Expert: Gerrymandering Easier Than Ever, but so is Detection
By Fred Knapp , Reporter/Producer Nebraska Public Media
July 21, 2021, 2 p.m. ·
Advances in computer technology make it easier than ever to draw political boundaries to benefit one political party. But a math expert says those same advances make it easier to detect such gerrymandering.
The Nebraska Legislature is poised to begin a special session soon to redraw congressional, legislative and other district boundaries in response to the latest census figures. That process usually draws accusations that the majority party is drawing those districts to make it easier for its candidates to win.
Speaking to Leadership Lincoln Wednesday, Steve Dunbar, a retired University of Nebraska-Lincoln mathematics professor, said advances in computer technology make it easier than ever to manipulate lines for maximum partisan advantage. But he said that’s a two-edged sword.
“The same technologies and data that facilitate those extreme partisan gerrymanders also enable courts, via mathematicians and statisticians and computer scientists, to discover them by exposing just how much they dilute the votes,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar said it’s now possible to generate thousands of possible maps that could be used for redistricting, allowing a court to see how the map that is ultimately selected compares in terms of advantaging or disadvantaging a particular party. But he said it’s preferable to have a fair process that makes a court challenge unnecessary.
The Legislature’s special session is expected to convene around Sept. 13.
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