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Political geometry: What do shapes have to do with fair voting?

September 27, 2017 @ 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM

Moon Duchin will deliver the 2017 Norman Johnson Lecture. The associate professor of mathematics at Tufts University leads the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group, a team of Boston-based scholars who study the use of geometry and computing in electoral redistricting as a means of promoting democracy and civic engagement.

The U.S. Constitution calls for a census every ten years, followed by freshly drawn congressional districts to evenly divide up the population of each state. How the lines are drawn has a profound impact on how the elections turn out, especially with increasingly fine-grained voter data available. We call a district gerrymandered if the lines are drawn to rig an outcome, whether to dilute the voting power of minorities, to overrepresent one political party, to create safe seats for incumbents, or anything else. Bizarrely-shaped districts are widely recognized as a red flag for gerrymandering, so a traditional districting principle is that the shapes should be “compact”—since that typically is left undefined, it’s hard to enforce or to study.  I will discuss “compactness” from the point of view of metric geometry, and I’ll overview opportunities for mathematical interventions and constraints in the highly contested process of electoral redistricting. To do this requires putting geometry in conversation with law, civil rights, political science, and supercomputing.

Her lecture will be preceded by a celebration of the life of Professor Johnson who passed away this year. The memorial celebration will be held at 3:45 p.m. in Science Center 1314.


September 27, 2017
5:30 PM - 6:30 PM
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