22 May 2021

Personal Boundaries

Right now, it's redistricting season (and that's just one of many examples). This leads to some thoughts on its propriety, futility, and (lack of) basis in fact. (Cue the Monty Python summary.) This is just a gedankenexperiment to hopefully inspire some actual research agendas, whether in law or political science. That's one of the frustrations I have with discourse about elections: It's so strongly based in simplistic ideological presumptions that reality is just a side effect. I still resent being presumed to have been and treated as a jackbooted fascist thug in the 1980s because my primary voting demographic was white male commissioned military officer. My decades of silence — not to mention public disdain — haven't discouraged the Republican National Committee from its presumption that I'm a prime fundraising target…

But consider the "representation" of long-distance commuters. Where they lay their heads at night — or, at least, where they "establish residence" — determines which district(s) they are in for voting purposes. However, those with long commutes (not uncommon in the Bay Area and in LA) may well be in not just adjacent, but entirely separated, districts from their "business interests" and where they spend most of their time. So, it would be interesting to study voting patterns in the districts that host these businesses with clusters of commuters. Consider, for example, the "Google" and "Facebook" bus-and-residence clusters in San Mateo County (where I used to live, so I saw this). The dynamics of heavily-Asian-American immigrant and second-generation populations "preexisting" the tech kids were interesting enough — seeing who was at which grocery store and/or public park, for example! — but the comparison to "nightlife south of Market" a few kilometers away (but, by my count, via six to eleven intervening legislative boundaries) would be even more so. So would looking the other direction, down into Palo Alto and Santa Clara County.

And. more to the point, so would the comparative party registrations. Let's just say that the probability that family patriarchs and matriarchs (who, if they've been successful and started ownership early enough, may well have a string of houses that they're renting out either directly or through a broker of dubious commitment to the Fair Housing Act) register differently from the "tech kids" who have no connection at all to the local schools, the local parks, the local businesses except that there are no residences available closer to work, is nontrivial. Which leads to the further question of whether drawing those boundaries purely based upon "residence" — and eighteenth-century presumptions that one lives where one works and where one has interests amenable to resolution through representative government — doesn't just undermine, but actively subverts, voting rights and equal representation. But it's only a question (with a lot of obvious follow-ups, like "is there a relationship between voter turnout and proportion of out-of-district commuters?") because the data just hasn't been analyzed. Or at least not so far as my COVID-restricted research skills, which are still pretty damned good, have been able to discern.