SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

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sardia
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SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby sardia » Tue Oct 17, 2017 1:14 pm UTC

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/th ... c-to-math/
For decades, the court has struggled with quantitative evidence of all kinds in a wide variety of cases. Sometimes justices ignore this evidence. Sometimes they misinterpret it. And sometimes they cast it aside in order to hold on to more traditional legal arguments.

My favorite part is where the more mathematically complex you make something, the more Constitutional it is. This relationship isn't lost in lobbyists and lawmakers, so it's a perverse incentive. Wanna win something controversial? Only use legalese that causes mathematical changes.
My least favorite part is the conclusion.
“I don’t put much stock in the claim that the Supreme Court is afraid of adjudicating partisan gerrymanders because it’s afraid of math,” Daniel Hemel, who teaches law at the University of Chicago, told me. “[Roberts] is very smart and so are the judges who would be adjudicating partisan gerrymandering claims — I’m sure he and they could wrap their minds around the math. The ‘gobbledygook’ argument seems to be masking whatever his real objection might be.”
These are all really smart people, and they are purposely pretending to be idiots in order to win an argument (and set precedent forever).

If you think this only as you edge cases or really fancy maths, you'd be surprised just how simple it could be. In a campaign contribution case, the judges ignored a simple math problem: does matching contributions correlate or affect private donations? The studies show that it didn't, but the justices ignored it and ruled matching against matching contributions in that case.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Dr34m(4+(h3r » Wed Oct 18, 2017 11:42 pm UTC

Schopenhauer was right

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby idonno » Thu Oct 19, 2017 2:59 am UTC

It seems to me that the arguments over gerrymandering don't lend themselves to the proposed solution. If this is a disenfranchisement of voters, the biggest victims aren't the democrats. Nearly 100% of third party voters are getting their votes thrown out. If we are going to measure things based on party affiliation, the correct solution is to just throw out districting and switch to a proportional vote system. Of course neither side is concerned about an actual fair solution since that would hurt them both and allow competing parties to have a better chance at building a power base.


Also, I don't think the analysis of Powell's ruling is very good.
Justice Lewis Powell wrote, “Statistics, at most, may show only a likelihood that a particular factor entered into some decisions.”

He is correct. That is pretty much the point of statistics. Just because blacks were statistically more likely to get the death penalty doesn't mean that this specific case was not fair. Presumably, based on that statistic, there is a 25% chance that this case would have ended the same way if he was white which means it doesn't prove the court didn't provide him with equal protection under the law. It is easy to demonstrate the existence of discrimination with statistics but impossible, except in extreme cases, to demonstrate individual instances of it. On top of that, I would bet good money that if you added another data point to the analysis, the victim being a police officer, that discrepancy would shrink considerably because I find it very unlikely that only 1/4 of whites convicted of murdering a police officer in 1986 were getting the death penalty. I find it hard to believe that many people convicted of murdering a cop weren't given the maximum permissible sentence.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby jewish_scientist » Thu Oct 19, 2017 12:48 pm UTC

To a certain extent, I can understand why argument based on statistics would hold less weight in court than an argument based on formal logic. If you accept the Constitution as an axiom and then apply formal logic, you reach the conclusion that the Stop And Frisk Policy is illegal. Its effectiveness is irrelevant.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby ThirdParty » Thu Oct 19, 2017 6:19 pm UTC

idonno wrote:If this is a disenfranchisement of voters, the biggest victims aren't the democrats. Nearly 100% of third party voters are getting their votes thrown out.
If you live in a district that's been drawn to be 90% Democrat, then any vote you cast—whether you vote for the Democrat, the Republican, or a third party—will have no bearing on the outcome.

That's more of a disenfranchisement than if you live in a district that's 50% Democrat and 50% Republican, and the only reason your vote didn't influence the outcome was because you chose to vote for Mickey Mouse rather than for a real candidate. (Choosing not to influence the outcome is different from being unable to influence it.)

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby idonno » Thu Oct 19, 2017 9:50 pm UTC

ThirdParty wrote:
idonno wrote:If this is a disenfranchisement of voters, the biggest victims aren't the democrats. Nearly 100% of third party voters are getting their votes thrown out.
If you live in a district that's been drawn to be 90% Democrat, then any vote you cast—whether you vote for the Democrat, the Republican, or a third party—will have no bearing on the outcome.

