Daily Court Reporter - News OSU study: Gerrymandered voting districts may not look like you think
OSU study: Gerrymandered voting districts may not look like you think
KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
Ohio State mathematicians found that when it comes to judging the fairness of electoral districts, the viewer shouldn't trust his eyes.
It turns out, the mathematical formula that results in the so-called "Efficiency Gap" that the U.S. Supreme Court considers employing to sniff out unconstitutional, partisan gerrymandering doesn't lend itself toward neatly drawn symmetrical districts.
In some instances, the mathematicians learned through the development of their own theorem, the Efficiency Gap will flag only bizarrely shaped districts as being constitutional.
"Our theorem shows that we need more robust metrics for determining the constitutionality of voting districts," said Dustin Mixon, assistant professor of mathematics at The Ohio State University.
The Efficiency Gap statistic is supposed to help measure whether a district is appropriately balanced, according to a press release announcing the study's results. It counts the "wasted" votes of a political party in a particular district.
If one party greatly outnumbers the other, then a high percentage of that party's votes are wasted - that is, they are not necessary for the party to win a majority vote in the district.
A federal court used the Efficiency Gap in 2016 to decide a case on Wisconsin State Assembly election districts.
Mixon, with study co-author Boris Alexeev, composed the theorem and shared it on the science preprint server arXiv.org, where other mathematicians can review it and weigh in on its validity before they submit it to an academic journal for formal peer review.
Mixon and Alexeev's new theorem proves that when districts are drawn to contain equal numbers of voters and balance between the parties, the resulting shapes are highly asymmetrical, appearing gerrymandered.
"You can get a really weird-looking district that otherwise meets the criteria for 'one person, one vote' and partisan symmetry," Mixon said.
The study has not gone through a formal peer-review process yet. Other researchers have weighed in on the work, however.
Mira Bernstein, a mathematician and founding member of the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group at Tufts University, said the new theorem, within its particular mathematical framework, provides a rigorous demonstration of an intuitive fact that voter geography matters, the press released noted.
While they await the Supreme Court's decision, Mixon and Alexeev expect to continue consideration of their findings.
Date Published: November 24, 2017