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.

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