Opinion | How Computers Turned Gerrymandering Into a Science

December 18, 2017

How Computers Turned Gerrymandering Into a Science
https://www.NYTimes.com/2017/10/06/opinion/sunday/computers-gerrymandering-wisconsin.html MCMC random walks evaluate possible redistricting swaps, producing complex boundaries. Eventually, we may get fractal electoral maps!

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The clustering of Democrats in cities does indeed give the Republicans an edge. But it’s a much smaller advantage than the turbo-boost the current map provides, as the Duke paper demonstrates. The main tool in the Duke paper is a method called the “Markov chain Monte Carlo” algorithm. Starting from the current Wisconsin district map, it makes a sequence of random changes, swapping wards from one district to an adjacent one, carrying out a “random walk” through the set of all possible maps. Completely unconstrained changes would create crazy-looking districts, so it weights its changes in favor of traditional districting criteria.
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