in states in which the districts of the favored party are all roughly equal in partisanship, such as North Carolina.

(X-axis is the name of the district, the Y-axis is the two-party Democratic vote share on the presidential level in each district)

However, not all states wanted to create a bunch of Likely Favored Party districts that would give the incumbent party supermajorities in neutral years, but would risk the opposing party gaining every seat in the state in a wave year favorable to the opposing party. An example of this is Pennsylvania’s House districts (note Tom Marino of PA was selected to be the President’s Drug Czar just today, so this post is perfect timing).

Pennsylvania has, in my judgment three tossup districts, all of which are held by Republicans, two Lean R districts, six Likely R districts, and two Safe R districts (one of which is Marino’s). There is also one Lean D heavily Obama-Trump district (PA-17), which actually was close enough in 2012 as to be acceptable for a wiser (or more partisan) Republican state legislature to turn into a Lean R district even then under more aggressive lines, and actually went for Trump by its present boundaries by more than both the Lean R districts and, naturally, all three of the the tossups. The fact it has a Democratic representative now is a huge and inexcusable failure of the Republican state legislature in 2011. The current Pennsylvania plan is, in my judgment, a mess, much inferior to North Carolina’s, and unnecessarily creates opportunities for the Democrats where, by any Republican’s judgment, there should be none. It would be relatively easy to create a redistricting plan for Pennsylvania with four Safe D seats and the other fifteen Likely R. My judgment is that the risk of all seats going to the opposing party in a wave year is worth it, and is much superior to being subject to the whims of “moderates” who are afraid of alienating their district’s swing voters in a general election while the favored party is in power. But how does one judge plans such as PA’s, anyway?

II. How does one measure the utility of tossup seats?

Another question, obviously related to the above one, is how does one measure the utility to a party of redistricting a district from Likely Opposing Party to Lean Opposing Party. For example, here’s my proposed Republican gerrymander of Indiana (no county splits, resulting in some serious malapportionment in Marion, but that’s not important here). The 2016 U.S. Senate race is used as a guide:

IN-01: In green. Two-party vote for Bayh: 52.47%. Rating: Lean D, instead of the current Likely D. This is an Obama-Trump district. The right kind of Republican can definitely get elected here. Certainly it would not be left the only uncontested seat in Indiana, as it actually was.
IN-02: In dark blue. Two-party vote for Bayh: 44.32%. Rating: Likely R.
IN-03: In red. Two-party vote for Bayh: 42.14%. Rating: Likely R.
IN-04: In orange. Two-party vote for Bayh: 38.21%. Rating: Safe R.
IN-05: In light blue. Two-party vote for Bayh: 39.84%. Rating: Safe R.
IN-06: In white. Two-party vote for Bayh: 36.52%. Rating: Safe R.
IN-07: Marion (yellow). Two-party vote for Bayh: 61.87%. Rating: Safe D.
IN-08: In light yellow. Two-party vote for Bayh: 44.35%. Rating: Likely R.
IN-09: In purple. Two-party vote for Bayh: 39.18%. Rating: Safe R.

For the current (actual) Indiana map, see here and here -click on the districts for info about them.

HRC got 47.50% of the two-party vote in my IN-01 and Obama in 2012 got 54.70%. In real life, HRC got 56.57% of the two-party vote in the actual IN-01 in 2016 and Obama in 2012 got 62.01%. Obviously, my redistricting plan significantly improved the GOP’s position in Indiana’s first district while not reducing the utility of the rest of the GOP-held seats for the GOP. The reason my IN-01, which has very similar political demographics to the actual PA-17, is more acceptable in Indiana is because Indiana is a more Republican state. Thus, it would be an improvement over the present plan. But how does one measure that? How does one display that using this curve?

I do not see a way for the above curve to be useful in cases in which districts within each side’s are of heterogeneous partisanship.

After thinking about it, the best advice I can give in regards to measuring gerrymandering is to multiply each seat by the probability of victory of the favored party. The maximization of these seat equivalents should be the measure of the worth of a gerrymander. Relative to the actual Indiana House map, my redistricting plan increases the chance of a GOP victory in IN-01 by more than it increases the risk to the Republican-held districts. I thus consider it a better gerrymander for the GOP than the actual GOP plan.