That's more of a disenfranchisement than if you live in a district that's 50% Democrat and 50% Republican, and the only reason your vote didn't influence the outcome was because you chose to vote for Mickey Mouse rather than for a real candidate. (Choosing not to influence the outcome is different from being unable to influence it.)


The old invalidate third parties by comparing their candidates to cartoon characters gambit? A third party voter has no power to pick a person they want in power. They are not being disenfranchised just like gays weren't being discriminated against when they could also marry a member of the opposite sex. If geographies are important enough to keep, this is unfortunately unavoidable. If geographies are not important and generating a set of representatives that is proportionally similar to the voter base in the state is the goal, which is what this test is checking for, there is no reason to continue disenfranchising anyone. Everyone can get their proportion of the vote counted (to some rounding error unless we want fractional representatives).

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby ucim » Thu Oct 19, 2017 10:16 pm UTC

idonno wrote:If geographies are not important and generating a set of representatives that is proportionally similar to the voter base in the state is the goal...
The issue here is best phrased as "Who does my representative actually represent?" and "Who represents me?" This is where geographies come into play. I vote for people in my district to represent us. It's a local thing. But the alternative, which may (or may not) yield proportional similarity, is to pick from a bigger pool of candidates, ensuring that I'm less likely to know who they are, they are less likely to have my interests in mind (except to the extent that their interests happen to align with mine), and there's a bigger distance between an individual and the representative in question.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby DaBigCheez » Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:11 am UTC

An aggregate-representation model as proposed seems to necessitate that you're voting for the party, not the individuals. Yes, the current system often looks like it reduces to that, but there's some important differences.

If the legislature is creating laws that you, the voter, don't like, your primary recourse (besides writing letters to your congressperson) is "vote the bums out". With this system, how do you do that? You're not voting for anyone. Who decides who gets in to represent the party in accord with the proportional votes? The party leadership? Parties will always act to preserve the party; removing another layer of control seems...unwise. It would be good to have some changes to make third-parties more viable, but explicitly enshrining party affiliation into the system at a fundamental level seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and into the frying pan. Which is a bad idea, never throw water onto grease fires.
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Liri » Fri Oct 20, 2017 12:32 am UTC

I think we're long past the enshrining of political parties making any sort of difference.

I'm pretty content with voting for platforms, I'll be honest.
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:45 am UTC

I've disliked proportional representation for the reasons DaBigCheez mentions before (voting for party rather than person), but it occurs to me just now thinking about it again that the official parties being officially voted for in this way, rather than parties just being ad hoc private organizations like they are in America now, could be legally structured in an internally fair and democratic way. So you would pick the party whose platform conforms to your policy preferences best, join that party and vote in its internal elections to decide who best represents that platform, and... I'm not sure the actual final election is even needed anymore at that point, you could just auto-calculate the polls based on people's official party registration. Or combine party registration and intra-party voting together into the final election: on election day, you say what party platform you endorse ("party registration"), and who in that party you endorse to represent that platform ("intra-party election"), and the final election seats are filled in proportion to party votes, with party members who got the highest number of personal votes filling those seats first.

I don't know enough about extant proportional representation systems to tell whether they actually function this way already or not.
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Thesh » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:47 am UTC

You don't need parties for PR. Multi-winner methods like STV can provide PR even with independent candidates.
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:48 am UTC

If not parties, then what is being represented proportionally?
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Thesh » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:53 am UTC

The aggregate of each voter's individual preferences. Each voter ranks the choices; if you have 5 seats, any candidate ranked first by at least 20% of voters is guaranteed a seat, and their excess vote is transferred to the next choice. The transfer methods are complicated, but I recommend just reading the Wikipedia article. I prefer CPO-STV, although it's more computationally complex.
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby dg61 » Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:16 am UTC

FWIW, PR does ensure you have someone "Representing your views' in the sense that 1) party discipline is more important, so if you see a label you have a good idea what they'll be voting for and 2) at least one party is liklier to align more closely with your views(even if it's a small one). I do agree with the value of having someone responsible to you(why I prefer STV, which has porportionality but also some level of constituency responsibility) but I'd want to note that. To what degree districts form cohesive identities or people can point to "I'm in whatever district/riding with these people voting for n" is another question altogether.

