The so-called splitline algorithm follows a few simple rules to divide up a state using the fewest number of straight lines as possible.
For example, here's how Tennessee looks now:
And here's how it would look if the algorithm were used:
Obviously, the computer-generated map seems far more in keeping with the spirit of geographical representation.
But just as obviously, the upside of total nonpartisanship is gained at the expense of ignoring all existing natural and political boundaries. The district lines would arbitrarily split cities, neighborhoods, even streets. It would be technically simple to determine what district you were in using a GPS device, but it would be hard to do so simply looking at a map.
That said, gerrymandering often produces the same result, and for far less defensible reasons.
Such a problem seems solvable, however. The algorithm could be linked to a database of geographical and political boundaries, and modified to draw the simplest districts while giving maximum deference to those boundaries. The key point -- automated, nonpartisan district drawing -- would be retained. All that would change is that the district borders would get a little more complicated in order to be easier to understand.
Like Simon says, it's a start, not a finish. But it's a promising one.
BTW, here's how Minnesota might look.
redistricting, politics, midtopia