Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Illinois Congressional District 4 Gerrymandering. It was created to ...

What has this political map got to do with geometry? 

Hint: it's a Congressional district in Illinois

Elbridge Gerry: Ever heard of him? Probably not, unless you're a history or poli sci major. For the rest of us, here's  the deal. Gerry was a delegate to the US Constitutional Convention (among many other political offices). So that makes him a "founding father," right? Well, Gerry is known to most of us today only because his name has become part of a political dirty word: gerrymander. A gerrymanderered district is one that looks like the one above, or many others we could look at. North Carolina is famous for them.

Anyway, back to gerrymandering. This has become such a problem because in most states the voting districts are drawn by the political party in power (whichever party holds the most seats in the state legislature). And that has led to district drawing that can look absurd. Here's a cartoon about the original district drawn by the Massachusetts legislature in 1812 when Gerry was governor.
Now the party in power will never admit to drawing these districts so its politicians can retain their seats, but that's what it's all about. And don't think it's only one party: Democrats and Republicans have been equally culpable in this.

So, am I ever going to get back to geometry, you're wondering? Yes: here's the connection. A Tufts University professor is proposing that geometry experts train themselves to serve as expert witnesses in court cases challenging these gerrymandered districts. Here's the story.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What you should know about the NYS Constitutional Convention vote...and why you should care

Professor Lisa Parshall of the Daemen College has written an exceptionally good blogpost explaining the vote to be held next November on a proposed constitutional convention. Here's what you need to know about that vote and why you should care:
Click here

Friday, February 10, 2017

Huge transfer of archival records to the NYS Archives (right down the street!)

For those of us interested in researching New York State's history, an enormous new trove of information is coming to the state archives right here in Albany. The New York State Archives Partnership Trust has announced that court records dating from the late 17th century and up through the mid 19th century will be moving from New York City to the Cultural Education Center at the Empire State Plaza--ripe for the picking by scholars and researchers.

Here's the complete story from the New York Times: