UB Law Student Team Wins New York Redistricting Competition

Release Date: January 18, 2012

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A team of students from the University at Buffalo Law School has been named a winner of the 2012 New York Redistricting Project, a national competition that challenged student teams to draw new congressional, state senate and state assembly district maps.

Winners of the competition, held at Fordham University, were announced Jan. 17. The UB team's New York State congressional map is available here: https://districtbuilder.redistrictny.org/districtmapping/plan/1052/view/.

Members of the team, all first-year UB law students, are: Matthew Burrows, Andrew Dean, Jacob Drum, Nutan Sewdath, Lauren Skompinski and Eric Tabache. Michael Halberstam, UB associate professor of law, was the team's faculty advisor.

Students competing in the redistricting project were asked to comply with certain rules common to many redistricting-reform proposals: Their districts had to meet federal laws mandating a certain number of "majority-minority" districts; all districts had to be contiguous -- with every part of the district reachable from every other part without crossing the district's borders; and they all needed to have almost identical populations. The teams got higher scores for creating compact districts and ones that were "generally" competitive between Republicans and Democrats.

Using the open source mapping program, District Builder, the UB team's plan focused on preserving communities throughout the state that share socioeconomic, cultural and geographic identities. Oddly shaped districts, such as NY-28's "Earmuff District" encompassing parts of Buffalo and Rochester with a narrow band running between the two cities, were minimized, creating a new congressional map that better reflects the values of the region and their proper representation in Washington.

In addition, the UB team's map met or exceeded several competition requirements, including the number of districts where minority voters made up the majority of the district. The team also scored high marks for upstate congressional districts that are considered "competitive" in terms of the number of voters registered as Democrats and Republicans.

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