@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

How fair are NC's voting maps? Check the math

Posted February 19, 2018 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated February 19, 2018 7:54 a.m. EST

— Across the country, courts are wrestling with a fundamental question that has far-ranging impacts on democracy: How do you define an illegal partisan gerrymander?

Political maps have come a long way since 1812, when a newly-drawn, salamander-like district in Massachusetts invoked the ire of voters. Judges have found that a district doesn't have to look monstrous to qualify as unconstitutional, especially given the capabilities of mapmakers to use computational power to precisely slice and dice a state into pieces more favorable to Democrats or Republicans.

But where you draw the line on gerrymandering is a matter of debate so hotly contested it's currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Back in 2013, a team of mathematicians at Duke University, led by professor Jonathan Mattingly, set out to find a way to analyze maps to determine what was fair and what wasn't. Their methods worked so well that a three-judge panel in January used the research as justification to overturn Republican-drawn congressional maps from 2016.

However, the maps will stand for the 2018 elections following a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the panel's order redraw the lines.

Watch the video above to learn how the Duke team's math works and what it showed about the state of congressional districts in North Carolina.