Student Team Participates in Redistricting Competition

Posted: March 7, 2011 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: March 4, 2011 at 9:53 pm

The race to redraw Virginia’s political map is on, and Mason is fielding a student team in a competition designed to assist lawmakers with the task.

Student teams from universities throughout the state will propose new boundaries for Virginia’s 11 congressional districts, 100 state House districts and 40 state Senate districts. Twelve other Virginia colleges and universities are participating.

The teams will use online redistricting software developed by the Public Mapping Project, a collaborative effort led by Michael McDonald, Mason associate professor of public and international affairs, and Micah Altman, senior research scientist at Harvard University.

The competition, which was organized by McDonald and Quentin Kidd of Christopher Newport University, is the first such competition in the nation.

Graduate political science student Gabe Hudson is advising the Mason team in the 2011 Virginia College and University Legislative Redistricting Competition. The new maps must be completed by March 10.

The best maps in each category will be awarded a cash prize and will be presented for consideration by the Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting created by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

With input from the college competition and others, the commission will make its recommendation to the Virginia General Assembly by April 1, about a week before the assembly convenes a special redistricting session.

The U.S. Constitution requires all 50 states to reapportion legislative districts in accordance with the population shifts recorded by the 2010 census. With state elections looming this fall, Virginia is the first to act.

Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute will serve as judges for the college competition. They will judge the student plans according to whether the proposed districts are:

  • contiguous
  • equal in population
  • in compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act
  • encompassing communities of interest that are respectful of existing political subdivisions
  • compact
  • electorally competitive
  • representationally fair

“The Virginia Redistricting Competition provides a wonderful opportunity to open a process that is traditionally closed and politically self-serving to public scrutiny and participation,” says Mann. “We are pleased to play a role in this very constructive initiative.”

Mann is the W. Averell Harriman Chair and senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. Between 1987 and 1999, he was director of governmental studies at Brookings. Before that, Mann was executive director of the American Political Science Association.

Ornstein writes a weekly column for Roll Call and is an election analyst for CBS News. He serves as co-director of the American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Election Reform Project and participates in AEI’s Election Watch series.

Following is a list of other colleges in the competition.

Christopher Newport University

College of William & Mary

James Madison University

Longwood University

Norfolk State University

Old Dominion University

Radford University

Roanoke College

University of Mary Washington

University of Richmond

University of Virginia

Virginia Commonwealth University

Write to gazette at