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Making democracy add up


In countries where politicians have the power to redraw voting boundaries concerns are rightly raised about the reliability of democratic systems.

People move around and population centres shift. To find a fairer way of restructuring voting districts to reflect these changes, mathematicians at a German university have developed a methodology to calculate how to ensure areas are more equal in size.

The team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) tested its mathematical model on parliamentary districts in Germany.

“There are more ways to consolidate communities to electoral districts than there are atoms in the known universe. But, using our model, we can still find efficient solutions in which all districts have roughly equal numbers of constituents – and that in a ‘minimally invasive’ manner that requires no voter to switch precincts,” said Professor Peter Gritzmann, head of the Chair of Applied Geometry and Discrete Mathematics at TUM.

Implementing an “effective and neutral method for political district zoning”  is “of great significance from the perspective of democratic theory,” added Stefan Wurster, Professor of Policy Analysis at the Bavarian School of Public Policy at TUM. “The acceptance of democratic elections is in danger whenever parties or individuals gain an advantage out of the gate. The problem becomes particularly relevant when the allocation of parliamentary seats is determined by the number of direct mandates won. This is the case in majority election systems like in USA, Great Britain and France.”

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