Measuring the probability of victory of the favored party in each district should be fairly simple (I will do this in the third post of this series), and historical data should be used for this purpose. Of course, the most important variable for determining the probability of victory of a party in a district is the district’s presidential vote. If it’s lower for the favored party, the probability of victory for that party is, all else being equal, lower. Historical swing data for congressional districts for the past few cycles should also be brought into account.

So, the above is how to measure a partisan gerrymander.

III. A fair map

Of course, for every villain -the partisan gerrymander- there necessarily has to be a hero to compare it to -the fair map. Of course, the question now becomes: what is a fair map? Certainly, a fair map cannot be a map in which each district is representative of the state in an identical fashion. Otherwise, Massachusetts’s map would be called a fair map, and Tennessee’s map would be considered as biased toward the Democrats. Obviously, neither is the case. Ideally, a fair map should have its median seat (now it enters into play) be representative of the state, though this is obviously not important (as I’ve shown in the previous post, comparing the median seat to the state is not an important measure of gerrymandering).

Perhaps this could be a fair map for a 60% Democratic state:

Of course, when each district becomes 10% more Democratic, the state as a whole won’t become 10% more Democratic, because districts 1 and 2 in the above graph cannot get any more Democratic. Of course, Dem chance of victory can also be used in place of Dem vote share in the y-axis of the above graph.

IV. Issues with the Princeton Gerrymander Tests

The Princeton Election Consortium developed three tests for gerrymandering. I don’t think the current ones are especially valid or useful.

The first test is right out; Texas is penalized because of Will Hurd’s narrow victory, despite the fact he’s obviously going down in 2018. A streak of luck in closely-contested tossup races is obviously no sign of a gerrymander, it’s just a sign of a side’s better campaigning.

The second test is also barely useful; it only measures the partisanship of one seat, the median seat, and, as the authors of the site admit, isn’t very useful at all in safe states.

The third test is a votes-seats curve. To which extent the specific votes-seats curve used is accurate is debatable.

The biggest problem with the tests is that they use the House vote instead of the presidential vote. The problem with this is that this makes no sense due to candidate heterogeneity. Collin Peterson ain’t Keith Ellison. The presidential vote should be used instead of the House vote to account for such differences.

House district partisanship map-link will be updated as news arrive

https://fusiontables.google.com/embedviz?q=select+col5%3E%3E1+from+1QVyAZxFvArMqkEAVnTeLmAhebS0bwzgiDhn3qdhK&viz=MAP&h=false&lat=37.05628800013914&lng=-93.02554824999993&t=1&z=4&l=col5%3E%3E1&y=2&tmplt=2&hml=KML
The “composite” is calculated as thus.

If the seats were uncontested, 2/3 of the weight is on the 2012 presidential vote, the rest on the 2016 presidential vote; i.e., uncontested seats are treated as if they were open seats. I have also calculated the open seats listed as open in 2018 in Wikipedia in this fashion. The weighing is based on David Shor’s data. https://gist.github.com/davidshor/5ea3e6c4e80cdc87243253e47c47bc41

If they are seats contested in 2016 with an incumbent, 50% of the weight is on the 2016 House vote, 30% is on the 2016 presidential vote, and 20% is on the 2012 presidential vote. This weighing is roughly based on comparing the 2014 and 2016 House elections and taking note of the increased importance of the 2012 presidential vote in the 2017 specials relative to 2016’s House races.

All data is from the Daily Kos.

The rank is the ranking of the districts by partisanship by the composite index.

You can get the source data by clicking “source” in the map legend.

The districts held by the 2017 special election GOP winners are calculated as though their House members in 2016 were still serving today, without regard to the 2017 special election results (as different from the 2016 results as apples are from oranges) as they really cannot be viewed as open seats in 2018.

No attempt is made to account for asymmetric deterioration of incumbent bonuses in bad midterms for a president’s party, as happened in 2006 and 2010 (thus Collin Peterson and other Trump district Dems are probably underrated with this composite).

