TODOS Blog on Voting

TODOS Blog on Voting

The Mathematics of Voting and its Consequences: Ideas for Mathematics Lessons

By Silvia Llamas-Flores, Carlos LópezLeiva, & Kyndall Brown

As the 2018 midterm election approaches, there are many opportunities to engage students in critical issues through mathematics. This blog focuses on specific social justice issues related to voting. We are sharing resources that teachers can use to create lessons. If you are inspired by the information below and develop a lesson, we encourage you to share it with us through the TODOS BLOG, so that other teachers can also implement/adapt your lesson.
The blog starts by focusing on the historic link between democracy and voting and challenges that have emerged over time. The second section of the blog provides resources around a number of currentissues related to policies that tend to restrict voting rights, such as: Inequitable voting requirements across states and people’s status, closure of voting polls, felony disenfranchisement, and gerrymandering. The third section of the blog is dedicated to mathematics lessons on voting. There are some examples with links to previous mathematics lessons on voting. The use of Modeling in a lesson as a mathematical practice is presented as a link between issues of voting and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.
1.     Voting, Democracy, & People’s Voices
2.     Mathematics, Policy, & Voting
3.     Mathematics Lessons & Voting
1.     Voting, Democracy, & People’s Voices
The idea of voting comes from a democratic perspective and practice in which peace is maintained and collective social and political issues are resolved through collective input. What people voice becomes the guide of steps and actions to be implemented. Despite these equity-oriented goals, processes in promoting and sustaining democratic processes are not always equitable thus undermining the integrity of a process called ‘democratic’. The links provided below elaborate on elections, democracy, and and connections between democracy and voting.
1. a. Why elections and voting are important?
-Video on voting and democracy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IndRAsYX4W4
1.b. History of Elections
-What are the Presidential elections?
-Forecast for 2020 elections
2.    Mathematics, Policy and Voting
Mathematics is a tool that can help us assess not only the results of voting in an election process. Mathematics can also help us assess the entire process even before elections take place.  For example, who can or is allowed to vote? Where can you vote? Is accessible?
2.a. Inequitable Voting requirements across states and people’s status
There has been a resurgence of state and local measures to disenfranchise voters of color.  Inequitable voting requirements, such as requiring identification at voting polls, is only one form of voter suppression.  Thirty-four states have introduced legislations that would require voters to show some form of photo identification in order to vote.  The purpose and effect of these restrictive voting laws is to suppress the vote of certain groups of people, including people of color, making voting rights a social justice issue.
-Background Information - voter ID laws, variations of ID laws, breakdown by state:http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/voter-id.aspx
-Voter ID as a form of Suppression - effects of voter ID requirements, challenges of voter ID laws: https://www.americanbar.org/publications/state_local_law_news/2015-16/spring/chapter_10_voter_id_a_form_voter_suppression/
2.b. Closure of voting polls 
The Voting Rights Act was established 53 years ago aimed to protect voters against discrimination. In 2013, Shelby County v. Holder put into jeopardy voter protections by eliminating Section 5, which required jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination to demonstrate that cost savings from polling site closures wouldn’t disadvantage voters of color.  As a result, there has been a widespread effort to close polling sites, many located in areas primarily serving people of color.  A national study reported that out of the 381 counties studied, 165 of them - 43% have reduced voting locations.  For example, in Arizona alone, there have been 212 poll closures since Shelby.  In general, there has been a shift to close polling places on a massive scale across the nation, indicating a movement to suppress people’s right to vote. 
-Suppressing the Black Vote
-Poll Closures - The Effects of Shelby County v. Holder
-Voter Suppression Across the Nation
2.c. Felony disenfranchisement
Felony disenfranchisement refers to the eligibility to of the exclusion of people from voting. This status relates to conviction of a criminal offense, such as: crimes of incarceration for a duration of more than a year, or felony. This status can be permanent or restored after completing a sentence, or probation (Wikipedia).
-Data and statistics on felony disenfranchisement https://www.sentencingproject.org/issues/felony-disenfranchisement/
-Impact of felony disenfranchisement https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports98/vote/
-Collection of articles about felony disenfranchisement https://www.prisonpolicy.org/research/felon_disenfranchisement/
2.d. Gerrymandering
Gerrymandering is a political practice that establishes an advantage to a particular party or group by manipulating the boundaries of a district. The defined district is known as a gerrymander. According to Wikipedia, Gerrymandering uses: "cracking" (i.e. diluting the voting power of the opposing party's supporters across many districts) and "packing" (concentrating the opposing party's voting power in one district to reduce their voting power in other districts).
 
3.     Mathematics Lessons & Voting
Mathematical modeling provides students with opportunities to analyze and understand the world around them by providing insight into real-world phenomena.  The practice of mathematical modeling provides students with opportunities to mathematize the world around them, a practice supported and encouraged by the Common Core Standards.  Modeling can be used as a powerful tool in identifying and finding solutions to practical issues such as those related to social justice, including the many issues surrounding voting and marginalized groups. Such approach has been called, Critical Mathematics Education. For example, a mathematical model can help students mathematize poll closures across the nation while simultaneously looking at the effects these poll closures have on specific groups’ voting rights.  While we provide some resources below that touch on modeling and work in mathematics education related to voting, at the end we invite you to share your lessons and resources with us!
 
3.a. Modeling
Modeling is of the mathematical practices promoted by the Common
Core State Standards for Mathematics and NCTM. This mathematics education approach helps students understand the relevance and applications of mathematical ideas as well as how many everyday activities are mathematical in nature. Links below describe in more details what modelling is and some examples of how this relates to the mathematics standards in education. 
-Video on what is math modeling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHtsuOB-TPw
-Common Core State Standards Modeling http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/HSM/
-California State Board of Education - What is Modeling? https://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Appendix-D-Mathematical-Modeling.pdf
-Think Math - What is modeling with mathematics? http://thinkmath.edc.org/model-mathematics 
3.b. Mathematical modeling and some examples
This section provides some resources useful for teachers interested in promoting the mathematics practice of modeling. These resources include examples of modeling and how this approach can be implemented in the classroom.
Engaging students in the mathematical modeling process https://library.osu.edu/ojs/index.php/OJSM/article/viewFile/5757/4594 
Mathematical modeling, sense making, and the Common Core State Standards http://journals.tc-library.org/index.php/matheducation/article/viewFile/938/583
3.c. Previous work in mathematics education related to voting
Finally, this section describes previous work in mathematics education specifically related to voting.  While not all lessons are specific to mathematics, the ideas relate to teaching and they can be used to mathematize aspects related to voting.  
-Video about voting from University of Wisconsin https://blossoms.mit.edu/videos/lessons/mathematics_voting
 
3.d. Your Turn!!
NOW, it is your turn. We encourage you to get inspired and develop your own lesson plans and activities and share it with us. We will later on include a blog on lessons related to this blog. Please contact and send us  what you develop at: [email protected].org 
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