A Merge-Split Proposal for Reversible Monte Carlo Markov Chain Sampling of Redistricting Plans

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We describe a Markov chain on redistricting plans that makes relatively global moves. The chain is designed to be usable as the proposal in a Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) algorithm. Sampling the space of plans amounts to dividing a graph into a partition with a specified number elements which each correspond to a different district. The partitions satisfy a collection of hard constraints and the measure may be weighted with regard to a number of other criteria. When these constraints and criteria are chosen to align well with classical legal redistricting criteria, the algorithm can be used to generate a collection of non-partisan, neutral plans. This collection of plans can serve as a baseline against which a particular plan of interest is compared. If a given plan has different racial or partisan qualities than what is typical of the collection plans, the given plan may have been gerrymandered and is labeled as an outlier.

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Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Carter, D; Hunter, Z; Herschlag, G; Mattingly, J