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Racial and Partisan Gerrymandering Project

Primary Investigators: [[sjsapo, Salvatore Saporito]], [[dxmali, Dan Maliniak]]
Summary: Building a tool to identify racial and partisan gerrymandering

Project Details

On June 26, 2017 a three-judge panel of the Federal District Court in Richmond ruled that 11 of Virginia’s House of Delegates Districts were racially gerrymandered and therefore Unconstitutional. The District Court relied on a variety of circumstantial evidence to evaluate the constitutionality of VA’s House of Delegates Districts were drawn illegally. The primary forms of circumstantial evidence were the racial compositions of the districts and geometric compactness scores of the district boundaries. Professors Saporito and Maliniak have developed a new method—grounded in demographic techniques—of detecting racially gerrymandered voting districts. They need a group of ambitious students to undertake a variety of tasks to bring their method to life. The ultimate aim of their work is to use demographic methods to allow members of Virginia’s Legislatures to quickly detect if a district is racially gerrymandered. To this end, students will build a web interface that allows members of VA’s General Assembly (and members of the public) to upload a map of legislative districts and determine if the map contains racially gerrymandered districts. Students will also conduct outreach to the members of the General Assembly and other activist groups in an effort to describe how racially gerrymandering works, why the practice disenfranchises minority groups, and how statistical and demographic techniques can quickly detect unconstitutional districts. Students who want to become more adept at statistics, math, demography, GIS, and programming (especially in Python) are especially encouraged to apply for a Research Fellowship.