Dividing cake

What’s a system for fairly dividing— actually… What does “fair” even mean? If we’re dividing up cake, is fair equal size shares? …or shares proportional to each person’s daily caloric requirements? …or their average recent caloric deficit (so starving people get the cake)? And that’s just cake. What if you want to divide up something important, like say, geographically divide a State into voting districts?

In the first step, one party draws districts on the map. However, unlike regular redistricting, in which they draw the exact number of districts needed, our process requires the first party to draw twice that number of half- or sub-districts. Like full electoral districts, these half-districts must have equal populations and be physically contiguous. Many states also have requirements for district compactness, which would apply to this first stage of map drawing too. We also don’t allow “doughnut” districts – where one district is entirely surrounded by another district.

In the second step, the other party chooses how to pair neighboring half-districts into full-size districts.

Even if each party acts entirely in its own interest, attempting to maximize its own chances of winning the most districts, the fact that the process is split into these two stages holds each party’s ambitions somewhat in check.

~ Benjamin Schneer, Kevin DeLuca and Maxwell Palmer from, https://theconversation.com/how-politicians-can-draw-fairer-election-districts-the-same-way-parents-make-kids-fairly-split-a-piece-of-cake-222859


Like my examples for possible meanings of “fair” for dividing cake, there are many possibilities for what would be “fair” for voting district maps. To date, every solution has been to have some third party (a commission whose composition itself is contentious) draw the maps and then have judicial review (with the judges themselves also being contentious). The system laid out above is brilliant. One side draws up a map, and the other side chooses how to assemble the map into voting districts.