UB Conference to Address Political Redistricting

Release Date: October 13, 1997

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- What would election districts look like if they were drawn without bias?

That question and others related to racial gerrymandering, the U.S. census and the impact of redistricting on voter participation will be addressed by geographers and political scientists at a conference, “Geographic Information Systems and Political Redistricting: Social Groups, Representational Values and Electoral Boundaries,” to be held Oct. 24-26 in the University Inn and Conference Center, 2401 North Forest Road, Amherst.

Sponsored by the University at Buffalo’s National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis, the conference will feature panels and presentations on political redistricting and the use of Geographic Information Systems, computerized geographic analysis tools, in drawing political districts.

Speakers will discuss inequities in election districts, methods of population-counting and the impact of the recent Supreme Court decision banning race-based districts.

Peter Rogerson, Ph.D., UB professor of geography, will discuss how election districts might look if they were drawn without regard to politics or race in a talk entitled “Political Districting in Cities With Negative Residential Density Gradients: Some Theoretical Investigations.”

According to Rogerson, most cities have dense minority populations near the center, while the white population is more dense around the periphery.

In his presentation, he will describe how, using that model, election districts might look if they were randomly drawn, based purely on population.

“The value in exploring how districts would look if they were drawn randomly is to provide a yardstick, a means of comparing such neutrally drawn districts with what’s actually happening and to assess whether or not the current solution is really fair,” he said.

Other issues regarding race and politics in drawing districts will be discussed in talks entitled “Race-Based Districts: Do they Help or Harm Representation?;” “Playing a Game with Changing Rules: Geography, Politics and Redistricting in the 1990s” and “Racial Gerrymandering, the Supreme Court and the ‘Shapes’ of Things To Come.”

The application of GIS to redistricting in the new democracies in Eastern Europe also will be discussed.

Conference coordinators are Munroe Eagles, Ph.D., associate dean of the UB Faculty of Social Science and professor of political science, and David Mark, Ph.D., director of the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis.

Cosponsoring an opening reception to be held on Oct. 24 are Mark B. Kristal, Ph.D., interim dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, and UB Provost Thomas Headrick.

For more information, contact Pat Shyhalla at 645-2545 ext. 49.

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