EDIT: Also PR(allocating seats directly by party percentage) is generally considered distinct from STV(allocating by voting preference but through larger units). I do wonder how an expanded house with MMP would go over.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Zamfir » Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:50 am UTC

. It would be good to have some changes to make third-parties more viable, but explicitly enshrining party affiliation into the system at a fundamental level seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and into the frying pan

Party affiliation becomes a rather different thing in PR systems. You can have a party that is build around one candidate, or one issue. Parties can split, or merge. Parties disappear, and new parties bubble up.

So while the system gives more power to the leadership of a party, this is counteracted by the far weaker power of the parties themselves. When a party refuses to list popular candidates, the candidates have a credible threat to run as a new party, chipping away at their old party.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby idonno » Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:08 am UTC

DaBigCheez wrote:An aggregate-representation model as proposed seems to necessitate that you're voting for the party, not the individuals. Yes, the current system often looks like it reduces to that, but there's some important differences.

If the legislature is creating laws that you, the voter, don't like, your primary recourse (besides writing letters to your congressperson) is "vote the bums out". With this system, how do you do that? You're not voting for anyone. Who decides who gets in to represent the party in accord with the proportional votes? The party leadership? Parties will always act to preserve the party; removing another layer of control seems...unwise. It would be good to have some changes to make third-parties more viable, but explicitly enshrining party affiliation into the system at a fundamental level seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and into the frying pan. Which is a bad idea, never throw water onto grease fires.
When people don't like any party, they can form one and reduce the power of the current parties. Also, if people want to vote for specific candidates, the party can accomplish it with its appointment rules after it knows how many seats it gets. Yes, it is removing a layer of control but it is simultaneously adding another one by starting to strip power from a party well before their opposition has 50% of the vote.

Also, for the record, my only claim has been that if we are going to judge the districting system based on the proportionality of the results, we should just do proportional voting. That metric would already be covertly enshrining party affiliation.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby ThirdParty » Fri Oct 20, 2017 1:19 pm UTC

idonno wrote:A third party voter has no power to pick a person they want in power. ... If geographies are not important and generating a set of representatives that is proportionally similar to the voter base in the state is the goal, which is what this test is checking for, there is no reason to continue disenfranchising anyone. Everyone can get their proportion of the vote counted (to some rounding error unless we want fractional representatives).
Nobody, regardless of party affiliation, has the power to get a representative with identical views to their own. The only way to even sort-of achieve that would be to have a direct democracy rather than a representative one. The best we can hope for is to have a representative who takes our views into account along with the views of other voters.

In a PR system, you're guaranteed a representative of your own party. Unfortunately, if your party is small and doesn't make it into the governing coalition, your representative won't have any real power. (Maybe in a genuine deliberative democracy where the representatives argue with each other before making their decisions, having your guy in the room would be valuable: maybe he could win other representatives over. But there's no real incentive for parties or voters to select somebody who's capable of being won over rather than an ideologue who will hew to the party line, so in practice floor deliberation is irrelevant or absent.) Decisions will often be made by people who do not in any way represent you.

In an ideal FPTP system, there are two parties: one slightly-left-of-center and one slightly-right-of-center. You vote for whichever is closest to your view, so the winner is whoever comes closest to the median voter within your district. He won't necessarily belong to your party, but insofar as both parties are trying to reflect the median position and your position influenced the position of the median, your view does have an effect on the positions your representative takes. So whichever party is in power has to attempt to represent everyone, not just its own members, if it wants to remain in power.

Admittedly, it isn't working well in the United States right now. Enough people don't vote, are prevented from voting, or vote for third parties that candidates can win by appealing to their party's base and/or donors rather than to the center. Also, gerrymandering presently disenfranchises far more Democratic voters than Republican ones, skewing the results. (The mechanism by which it does so is interesting: it packs Democrats into their own districts so that they'll have their own left-wing representatives in Congress who will always be outvoted by the representatives of the median non-packed voter. If such packing were illegal, then many of the people currently enjoying a powerless representative who shares their views would instead have a powerful representative whose views reflected the median between their views and the views of people on the other side of the gerrymandered-district-boundary.)

