Friday, April 07, 2017

Gerrymandering - The long running scourge of America

The word "gerrymander" was coined in 1812 after Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry signed into law a salamander-shaped district.

BRT has railed against gerrymandering since the beginning of time as this corrupt practice enables political trolls to remain in power FOREVER by manipulating the configuration of voting districts by the party in power every time the census rolls around every 10 years but there's hope, thanks to tech and smart people who know how to use said tech to finally end this long running scourge in America.

The problem is that there is no such thing as a perfect map — every map will have some partisan effect. So how much is too much? In 2004, in a ruling that rejected nearly every available test for partisan gerrymandering, the Supreme Court called this an “unanswerable question.” Meanwhile, as the court wrestles with this issue, maps are growing increasingly biased, many experts say.

Even so, the current moment is perhaps the most auspicious one in decades for reining in partisan gerrymandering. New quantitative approaches — measures of how biased a map is, and algorithms that can create millions of alternative maps — could help set a concrete standard for how much gerrymandering is too much.

Last November, some of these new approaches helped convince a United States district court to invalidate the Wisconsin state assembly district map — the first time in more than 30 years that any federal court has struck down a map for being unconstitutionally partisan. That case is now bound for the Supreme Court.

“Will the Supreme Court say, ‘Here is a fairness standard that we’re willing to stand by?’” Cho said. “If it does, that’s a big statement by the court.”

So far, political and social scientists and lawyers have been leading the charge to bring quantitative measures of gerrymandering into the legal realm. But mathematicians may soon enter the fray. A workshop being held this summer at Tufts University on the “Geometry of Redistricting” will, among other things, train mathematicians to serve as expert witnesses in gerrymandering cases. The workshop has drawn more than 1,000 applicants.

“We have just been floored at the response that we’ve gotten,” said Moon Duchin, a mathematician at Tufts who is one of the workshop’s organizers.

This is how it's done.
It's about time, don't you think?

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