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(10,173 posts)
Sat Oct 7, 2017, 12:02 AM Oct 2017

How Computers Turned Gerrymandering Into a Science

..... this isn’t just a politics story; it’s also a technology story. Gerrymandering used to be an art, but advanced computation has made it a science. Wisconsin’s Republican legislators, after their victory in the census year of 2010, tried out map after map, tweak after tweak. They ran each potential map through computer algorithms that tested its performance in a wide range of political climates. The map they adopted is precisely engineered to assure Republican control in all but the most extreme circumstances.

In a gerrymandered map, you concentrate opposing voters in a few districts where you lose big, and win the rest by modest margins. But it’s risky to count on a lot of close wins, which can easily flip to close losses. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor thought this risk meant the Supreme Court didn’t need to step in. In a 1986 case, she wrote that “there is good reason to think political gerrymandering is a self-limiting enterprise” since “an overambitious gerrymander can lead to disaster for the legislative majority.”

Back then, she may have been right. But today’s computing power has blown away the self-limiting nature of the enterprise, as it has with so many other limits. A new paper by a team of scientists at Duke paints a startling picture of the way the Wisconsin district map protects Republicans from risk. Remember the Volkswagen scandal? Volkswagen installed software in its diesel cars to fool regulators into thinking the engines were meeting emissions standards. The software detected when it was being tested, and only then did it turn on the antipollution system. The Wisconsin district map is a similarly audacious piece of engineering.

When the overall Republican vote share in the state is 50 percent or more, the authors of the paper show, the map behaves much like an unbiased one. But when the map is tested by an electorate that leans Democratic, its special features kick in, maintaining a healthy Republican majority against the popular headwind. To gain control of the State Assembly, the authors estimate, Wisconsin Democrats would have to beat Republicans by 8 to 10 points, a margin rarely achieved in statewide elections by either party in this evenly split state. As a mathematician, I’m impressed. As a Wisconsin voter, I feel a little ill.

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How Computers Turned Gerrymandering Into a Science (Original Post) JHan Oct 2017 OP
Interesting brer cat Oct 2017 #1
yep.. every census year is critical JHan Oct 2017 #4
No it doesn't. brer cat Oct 2017 #5
I'd say science was used to make gerrymandering technically possible. Lyricalinklines Oct 2017 #2
and some people say the game isn't rigged... nt TheFrenchRazor Oct 2017 #3
Yep, we no longer have a representative government of the people uponit7771 Oct 2017 #6

brer cat

(23,991 posts)
5. No it doesn't.
Sat Oct 7, 2017, 10:20 AM
Oct 2017

GA republicans don't wait for census years. They were doing more chopping and packing earlier this year. Eric Holder has gotten involved now which I hope will get some of this undone.


(367 posts)
2. I'd say science was used to make gerrymandering technically possible.
Sat Oct 7, 2017, 01:28 AM
Oct 2017

But then again, I think words matter and I'll bet more than a few people consider my comments trivial.

I also consider the fact science was applied effectively in this way to be a reason the current administration and gop are against science....They've used it in tricky ways and know it's power therefore seek to limit it being used against them.

Ah! the power of power and control!

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