Our Story

Welcome to the Institute for COmputational Redistricting (ICOR), housed in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Gerrymandering has become an issue of widespread national concern, with implications on our nation's democratic process. Our mission is to provide transparent approaches for redistricting grounded in computational methods, which serves the needs and values of the people. Our vision is that governments and legislative bodies adopt transparent redistricting processes that empower all voters to express their choices for the elected officials who will represent them. Our research group conducts computational research for redistricting, focusing on optimization-based AI, operations research, and game theory, with an eye to apply such methods to redistricting problems at the national, state, and local levels. We are not seeking to define fair district maps, since with numerous conflicting fairness measures, fair district maps rarely (if ever) exist. Our hope is to design and apply computational methods to combat gerrymandering by creating a transparent environment under which district maps can be discussed, debated, and evaluated.

Research

Peer-Reviewed Research Papers

King, D.M., Jacobson, S.H., Sewell, E.C., 2018, “The Geo-Graph in Practice: Creating United States Congressional Districts from Census Blocks,” Computational Optimization and Applications, 69(1), 25-49. Click here for pdf.

King, D.M., Jacobson, S.H., Sewell, E.C., 2015, “Efficient Geo-Graph Contiguity and Hole Algorithms for Geographic Zoning and Dynamic Plane Graph Partitioning,” Mathematical Programming, 149(1&2), 425-457. Click here for pdf.

King, D.M., Jacobson, S.H., Sewell, E.C., Cho, W.K. Tam, 2012, “Geo-Graphs: An Efficient Model for Enforcing Contiguity and Hole Constraints in Planar Graph Partitioning,” Operations Research, 60(5), 1213-1228. Click here for pdf.

Awards

"Political Districting with Fairness Objectives: An Optimization-Based Multilevel Approach," Rahul Swamy, Douglas M. King, and Sheldon H. Jacobson

  • Finalist, Best Paper Award, INFORMS Public Sector Operations Research, 2018.

  • First Place, Poster Competition, INFORMS Annual Meeting, Phoenix AZ, 2018.

"The Geo-Graph in Practice: Creating United States Congressional Districts from Census Blocks," Douglas M. King, Sheldon H. Jacobson, Edward C. Sewell

  • Finalist, Best Paper Award, INFORMS Section on Public Policy, Services and Needs, 2012.

"Graph theory models and algorithms for political districting: an approach to inform public policy," Douglas M. King

  • 2nd Place, IISE Pritsker Doctoral Dissertation Award, 2013

Upcoming Talks

  • Invited Presentation, “Creating a Transparent Environment for Political Redistricting Using Districting Algorithms,” University of Southern California, 13 November 2019, Los Angeles, California.

  • Contributed Presentation (with I.G. Ludden, R. Swamy, D.M. King), "A Bisection Protocol for Political Redistricting," INFORMS National Meeting, 19-23 October 2019, Seattle, Washington.

  • Invited Presentation (with R. Swamy, D.M. King), “Multi-objective Optimization for Political Districting: A Scalable Multilevel Approach,” INFORMS National Meeting, 19-23 October 2019, Seattle, Washington.

  • Invited Presentation (with E.C. Sewell, D.M. King), “Contiguity Constraints in Geographic Districting,” INFORMS National Meeting, 19-23 October 2019, Seattle, Washington.

  • Invited Presentation (with R. Swamy, D.M. King), “Transparency versus Fairness in Political Redistricting,” INFORMS National Meeting, 19-23 October 2019, Seattle, Washington.

  • Invited Presentation, “Creating a Transparent Environment for Political Redistricting Using Districting Algorithms,” “Algorithmic Districting and its Role in Addressing Gerrymandering,” Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri, 13 September 2019, Columbia, Missouri.

Past Talks

  • Contributed Presentation (with R. Swamy, D.M. King), “A Multi-criteria Approach to Political Redistricting," Euro-OR, 23-26 June 2019, Dublin, Ireland.

  • Invited Presentation, “Algorithmic Districting and its Role in Addressing Gerrymandering,” American College of Physicians Spouses Program, 10 April 2019, Philadelphia, PA.