So the purpose of ending gerrymandering in a FPTP system is not to create proportional representation of the two major parties--which would not in itself help the problem of your representative always being outvoted--but rather to make it more likely that each party will take every voter's views into account rather than ignoring the voters in the packed districts. True, the proposed test for a gerrymander is to compare how many Democratic votes didn't matter with how many Republican votes didn't matter, by comparing the proportion of voters in each party with the proportion of representatives in each party. This may look like a move toward proportional representation, but it's got a different goal: the goal is for everybody's vote to matter, not for everybody to have a representative of his own party.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Tobias » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:24 pm UTC

Single Transferable Vote with Multi Member Districts allows for proportional representation while still involving voting for individuals and not parties. It is also the best system for minimizing the number of "wasted votes" (or at least the best system that's also relatively easy to implement and doesn't have all sorts of additional hidden costs - pretty much a straight upgrade).

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Thesh » Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:44 pm UTC

dg61 wrote:Also PR(allocating seats directly by party percentage) is generally considered distinct from STV(allocating by voting preference but through larger units).


"Proportional Representation" is just a concept; it's only informally used as a synonym for a party list type system. I'd argue that STV is capable of providing better proportional representation than party list, just because it gives power to independents and weakens the influence of political parties.
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby idonno » Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:23 pm UTC

ThirdParty wrote:Nobody, regardless of party affiliation, has the power to get a representative with identical views to their own.

Well, I guess it is a good thing my argument was "A third party voter has no power to pick a person they want in power" not "A third party voter has no power to pick a person with identical views" or you would have really poked a hole in it there

ThirdParty wrote:In a PR system, you're guaranteed a representative of your own party. Unfortunately, if your party is small and doesn't make it into the governing coalition, your representative won't have any real power.
We just recently had a major vote that didn't pass because of one person. Sure there are other abilities they won't get but when a bill needs yes or no votes, that person you think has no real power could literally decide if a controversial bill becomes law.

ThirdParty wrote:In an ideal FPTP system, there are two parties: one slightly-left-of-center and one slightly-right-of-center. You vote for whichever is closest to your view, so the winner is whoever comes closest to the median voter within your district.
That would be great if politics actually fit the two dimensional view that we keep being fed.

ThirdParty wrote:So the purpose of ending gerrymandering in a FPTP system is not to create proportional representation
I never said that was the purpose of ending gerrymandering . My issues is that this proposed measure is just checking for proportionality in the districting based on party lines. If the candidates matter and one party puts up substantially better candidates in several district while both have equal candidates in the rest of the districts, either the better candidates will generate excess wastage or they will cut into the other parties wastage and after the fact they get to claim that gerrymandering hurt their other candidates. This measure only works if you assume that the only thing that matters is parties and IF that is the case, proportional voting is a much more rational and less complicated solution than trying to get the districts balanced in such a way that they produce proportional results.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:35 pm UTC

idonno wrote:That would be great if politics actually fit the two dimensional view that we keep being fed.

Two dimensional? What kind of magic fantasy land do you live in where people reckon political positions in two whole dimensions? Around these parts people struggle to even use the first dimension properly.
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby idonno » Fri Oct 20, 2017 9:24 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
idonno wrote:That would be great if politics actually fit the two dimensional view that we keep being fed.

Two dimensional? What kind of magic fantasy land do you live in where people reckon political positions in two whole dimensions? Around these parts people struggle to even use the first dimension properly.

That was a mental failure on my part probably because in my experience things are usually oversimplified into two dimensions. A line between left and right is obviously 1D.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby sardia » Sat Oct 21, 2017 1:53 am UTC

It's a shame that this thread got hijacked by advanced voting schemers. None of this has to do with the persistent bias SCOTUS has against mathematical arguments.
jewish_scientist wrote:To a certain extent, I can understand why argument based on statistics would hold less weight in court than an argument based on formal logic. If you accept the Constitution as an axiom and then apply formal logic, you reach the conclusion that the Stop And Frisk Policy is illegal. Its effectiveness is irrelevant.

Ruling by formal logic and not taking into consideration real world impacts is a really outdated way of practicing law. Nobody does it anymore. It's the equivalent of leaches, miasma, and posies to treat disease.

