To me, today’s news that Gallup is sitting out the primaries, and maybe even the general election, is not all that notable. The primaries are a hard-to-poll question; any race with more than two candidates seems to have issues (see the UK and Israel as examples). And the general election? It’s such a well-populated space, so there’s not that much publicity value in polling it. Besides, Gallup says they’re tweaking their methods, which is a good thing for them to be doing after their performance in 2012.
Also, I am considerably more preoccupied with gerrymandering and redistricting. I am developing statistical approaches for detecting a partisan gerrymander that can be used as a standard to be used by federal courts. This builds on work I published in the New York Times and here at PEC. I have done new calculations demonstrating that in the House, the likely total nationwide effect of gerrymandering is larger than the effect of other factors, including the clustering of Democrats in populated areas. So if a standard (mine, or anyone’s) is adopted by courts, the resulting reform can have a rather large effect on fairness of representation.
For law aficionados, the goal is to come up with a manageable standard for partisan gerrymandering, which is a justiciable question due to Davis v. Bandemer in 1986, followed by Vieth v. Jubelirer in 2004. I will be writing about the math of this question in the weeks and months ahead.
In addition to the legal battle, as an offshoot this project leads to a need for what I’ll call “gerrymandering theorems”: ways to derive the relationship between voting and seats from a small number of assumptions. For that, I’m looking for someone who is good with probability distributions, the Central Limit Theorem, and stuff like that. That person would ideally be not far from Princeton. Any takers?
Update: I have now spelled out the problem in the comment section. If I don’t find a proof, I will just end up graphing the outputs of the simulations I did previously. These days people don’t care so much about rigor. It just feels like it should have a closed-form solution, and I hate the thought of somebody pointing that out in the future!