January 16, 2009, 10:39 am
By Henry Woodbury
Computers have arguably made the gerrymandering of U.S. Congressional Districts easier and more egregious. They should be able to make the problem go away. That is, if anyone can figure out an algorithm:
…it is surprisingly hard to define, or at least reduce to a set of rules, what a “gerrymandered district” is. Writing a formula for drawing districts requires us to define how funny-looking is too funny looking. And what is funny, anyway?
“The idea is that circles are the best shape for districts,” said George Washington University’s Daniel Ullman, talking about one school of thought. “Unfortunately, they don’t tessellate well.” This was apparently a joke, because the room burst out laughing. For the rest of the afternoon, the word tessellate never failed to produce giggles. (Tessellate means to tile together, as in an M.C. Escher drawing.)
Mathematicians and lawyers are focused on improving the reapportioning process coming up in less than two years. Another use of their analysis is simpler – to find the worst offenders and shame the politicians that put them in place. Is this too funny looking?
Shame an Illinois politician? Highly unlikely!
Posted by John S. on January 18, 2009 at 8:48 am