Summary of How to Quantify (and Fight) Gerrymandering

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How to Quantify (and Fight) Gerrymandering summary
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Gerrymandering – the redrawing of voting maps to provide one party with an unfair advantage in elections – has just gotten a lot more sophisticated. Clever gerrymandering can virtually guarantee a party’s majority for years to come – even if it has a minority in the state overall. Voters from the left and the right condemn partisan gerrymandering, but how do you show that a map indeed favors one party over another? Writing for Quanta Magazine, Erica Klarreich explains which quantitative techniques mathematicians suggest to measure gerrymandering and discusses whether it’s intentional. getAbstract recommends this article to lawmakers, politicians and the US electorate.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How states can gerrymander maps to give the party in power an unfair advantage in future elections,
  • What measures mathematicians suggest to uncover intentional and unintentional gerrymandering, and
  • How a simulation algorithm could help determine intent. 
 

About the Author

Erica Klarreich, PhD, has written about science and mathematics for more than a decade. She earned her doctorate in mathematics from Stony Brook University.

 

Summary

Mathematicians’ new quantitative techniques to analyze partisan gerrymandering could help set a fairness standard for redrawing voting maps in the United States. Gerrymandering is the practice of map rigging by “packing and cracking” the votes of the opposition party. For packing, voters of the same political affiliation are squeezed into one district (which they will win by a landslide); cracking means spreading their votes across districts (where they will drown in opposition votes). For example, imagine a state with 1,000 residents in 10 districts, in which 50% support Party A and 50% support Party B. After redrawing the state’s district lines, Party A has a 95% victory in one district. In the nine remaining districts, Party A gets only 45% of the votes. The new map will deal Party B 90% of the legislative seats. 

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