And worst, there's a sinister backdrop to this ignorance. It seems intentional in order for judges to push their agendas. As long as sheeple out there don't see anything blatant, judges can get away with it.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby elasto » Sat Oct 21, 2017 9:03 am UTC

sardia wrote:It's a shame that this thread got hijacked by advanced voting schemers. None of this has to do with the persistent bias SCOTUS has against mathematical arguments.

To my mind it's not surprising SCOTUS acts this way since I see very little evidence-led decision-making right across government, and, indeed, right across society. Everyone, everywhere seems to base decisions on gut instincts and how their actions make them look - whether it's politicians worrying about what tomorrow's newspaper headlines will say to bloggers writing articles purely for virtue signalling.

Ruling by formal logic and not taking into consideration real world impacts is a really outdated way of practicing law. Nobody does it anymore. It's the equivalent of leaches, miasma, and posies to treat disease.

The problem with judges moving from acting on pure logic to considering the real world consequences of laws is that it blurs the separation of powers and turns them from judges to activist lawmakers.

It's the lawmakers who should be considering and acting on the real world consequences of their laws - changing the law if there are unintended consequences etc - and the judges should purely be thinking about what the law means, which law takes precedence when two conflict, whether a law is constitutional etc.

(Of course, in practice the SCOTUS seems to be activist anyhow, whether its members are left or right-wing. So it's not a new development. Indeed it probably was this way since its inception, it just maybe hid it better in the past.)

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Zamfir » Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:12 am UTC

None of this has to do with the persistent bias SCOTUS has against mathematical arguments.

This case is hardly evidence for that, though. One more democratic judge, and the court would have loved mathematical arguments. Unless the arguments would be against their party, then they would have dismissed this line of argument again. It's not like this is hard mathematical proof or anything like it, it's just the democratic argument cast in a formula.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby moiraemachy » Sat Oct 21, 2017 2:11 pm UTC

Yeah, as much as I like fivethirtyeight, this just sounds like hard science people having a go at law scholars by picking on clumsy wording when talking about math. The idea that objective metrics should inform SCOTUS decisions implies that the proposed metric perfectly encapsulates what they should care about. But in all their examples (gerrymandering, black men disproportionately sentenced to death, effective of rules regarding unlawful searches), the things the SCOTUS is actually supposed to care about aren't captured by the proposed metrics. In many cases, their role is to say "this is up for the legislators/executives/lower judges to decide", since the alternative is term grabbing so much power it threatens the democratic process. How do you factor that in your metrics?

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Liri » Sat Oct 21, 2017 6:00 pm UTC

The techniques legislators - and the firms they hire - are using employ advanced statistical- and model-based methodologies and the courts need to be able to keep up, or they aren't doing their job. They shouldn't be guessing at the constitutionality of something because they refuse to understand the implications of the data they're presented with. I think that's what sardia is getting at.
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Thesh » Sat Oct 21, 2017 6:18 pm UTC

Why not require the legislators to describe their methodology in enough detail to allow you to independently derive their map, and allow it to be disputed in court if it's seems like criteria is chosen to intentionally discriminate?
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby morriswalters » Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:28 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:Why not require the legislators to describe their methodology in enough detail to allow you to independently derive their map, and allow it to be disputed in court if it's seems like criteria is chosen to intentionally discriminate?
You can't require that legislators do anything without legislation, which requires convincing the people you're trying to control. Do you see any irony in that? And everybody sues everybody when gerrymandering comes up.
Liri wrote:The techniques legislators - and the firms they hire - are using employ advanced statistical- and model-based methodologies and the courts need to be able to keep up, or they aren't doing their job. They shouldn't be guessing at the constitutionality of something because they refuse to understand the implications of the data they're presented with. I think that's what sardia is getting at.
Obviously you haven't seen many budget fights. Everybody has numbers and faces to sell them to a gullible public. Science itself, as represented by the people who write papers, have a hard time with statistics. It relies a lot on judgement. How you choose to do whatever it is that you are trying to justify. Or put more simply, statistics can lie if you want them to. And constitutionality is a matter of opinion, as much as people would like to think otherwise, subject to the bias of the court.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby idonno » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:53 am UTC

Thesh wrote:Why not require the legislators to describe their methodology in enough detail to allow you to independently derive their map, and allow it to be disputed in court if it's seems like criteria is chosen to intentionally discriminate?

