Mathematics professor to discuss citizen involvement in statewide redistricting at BHSU Geek Speak

Author: BHSU Communications/Monday, March 19, 2018/Categories: Events, College of Business and Natural Sciences, Community, Faculty, 2018

As the U.S. prepares for the 2020 Census, and the redrawing of legislative district lines that will follow, a professor at Black Hills State University is introducing ways for citizens to propose their own district lines using computer software.

In his Geek Speak, “The Geometry of Redistricting,” Dr. Daniel Swenson, associate professor of mathematics at BHSU, will discuss the impact redistricting has on political decisions and the population’s representation. His presentation will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 22 in Jonas 110. All Geek Speaks are free and open to the public.

Swenson will also be featured on the “In the Moment” radio show on South Dakota Public Broadcasting Thursday, March 22 at 11:37 a.m. to preview his Geek Speak lecture. Tune in to SDPB or listen live online at

Legislative district lines for the U.S. House of Representatives (and also state legislatures around the nation) will be redrawn following the 2020 Census. Legislators have an incentive to propose boundary lines that will protect their own chances of re-election, and that will benefit their own party in other races.

“How we draw our district lines has a lot to do with who is elected and what the makeup of our representation looks like,” Swenson says. “That effects everyone who lives in this country."

While South Dakota sends only one representative to the House of Representatives, state lines must still be redrawn for statewide races. 

Swenson says individual citizens can make an impact on their legislators’ decisions. He explained that there is software available to the public that helps them create their own district maps for their home state. The software helps users include the correct number of people in each district, satisfy requirements, and simplify the process. These citizen-drawn maps can then be sent to legislators.

Swenson believes this topic is not a partisan issue. “Gerrymandering is a serious issue for voters of all stripes. When politicians draw district lines to benefit themselves, they are trying to take power away from voters,” Swenson comments.

Swenson hopes that attendees will leave the program with a better understanding of the way redistricting effects our daily politics and the ability to create their own maps in an effort to keep redistricting fair.

The Geek Speak lecture series, sponsored by the BHSU Honors program, features academic discussion and topics not normally discussed in the traditional classroom. The goal of the weekly lectures is to expose students and the community to diversity within the disciplines. Some Geek Speaks are also presented at the Jacket Zone store located on Main Street in downtown Spearfish. All lectures are free and open to the public.
  • April 5: “Sustainability, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Making the Connection” by Petrika Peters, sustainability coordinator for BHSU
  • April 12: "Rebel Girl: Celebrating a Century of Exchange Between American Popular Music and Feminism” by Dr. Dan May, assistant professor of mathematics, and Dr. Laura Colmenero-Chilberg, professor of sociology
  • April 19: "Artificial vs. Human Intelligence: The Coming Conflict Over the Definition of Rationality” by Dr. Max Marc, associate professor of management
  • April 26: “From Bach to Braindrill: Exploring the similarities between Metal and Classical music and fandom” by Dr. David Berberick, assistant professor of music
  • University Honors Capstone Defenses. Please join us as our Honors Scholars defend their capstone work to graduate as International University Scholars, University Scholars, and Research Scholars. Refreshments will be served. Please note: these defenses are held at the Joy Center.
    • Tuesday, April 24:  3-5 p.m.
    • Wednesday, April 25:  3-5 p.m.
    • Monday, April 30: 3-5 p.m.
    • Tuesday, May 1:  3-5 p.m.

To read short descriptions of each lecture topic, visit 
For more information, contact Dr. Courtney Huse Wika, director of the University Honors Program and associate professor of English, at 605-642-6918 or email

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