  • Invited Presentation, “Creating a Transparent Environment for Political Redistricting Using Districting Algorithms,” University of Buffalo, 29 March 2019, Buffalo, NY.

  • Invited Panelist, “Redistricting Reform,” Big Ten Strategic Partnership for Applied Redistricting Knowledge (SPARK) Conference, University of Maryland, 4-5 March 2019.

  • Invited Seminar, “Efficient Methods for Enforcing Contiguity Constraints in Geographic Districting Problems (GDPs),” University of Kentucky, 21 February 2019, Lexington, KY.

  • Contributed Session (with R Swamy, DM King), INFORMS Annual Meeting, 4-7 November 2018, “Multi-objective Optimization for Political Districting With Explicit Fairness Considerations," Phoenix, AZ.

  • Contributed Session (with DM King, EC Sewell), SIAM Conference on Discrete Mathematics, June 4-8, 2018, “Efficient Methods for Enforcing Contiguity in Geographic Districting Problems,” Denver, Colorado.

  • Invited Seminar, “Efficient Methods for Enforcing Contiguity Constraints in Geographic Districting Problems (GDPs),” Rice University, 11 April 2018, Houston, TX.

  • Invited Presentation, Atlanta INFORMS Chapter, 29 March 2018, “Politics, Gerrymandering, and Dancing Pigs,” Atlanta, GA.

  • Presentation (with D.M. King, E.C. Sewell), “Scalable Contiguity Assessments in Practical Political Districting,“ 2017 INFORMS Annual Meeting, 21-25 October 2017, Houston, TX.

  • Presentation (with R. Swamy, D.M. King), “Multilevel Geo-graph Framework For The Political Districting Problem,“ 2017 INFORMS Annual Meeting, 21-25 October 2017, Houston, TX.

  • Invited Seminar, “Efficient Methods for Enforcing Contiguity Constraints in Geographic Districting Problems (GDPs),” Operations Research Center, MIT, 12 October 2017, Cambridge, MA

  • Invited Presentation (with D.M. King, E.C. Sewell), 2015 INFORMS Annual Meeting, October 31-November 3, 2015, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, “An Efficient Contiguity-enforcement Algorithm for Practical Geographic Districting Problems.”

Media Coverage

(9 July 2019) Coastal Daybreak with Ben Ball, WTKF FM107, Morehead City, NC. Interview with Sheldon H. Jacobson on the Supreme Court opinion on gerrymandering and how algorithms can be used to address the problem.

(3 April 2018) Technology holds the key to redistricting reform (Houston Chronicle, Jay K. Aiyer (opinion)) draws on research by Sheldon H. Jacobson to argue that artificial intelligence and algorithms can help solve the problem of gerrymandering in drawing political boundaries.

(4 October 2017) Can Algorithms Put a Stop to Partisan Gerrymandering? (Pacific Standard, Emily Moon)

(3 October 2017) Algorithms Supercharged Gerrymandering. We Should Use Them to Fix it (Motherboard, Daniel Oberhaus)

(12 September 2017) It is time to set political boundaries (Innovators Magazine)

(11 September 2017) Congressional redistricting less contentious when resolved using computer algorithm (Illinois News Bureau, Lois Yoksoulian)

(11 September 2017) New Algorithm Makes Congressional Redistricting More Equitable to Constituents (Electronics360, Siobhan Treacy)

Our Team

This is a STEM Learning Laboratory, supervised by Professor Sheldon H. Jacobson (Department of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Senior Lecturer Douglas M. King (Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). Jacobson is a member of the Big Ten Strategic Partnership for Applied Redistricting Knowledge (SPARK). Mike Fortner (Northern Illinois University) is also collaborating on this effort.

Graduate Students

Ian Ludden
PhD student, Computer Science
Rahul Swamy
PhD student, Industrial Engineering

Contact Us

Outreach

For comments and feedback, send an email to shj@illinois.edu.

Follow us on twitter: @shjanalytics.

Media requests? Send an email to shj@illinois.edu  or call 217-244-7275.

How You Can Help

If you would like to support the ongoing STEM student development activities for this project, tax-deductible contributions can be made to the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois. Under "Your Gift. Your Choice", type "Computational Redistricting Project". THANK YOU for your support.

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