Mathematics Colloquium

Quantifying Gerrymandering: A mathematician goes to court

Speaker: Jonathan Mattingly, Duke University

Location: Warren Weaver Hall 1302

Date: Monday, March 11, 2019, 3:45 p.m.


In October 2017, I found myself testify for hours in a Federal court. I had not been arrested. Rather I was attempting to quantifying gerrymandering using a mathematical analysis which grew from asking if a surprising 2012 election was in fact surprising. It hinged on probing the geopolitical structure of  North Carolina using a Markov Chain Monte Carlo algorithm. I will start at the beginning and describe the mathematical ideas involved in our analysis. The talk will be assessable, and hopefully interesting, to all including undergraduates. If fact, this project began as a sequence of undergraduate research projects and undergraduates continue to be involved to this day. That being said, this enterprise also raises some interesting mathematical questions around high dimensional “spin-like”system and algorithms used to sample their equilibrium measures.