That might get really bad cases but it won't be to long before parties have programs that run thousands of potential methodologies that do not directly discriminate and then pick the one that favors them the most.



One thing people should keep in mind is that court rulings aren't single isolated cases. Judges don't want to establish clear statistical tests because they know that there may currently be or could become major flaws and exploits in the logic. Take Powell's ruling that I commented on earlier. Suppose the death sentence had been overturned. Every single black person under similar circumstances would have just as much of a legal argument. Suppose all those appeals overturned the death penalties. Now every person who isn't black has a pretty legitimate argument they aren't receiving equal protection under the law. After that, replace "death sentence" with "life in prison" and repeat. This is not a slippery slope. It is the basic logical progression of excepting that argument.

It is important that any metric used does not generate false positives and cannot be exploited by someone who is clever enough with statistics. In the case of gerrymandering, it is not clear that there is any reason to expect fairly drawn districts to conform to the proposed measure. In fact, I would bet a great deal of money that if you were to run Monty Carlo simulations where districts were formed by randomly grouping contiguous census tracts based solely on population, you would find states that are very unlikely to pass the proposed test without gerymandering.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Liri » Mon Oct 23, 2017 12:40 pm UTC

idonno wrote:It is important that any metric used does not generate false positives and cannot be exploited by someone who is clever enough with statistics. In the case of gerrymandering, it is not clear that there is any reason to expect fairly drawn districts to conform to the proposed measure. In fact, I would bet a great deal of money that if you were to run Monty Carlo simulations where districts were formed by randomly grouping contiguous census tracts based solely on population, you would find states that are very unlikely to pass the proposed test without gerymandering.

This has already been done. It's somewhere within this 538 podcast entirely about this subject. I don't know at what time point, but the whole thing is with a listen, anyway.
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby orthogon » Mon Oct 23, 2017 2:40 pm UTC

idonno wrote: In fact, I would bet a great deal of money that if you were to run Monty Carlo simulations where districts were formed by randomly grouping contiguous census tracts based solely on population, you would find states that are very unlikely to pass the proposed test without gerymandering.

Would you expect randomly drawn districts to be fair, though? In the UK there's an independent body, the Boundaries Commission, whose job is to draw up constituencies in a fair way. You can call that gerrymandering if you like, but it's kind of positive gerrymandering. The point is that fair boundaries are something that you have to try hard to produce, not something that arises naturally unless foul play is taking place.

Incidentally, the UK parliamentary constituencies vary in population by a factor of 3 or more. Fairness, apparently, is not just about population, but about geographical representation more broadly.
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Thesh » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:31 pm UTC

You just need to measure the bias*, and then the really bad states like North Carolina will fall entirely outside the results of a Monte Carlo simulation with contiguous districts in terms of benefit to Republicans. This alone should be enough evidence that you went out of your way to draw biased districts.

*Bias can be measured as the minimum number of additional votes Democrats would need to make the distribution proportional to within less than one seat based on the actual vote, if that additional vote is distributed proportionally to each district.
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Liri » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:40 pm UTC

On the other hand, my district* looks like a deformed seahorse, so that's cool.


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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby HES » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:45 pm UTC

*Everything* looks like a deformed seahorse, for sufficient values of "deformed".
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Liri » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:51 pm UTC

Okay, not that deformed at all, really.

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Edit: I have totally posted a picture of my district before
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Soupspoon » Mon Oct 23, 2017 4:01 pm UTC

To enumerate that UK constituency figure, leaving as outliers the two constituencies in the 20ks and 30ks of voters (sepatate natural groupings of Scottish islands, low population densities - likely would not like to be lumped together) and one constituency in the 110k range (posh southern island, probably could do with splitting - but likely converting one Conservative seat into two, so some might feel it better to leave it alone) the range is from the 40k to 90k range, medianing in the low 70k area and averaging in the area of 71,000.