Other House district maps:
2016 House (two-party):
https://fusiontables.google.com/embedviz?q=select+col5%3E%3E1+from+1Dg51R3pGS5r0HrSuoHSUXR_IxZIfcClrwl7gsLXk&viz=MAP&h=false&lat=37.05628800013914&lng=-93.02554824999993&t=1&z=4&l=col5%3E%3E1&y=2&tmplt=2&hml=KML
2016 presidential vote by congressional district (two-party):
https://fusiontables.google.com/embedviz?q=select+col18+from+1_NolOUGbBkWbAl5TMMZrpba-OazN7DBf7dvSTUie&viz=MAP&h=false&lat=37.05628800013914&lng=-93.02554824999993&t=1&z=4&l=col18&y=2&tmplt=2&hml=GEOCODABLE
2012 presidential vote by congressional district (two-party):
https://fusiontables.google.com/embedviz?q=select+col18+from+1T2Q2YVeHXfCqiV466yZqciXyOF48DMGD3cZ2hxac&viz=MAP&h=false&lat=37.05628800013914&lng=-93.02554824999993&t=1&z=4&l=col18&y=2&tmplt=2&hml=GEOCODABLE
Two-Party Swing between 2012 and 2016 presidential vote:
https://fusiontables.google.com/embedviz?q=select+col18+from+18XmouMM-7G0SD_6dykEyD9gfgNnGmoiPpfbIdMYV&viz=MAP&h=false&lat=37.05628800013914&lng=-93.02554824999993&t=1&z=4&l=col18&y=2&tmplt=2&hml=GEOCODABLE
Two-party House Dem vote performance over two-party HRC vote in 2016:
https://fusiontables.google.com/embedviz?q=select+col18+from+1IdPacdK9LIHkbXRyC2l4WdZx5E6RXCqDmwS70jSK&viz=MAP&h=false&lat=37.05628800013914&lng=-93.02554824999993&t=1&z=4&l=col18&y=2&tmplt=2&hml=GEOCODABLE

“Nation of Ideas” is a crock

There is a common saying in America that the U.S. is a nation founded on ideas, not the people ruling it. This is a typical piece expressing this take, and everyone I know, both on the far left and far right, is bashing it, for good reason. Firstly, it is intellectually dishonest to refer to Coolidge’s statements about religion without referring to his remarks on race:

There are racial considerations too grave to be brushed aside for any sentimental reasons. Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend. The Nordics propagate themselves success fully. With other races, the outcome shows deterioration on both sides. Quality of mind and body suggests that observance of ethnic law is as great necessity to a nation as immigration law.

(hat tip:@tcjfs).

The founders were clear on freedom of worship and practice within the country for all types of religion (including Islam) compatible with a Federal government not discriminating among them, but there is no implication in their writings that the government of the country would be anything other than of, by, and for people of the White race. Naturalization was originally limited only to free White persons of good moral character. As soon as there was a major influx of non-White immigration into the country (from China), the party here most favorable to Irish, French, and German immigration (at the time, the Democratic) turned swiftly to that most disfavorable to Chinese immigration. Now, I think that was, though wisely conservative, not the most advisable course of action, given that the Chinese presently here are generally reasonably patriotic, hard-working, intelligent, etc. But it was the traditional view of things, and the writings of the founders were by no means contrary to it.

In any case, ideas do not enforce themselves. The Constitution is not law in America; the decrees of judges, presidents, and Congress are. Any cursory examination of American history will serve to swiftly confirm this. Appointing or electing the right people to make those decrees is the foundation of proper government in America. And for that, the propriety of the electorate and the appointers must be assured.

What American Independence?

Two years ago, I wisely wrote A Strange Utopia, which remains relevant even unto this day with Trump taking the place of Jeb (both are essentially the same figure for the purpose of the short story, as far as I’m concerned -look at how Trump has kept DACA in place and failed to remove sanctions on Russia).

