Drawing the Line- STEAM Member Dustin Mixon publishes academic paper on gerrymandering

October 27, 2017

Written by Mara Mason, Class of 2019

STEAM Factory member and Ohio State assistant professor of Mathematics Dr. Dustin Mixon published an academic paper “An impossibility theorem for gerrymandering” on arxiv.org on Oct. 11 on the topic of the gerrymandering processes in the United States.

In Mixon’s paper, co-authored by Boris Alexeev, they propose that in some cases, a method that is being reviewed by the Supreme Court of the United States, the efficiency gap, will create constitutionally bi-partisan district that are bizarrely shaped.

There are three things that we want a districting system to have. (Number) one: one person one vote- this is where you cut up the districts so that there’s about the same number of people in each district… The second thing you want is for your districts not to look strange… (the) third thing is that you want the efficiency gap to be small,” Mixon said.

He said that the efficiency gap is calculated by taking into account wasted votes from each party, and making sure that they are proportionate in a bipartisan way.

“Count the blue and red wasted votes in all the districts, add them together...take their difference and divide by the total number of votes cast. That gives you a fraction of how disproportionate the wasted votes were. Hopefully, that number will be plus or minus 8 percent”

Mixon further explains that the importance of having districts that are more streamlined in shape has to do with the larger idea of what the district representatives are there to accomplish.  

He said “philosophically, what a representative is representing is a community.”

Mixon graduated from Central Washington University, and spent 13 years in the United States Air Force where he worked as an analyst, and also gained two master’s degrees and a Ph.D in applied and computational mathematics from the Air Force Institute of Technology and Princeton University. 

To access “An impossibility theorem for gerrymandering” visit: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1710.04193.pdf