Archive for electoral maps

distracting redistricting?

Posted in Books, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 26, 2021 by xi'an

“We at FiveThirtyEight will be tracking the whole redistricting process, from proposed maps to final maps, so watch this space for updates!”

FiveThirtyEight is keeping a tracker on the “redistricting” of U.S. states, namely the decennial redrawing of electoral districts. This is still an early stage when no map has been validated by the state legislature and hence I cannot tell whether or not FiveThirtyEight will be analysing gerrymandering in a statistical manner, to figure out how extreme the map is within the collection of all electoral maps. The States being the States, the rules vary widely between them, from the legislators themselves setting the boundaries (while sometimes being very open on their intentions to favour their own side) to independent commissions being in charge. I did not spot any clear involvement of statisticians in the process.

“The application of differential privacy will bring significant harm to Alabama (…) The Census Bureau has not shown that other disclosure avoidance methods
would not satisfy the privacy requirements
” Case No. 3:21-cv-00211

While looking at this highly informative webpage maintained by University of Colorado Law School Doug Spencer, I came across this federal court challenge by the State of Alabama again the Census Bureau for using differential privacy! A statistical version of “shoot the messenger”?! The legal argument of the State is “the Fifth Amendment, alleging that differential privacy is a violation of the one-person, one-vote principle and will result in the dilution of their votes.” I however wonder what is the genuine (political) reason for this challenge!

another electoral map

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2020 by xi'an

graph of the day & AI4good versus AI4bad

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2018 by xi'an

Apart from the above graph from Nature, rendering in a most appalling and meaningless way the uncertainty about the number of active genes in the human genome, I read a couple of articles in this issue of Nature relating to the biases and dangers of societal algorithms. One of which sounded very close to the editorial in the New York Times on which Kristian Lum commented on this blog. With the attached snippet on what is fair and unfair (or not).

The second article was more surprising as it defended the use of algorithms for more democracy. Nothing less. Written by Wendy Tam Cho, professor of political sciences, law, statistics, and mathematics at UIUC, it argued that the software that she develops to construct electoral maps produces fair maps. Which sounds over-rosy imho, as aiming to account for all social, ethnic, income, &tc., groups, i.e., most of the axes that define a human, is meaningless, if only because the structure of these groups is not frozen in time. To state that “computers are impervious to the lure of power” is borderline ridiculous, as computers and algorithms are [so far] driven by humans. This is not to say that gerrymandering should not be fought by technological means, especially and obviously by open source algorithms, as existing proposals (discussed here) demonstrate, but to entertain the notion of a perfectly representative redistricting is not only illusory, but also far from democratic as it shies away from the one person one vote  at the basis of democracy. And the paper leaves us on the dark as to whom will decide on which group or which characteristic need be represented in the votes. Of course, this is the impression obtained by reading a one page editorial in Nature [in an overcrowded and sweltering commuter train] rather than the relevant literature. Nonetheless, I remain puzzled at why this editorial was ever published. (Speaking of democracy, the issue contains also warning reports about Hungary’s ultra-right government taking over the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.)

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