Chair of Duke’s Math Department and North Carolina native, Professor Jonathan Mattingly, has changed the course of the state’s history with his data-driven research on gerrymandered districts. Earlier this month, a panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional districts as unconstitutional gerrymanders created to disproportionately benefit the Republican party – and they cited Mattingly’s research in the lead opinion.
By creating thousands of simulations of possible districts – and applying a host of other statistical techniques – Mattingly works with a team of Duke students to understand if real-life congressional districts were shaped to favor one political party over another, i.e. if they have been victims of gerrymandering. The group’s work is part of the Data+ program, a 10-week summer research experience for Duke undergraduates interested in tackling interdisciplinary challenges through data analysis, just one initiative of the overarching Information Initiative at Duke. Check out the team’s website for more details about the diagnostic tool they use to quantify gerrymandering in North Carolina and seven other states (Arizona, Iowa, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin).
Mattingly’s research is actively influencing the future of politics in North Carolina, although the case’s resolution is not yet clear. The federal panel of judges that declared the districts unconstitutional had ordered the NC General Assembly to enact a remedial plan by January 24th. On January 18th the Supreme Court agreed to freeze the lower court’s opinion, most likely delaying political justice for another election cycle.