I've been pondering the downsize-revamp (there are suggestions to go from 650 seats to perhaps 500, i.e.92k-ish on average) but there'd be huge complaints. The three smallest existing Scottish constituencies would add up to 102k (islands + islands + highlands subset, though the highlands at least would likely be split over different boundary lines, and there are yet other island-group areas that feature low in the popuoation lists), and one presumes the Isle Of Wight would remain at 110k rather than 2x55k division (unless someone really doesn't care about the optics). Wales has similarly a group of small-sized areas that predominate in the 40k-50k range, so they'd be nigh on halving their representation at a stroke owing to the mergers and general re-demarkationing.

City-based areas (or part-of-city, especially for various London subsets) dominate the existing 90k area of representative volume, and would probably be the least mucked-about-with (under a blind system) in the 90k normalisation, but note the disparity in societal levels already noted in the Kensington (60k) and Chelsea-and-Fulham (63k), roughly equating to the Kensington And Chelsea council area (with overlapping with Hammersmith-and-Fulham) and its 48k population that gained recent imfamy for its notable class divisions.

(In many ways, arranging all areas to be euqally highly likely to be marginal constituencies would be best, to reflect "the will of the people", but I'm not sure that the psychology of such an anti-gerrymander would be aporeciated either.)

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Zamfir » Mon Oct 23, 2017 8:49 pm UTC

Bias can be measured as the minimum number of additional votes Democrats would need to make the distribution proportional to within less than one seat based on the actual vote, if that additional vote is distributed proportionally to each district.

Thing is, they are not obliged to aim for proportionality. AFAICT, they are not obliged to aim for anything - the us constitution leaves it up to the state governments to decide what they want to achieve with the districting. Even the anti-gerrymandering judges appear to agree that selfish political aims are allowed as part of the process.

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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby Thesh » Mon Oct 23, 2017 9:16 pm UTC

I wasn't saying there was currently a legal requirement, just explaining how you can use Monte Carlo simulations to show that districts are intentionally drawn to weaken the vote of the opposing party.
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Re: SCOTUS Biased Against Basic Mathematical Arguments

Postby sardia » Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:03 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
Bias can be measured as the minimum number of additional votes Democrats would need to make the distribution proportional to within less than one seat based on the actual vote, if that additional vote is distributed proportionally to each district.

Thing is, they are not obliged to aim for proportionality. AFAICT, they are not obliged to aim for anything - the us constitution leaves it up to the state governments to decide what they want to achieve with the districting. Even the anti-gerrymandering judges appear to agree that selfish political aims are allowed as part of the process.

Given that the court is evenly split 4-4, and Justice Kennedy has been signaling that he wants a good rule to hammer gerrymandering, I think you're mistaken. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/wh ... mandering/
Kennedy’s other main question also came straight out of his 2004 opinion. He proposed a hypothetical, asking whether it would be unconstitutional if a state wrote a law explicitly saying that “the overriding concern is to … have a maximum number of votes for party X or party Y.”
At that point Ginsburg, Alito and Kagan all jumped into the debate. It was a hotly contested hypothetical and is likely key to the case, as Kennedy wrote in 2004:

“If a State passed an enactment that declared ‘All future apportionment shall be drawn so as most to burden Party X’s rights to fair and effective representation, …’ we would surely conclude the Constitution had been violated. If that is so, we should admit the possibility remains that a legislature might attempt to reach the same result without that express directive.”
Kennedy didn’t speak during the Wisconsin Democrats’ arguments, but they were clearly speaking to him. Their attorney cited him twice during his arguments, and, as one of their attorneys in lower court, Nicholas Stephanopoulos, told FiveThirtyEight, “Our first Supreme Court brief … cites Anthony Kennedy all over the place and that’s not purely for tactical reasons, it’s actually because he’s said a lot of things that we think our test is consistent with.”
Of course, some of the other justices had plenty to say during the Wisconsin Democrats’ arguments. The most junior justice, Neil Gorsuch, dismissively compared their legal test to the hodgepodge of spices in his steak rub, and Chief Justice Roberts called it “sociological gobbledygook.” But Kennedy sat in silence, taking in a case that was tailor made for him.
Kennedy is asking for a good excuse to tamp down gerrymandering, and he might get his wish since the case has already been heard. It just needs to be decided... by Kennedy.*

* Assumes that liberals will vote against gerrymandering and conservatives will vote for it.


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