Expert Pitch

With Census data release, algorithms can offer fairer alternatives

Cornell University
26-Apr-2021 12:40 PM EDT, by Cornell University

On Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau will release population data that will be used to determine the number of congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state receives.  

David Shmoys, professor in computer science at Cornell University, studies how algorithms are used in decision making and recently developed a more equitable redistricting model, described in the paper “Fairmandering: A Column Generation Heuristic for Fairness Optimized Political Districting.”

Shmoys says:

“The release of the census data today will push into high gear the efforts of the 50 states for the required once-each-decade determination of both U.S. congressional districts as well as state legislative districts.

“Data-driven algorithmic methods will be used in formulating these outcomes, and in this moment of hyper-partisan sentiment, there is the opportunity to present decision-makers with more moderating alternatives. For example, our state-of-the-art ‘fairmandering’ algorithm, which exploits advances in data science and optimization methods to search among billions of potential plans, provides an adaptable objective framework for district plans that seeks to achieve equitable outcomes.”

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