Gerrymandering is the term for when political borders (shapes of districts, etc.) are set so that one political party/group gains an advantage. It’s widespread, but there are some cases in the court system now trying to address the issue — and mathematicians are helping. From The Nib comes a comic the describes mathematicians’ roles when it comes to Gerrymandering. Check it out!
Read the comic linked above. Answer the following questions in a couple of sentences each.
- Using the cartoon of red/blue houses, explain how gerrymandering can take an evenly split vote between two parties and make it a “majority win” for one of the parties.
- Courts have rules against districts in the past for racially-based gerrymandering. But why have the court systems been mostly powerless to rule on partisan gerrymandering cases to this point?
- Mathematicians are tackling the unresolved question of how “compact” districts can be and how to define that compact-ness. What are two ways that “compact” can be defined mathematically?
- In your own words, describe what is meant by “negative curvature”. Why is this a red flag for districts?
- How are mathematicians using “maps that could have been” as a way to frame the gerrymandering discussion?