David Feldman will speak about gerrymandering at the next Human Ecology Forum on Oct. 24. PHOTO COURTESY OF COLLEGE OF THE ATLANTIC

Feldman to critique gerrymandering

BAR HARBOR — College of the Atlantic math and physics Professor David Feldman will explore computational approaches for drawing more equitable political districts at College of the Atlantic’s next Human Ecology Forum in McCormick Lecture Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 4:10 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Gerrymandering, the drawing of political lines to favor one group over another, has long been used in the United States to deny minorities an opportunity to elect representatives of their choice and also by one political party to gain an unfair advantage over another, Feldman said.

“Partisan and racial gerrymandering is a threat to our democracy, as it systematically weakens the voting power of some groups and leads to legislatures that are not responsive to their voters’ needs,” he said.

Feldman will present a historical overview of gerrymandering in the U.S. and discuss attempts to use the legal system to fight against racial and partisan gerrymandering. This survey will include a discussion of Gill v. Whitford, a case concerning the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s 2011 redistricting that was recently argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Feldman will present and critique the efficiency gap, a measure of partisan bias that played a role in Gill v. Whitford.

He will then focus on specific mathematical techniques for measuring the fairness of a districting plan. He will look at computational approaches for drawing districts and measuring their fairness, and he will argue that these approaches hold considerable promise as a tool that can be used to generate fairer districting plans. He will conclude with some thoughts about the future of gerrymandering in the U.S. and will suggest that addressing gerrymandering will require political and legal action.

Feldman is the author of “Chaos and Fractals: An Elementary Introduction” (Oxford University Press, 2012), a textbook for students not majoring in math or science. Through the Santa Fe Institute’s Complexity Explorer project, he has developed two massive, open online courses, one on chaos and the other on fractals and scaling. Feldman has offered these online courses several times to thousands of students.

Feldman received a bachelor’s degree in physics from Carleton College in 1991 and a doctorate in physics from the University of California at Davis in 1998. He joined the faculty at College of the Atlantic in 1998. Feldman served as COA’s associate dean for academic affairs from 2003-2007. In 2011-12, he was a U.S. Fulbright lecturer in Rwanda, holding an appointment as a visiting professor of applied physics at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology.

The Human Ecology Forum is a free, weekly speaker series based on the work of the academic community, which also draws on artists, poets and political and religious leaders from around the world. Members of the public are invited to attend.



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