Today is the day America celebrates its independence. And today is, as a prominent alt-right Twitter poster said (can’t find the tweet; I forgot the exact wording, spent some time searching for it), the first year in which I’ve become rather detached from the whole idea of American independence. What meaning is American independence when the country is bound down by the chains of endless immigration, to promote big government, and ultimately, its decline and supersession by firstly China and, secondly, yes, Russia and Japan, those infinitely media-maligned countries notorious for their low native fertility. Yet, what is the purpose of high native fertility if it is dysgenic; a transformation of the United States into Mexico or, just as bad, the tragic coast of Southern California (where my fellow American George Michael Grena lives, in one of the congressional districts with the most disgusting politics in the country -I, in Michigan, empathize!). Take a look at the Mississippi exit polls by age if you do not believe what America is becoming. Any hint of the expression of the great Democratic platform of 1852, by the 2030s, will be dead. The McGovernites will have won.

Likewise, America remains bound down by the toxic-fruited chains of foreign obligation -and look how its partisans admire them! All but four deeply conservative representatives out of four hundred thirty five -and not one Senator- voted to reaffirm America’s commitment to the horrendous and obsolete (despite the President’s statement to the contrary) North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which binds this relatively great (if not as much as it used to be) country to foolishly commit to the defense of such great (if one has low standards) nations as Albania, Montenegro, Romania, and Latvia. Happy slaves so many of your fellow citizenry are, American! And how they cheer their slavery! Independence? Bondage.

And as a final insult, America remains forced by its so-called “representatives” to pay billions of dollars a year in tribute to Israel, a country that has taken advantage of us so much -how can, as the President used to say, we call America great when the other countries are taking so, so much advantage of us in every arena? Now Israel, though a typical Southern European country in many respects, is certainly one that is an example for all the world in its commitment to its national sovereignty. Look at its border fence, its infinite arms and pockets stretching into so many of the great capitals of the world, its pro-natalism, its commitment against being forced to defend, pay tribute, or invite the residents of any other country. And how foolish is America not to follow in that example?

The reason I remain so detached is precisely because of the presidency being occupied by the only man who could even remotely break these chains binding America to slavery -and his consistent refusal to do so.

As long as America is bound down by the chains of immigration imperialism, the toxic terrorist organization known as the NATO alliance, and its perpetual and obliging treatment as puppet by the Jewish state, how can we celebrate Independence Day with any honor?

The NRSV almost unreadable without notes (or, a bizarre “feature” of the NRSV)

While reading the epistle to the Hebrews and comparing its rendering in various translations, I discovered the NRSV alone, among all translations, translated every reference to “man” and “the son of man” in Hebrews 2:6-8 to refer to mankind as a whole! To keep consistent, the NRSV continues to use “them” instead of “him” throughout the entire quotation from the Psalm, and even going beyond that into the author of Hebrews’ interpretation at the end of v. 8!

Bug or feature? Your mileage may vary. I think that though this is a plausible interpretation of the passage, it can hardly be called a translation. “Son of man” in Hebrews 2:6-8 could be plausibly referring to Jesus (as suggested by Hebrews 2:9 referencing Hebrews 2:7) or to mortal humans. The Catholic NABRE, quite contrary to the NRSV, explicitly adopts the Christological interpretation of the passage in its notes.

This is why I recommend never relying on any edition of the NRSV without the translators’ notes as one’s primary Bible. Now, the NRSV does have good notes; on this, there can be no denial. But a translation that is unreadable without the notes can hardly be called a translation.

A reason to use the NRSV/ESV/NABRE over the ASV/NASB/others

The NRSV/ESV/NABRE incorporate a lot more DSS/Septuagint readings into their main OT text than the other versions.

Take, for example, Deuteronomy 32:8 and 32:43, both of which make much more sense when relying on the DSS/Seputagint in place of the Masoretic Text.

My physical copy of the NASB95 doesn’t even contain any notes at all on the page containing v.43 and doesn’t have a note for v.8 (despite the LXX version of Deuteronomy 32:43 being quoted in Hebrews 1:6!). The ASV, of course, can be excused for being written before the discovery of the DSS.

The NLT also uses the DSS readings in both verses, but that translation is too liberal in general to make a good study bible.

The HCSB uses the MT readings in both verses, but has good notes, so it gets three quarters credit.

The NET uses the DSS reading in v. 8 but curiously uses the MT reading in v. 43 without a note (!), again, despite the obvious Hebrews 1:6 issue, so it gets half-credit.

The ESV remains probably the best of the modern translations, though the generally somewhat less literal NRSV and NABRE are not far off.