Here’s a genius idea: Mathematicians are putting their heads together to untangle the knotty national gerrymandering mess. A math professor at Boston-area Tufts University, Moon Duchin, deserves a big share of the credit for organizing this big-brain powered movement. She’s orchestrating workshops at campuses across America to devise and disseminate cutting-edge numbers tools to help courts identify voting maps that are drawn unfairly. Drawing amoeba-shaped districts in order to clump voters from disparate areas together to benefit a particular party or demographic has so polarized Congress that most elected officials fear a primary challenge more than losing in a general election. This eviscerates any incentive to compromise or to work on bipartisan solutions. Redistricting reform is designed to make lawmakers accountable to real people than to the extremes of each party. Simply put, gerrymandering is the scourge of American politics.
Most recently, a federal panel ruled that parts of the Texas House map must be redrawn before the 2018 elections. In some cases, the judges said, the map makers intentionally undercut minority voting power “to ensure Anglo control” of the legislative districts.
With the passel of recent rulings and appeals (see accompanying box), it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the state is headed for a delayed 2018 primary.
The Texas predicament is proof that courtrooms need all the help they can get in these redistricting cases. If math and data experts believe they can correct problems that have long vexed lawyers and political scientists, have at it. Especially considering that judges too often resort to the unscientific “eyeball test” to try to assess if a district is drawn fairly.