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Minnesota Mathematicians, Data Scientists Use Technology to Shape Political Districts


A 2020 Census worker.

"Redistricting is a science, but it is also an art," said Peter Wattson, who spent decades working on redistricting as a staffer in the state Senate. "There are principles in conflict. The human mind can see things that a computer cannot."

Credit: Jerry Holt

A dozen mathematicians and data scientists are claiming to have used advanced computational technology to generate fair political redistricting maps for Minnesota, a feat considered beyond the expertise of human specialists.

The group, known as the Citizen Data Scientists, designed an algorithm to comply with the state Supreme Court's mandate that redrawn districts are as evenly populated as practical, without disenfranchising any minority communities.

The technology produced millions of maps to find an outlier that most closely fulfilled these priorities.

Attorney Sam Hirsch said, "The court defines the priorities, but a computer just does a better job of crunching the data and experimenting with different combinations."

From Minneapolis Star Tribune
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