Publications

Working Paper
Altman M, Amos B, McDonald MP, Smith D.

Revealing Preferences: Why Gerrymanders are Hard to Prove, and What to Do about It

. Social Science Research Network [Internet]. Working Paper. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Gerrymandering requires illicit intent. We classify six proposed methods to infer the intent of a redistricting authority using a formal framework for causal inferences that encompasses the redistricting process from the release of census data to the adoption of a final plan. We argue all proposed techniques to detect gerrymandering can be classified within this formal framework. Courts have, at one time or another, weighed evidence using one or more of these methods to assess racial or partisan gerrymandering claims. We describe the assumptions underlying each method, raising some heretofore unarticulated critiques revealed by laying bare their assumptions. We then review how these methods were employed in the 2014 Florida district court ruling that the state legislature violated a state constitutional prohibition on partisan gerrymandering, and propose standards that advocacy groups and courts can impose upon redistricting authorities to ensure they are held accountable if they adopt a partisan gerrymander.
Altman M, Magar E, McDonald MP, Trelles A. The Effects of Automated Redistricting and Partisan Strategic Interaction on Representation: The Case of Mexico. Social Science Research Network [Internet]. Working Paper. Publisher's VersionAbstract
In the U.S. redistricting is deeply politicized and often synonymous with gerrymandering -- the manipulation of boundaries to promote the goals of parties, incumbents, and racial groups. In contrast, Mexico’s federal redistricting has been implemented nationwide since 1996 through automated algorithms devised by the electoral management body (EMB) in consultation with political parties. In this setting, parties interact strategically and generate counterproposals to the algorithmically generated plans in a closed-door process that is not revealed outside the bureaucracy. Applying geospatial statistics and large-scale optimization to a novel dataset that has never been available outside of the EMB, we analyze the effects of automated redistricting and partisan strategic interaction on representation. Our dataset comprises the entire set of plans generated by the automated algorithm, as well as all the counterproposals made by each political party during the 2013 redistricting process. Additionally, we inspect the 2006 map with new data and two proposals to replace it towards 2015 in search for partisan effects and political distortions. Our analysis offers a unique insight into the internal workings of a purportedly autonomous EMB and the partisan effects of automated redistricting on representation.
Altman M, McDonald MP. Redistricting by Formula: An Ohio Reform Experiment. Social Science Research Network [Internet]. Working Paper. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We analyze sixty-six Ohio congressional plans produced during the post-2010 census redistricting by the legislature and the public. The public drew many plans submitted for judging in a competition hosted by reform advocates, who awarded a prize to the plan that scored best on a formula composed of four permissive components: compactness, respect for local political boundaries, partisan fairness, and competition. We evaluate how the legislature’s adopted plan compares to these plans on the advocates’ criteria and our alternative set of criteria, which reveals the degree by which the legislature placed partisanship over these other criteria. Our evaluation reveals minimal trade-offs among the components of the overall competition’s scoring criteria, but we caution that the scoring formula may be sensitive to implementation choices among its components. Compared to the legislature’s plan, the reform community can get more of the four criteria they value; importantly, without sacrificing the state’s only African-American opportunity congressional district.
2014
Allen L, Scott J, Brand A, Hlava M, Altman M.

Publishing: Credit where credit is due

. Nature [Internet]. 2014;508(7496):312-313. Publisher's Version
Altman M, McDonald MP. Public Participation GIS : The Case of Redistricting. Proceedings of the 47th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences [Internet]. 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Recent technological advances have enabled greater public participation and transparency in the United States redistricting process. We review these advances, with particular attention to activities involving open-source redistricting software.
Public Participation GIS
2013
Altman M, McDonald MP.

A Half-Century of Virginia Redistricting Battles: Shifting from Rural Malapportionment to Voting Rights to Public Participation

. Richmond Law Review [Internet]. 2013;43(1):771-831. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Over the past fifty years, the battle lines in Virginia redistricting have shifted from within-party fighting among Democrats primarily over malapportionment favoring rural interests over urban interests to battles over voting rights. In this article, we provide a detailed history of redistricting in Virginia, and a quantitative analysis of current adopted and proposed redistricting plans. Surprisingly, although the outcome remained partisan, the current round of redistricting included an unprecedented level of public engagement, catalyzed by information technology. The Virginia commission and the participation of students in the current round of Virginia’s redistricting demonstrates that redistricting does not have to be left up to the ‘professionals.’ Further, our analysis suggests that state-level reform in the form of an independent commission that strictly follows a set of administrative criteria would likely modestly benefit Republicans.
altman-473.pdf
2008
Altman M, Rogerson K. Open Research Questions on Information and Technology in Global and Domestic Politics – Beyond 'E-'. PS Political Science Politics [Internet]. 2008;41:1–8. Publisher's VersionAbstract
In order to identify the open research questions related to information technology and politics, the ITP section convened its first ever working group. This working group drew on the hundreds of presentations at the annual meeting relating technology and politics as well as on previous surveys of information technology research questions (such as Altman & Klass [2005] and Berman and Brady [2005]), in order to identify important open research questions in this rapidly evolving area. Together these questions illuminate a research agenda that explores the interaction of information technology with the core political science concerns of power, political deliberation, authority, legitimacy, security, democracy, and justice.
2007
Altman M. AIS: Ad Indicia Spectate, software version 1.0. [Internet]. 2007. Publisher's VersionAbstract
An R package for exploratory data visualization. (No longer supported.)