By: Nuray Salina
On Tuesday, November 7th, the CATS Innovation program hosted their first guest, Mira Bernstein from Tufts Universitty, to discuss gerrymandering. According to an official on Tufts University’s website, Mira holds a research faculty position in the interdisciplinary program in Science, Technology, and Society. She is also the founder of the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group (MGGG). She gave CATS Academy students a lecture about the Mathematics behind Redistricting (Gerrymandering) in the United States.
Ms. Bernstein discussed the gerrymandering definition from the Black’s Law Dictionary: ”Gerrymandering is the process of dividing a state or other territory into authorized civil or political divisions, but with such a geographical arrangement as to accomplish a sinister or lawful purpose.”
In other words, Gerrymandering is a division of an area of districts, in which the results of elections are intended to be predetermined. This word appeared in the 19th century, when the Boston Gazette insinuated that Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry redistricted voting areas to favor his Democratic-Republican Party.
Our guest showed us the small possibility of victory for minority candidates during elections. The process of gerrymandering is to divide your territory so your supporters will represent the majority in more districts than your opponents. This picture will help you to understand the nature of Gerrymandering more clearly:
Mira Bernstein noted that communities are not typically divided fairly. She emphasized the following three main problems of Gerrymandering:
- Compact doesn’t mean neutral.
- Neutral doesn’t mean fair.
- Do we even know what is fair?
Gerrymandering is a major issue throughout the world. Some politicians and political parties come to power without having the majority of supporters. Redistricting makes elections unfair, because it doesn’t allow every person to have an independent vote. Bernstein’s lecture also emphasized the connection between geometry and politics.
This lecture was interesting and thought provoking for our students, who were curious enough to ask Ms. Bernstein questions about gerrymandering.
This engaging lecture was the first to be sponsored by the CATS Innovation Program. The program is an interdisciplinary curriculum that helps students follow their academic passion in focused areas of study.