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Juniata Mathematician to Lecture on Weighted Voting Systems

(Posted October 19, 2011)

Cathy Stenson, associate professor of mathematics

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Most citizens like to believe that democracy runs on the "one person-one vote" equality principal, but the recent gridlock in Washington, D.C. reveals a different equation. Cathy Stenson, associate professor of mathematics at Juniata College, will give a talk explaining why some votes are more equal than others on "Voting, Power and Slices of Cubes" at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 26, in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The lecture is part of the Bookend Seminar Lecture series, which features afternoon lectures each month by Juniata College faculty.

Stenson will outline how the power of a coalition in the House of Representatives or the Senate can be measured. She will explain weighted voting systems, in which different participants have different numbers of votes. For example, the number of votes of a shareholder in a corporation depends on the number of shares owned, and the number of votes of a state in the U.S. Electoral College is the number of representatives of that state in Congress.

The talk will focus on one mathematical measure of voting power, the Banzhaf Power Index, but Stenson will offer a new geometric interpretation of it in terms of slice of cubes. By using a geometric explanation, she will give a new perspective on such questions as: what is the difference between a quota of 51 votes in the Senate and 60 votes in the Senate and why was Olympia Snowe, a Republican senator from Maine, the focus of so much media coverage during the healthcare debate?

Stenson came to Juniata in 2000 from Cornell University after earning her doctorate in mathematics. She earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Brown University in 1994 and a master's degree in mathematics from Cornell University in 1997.

She has developed several new mathematics courses at Juniata, including Combinatorics, The Heart of Mathematics and the Mathematics Seminar. She also oversees research projects for mathematics students.

Her awards and honors include the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 1992 and membership in Phi Beta Kappa. In 2001 she was chosen as a Project NeXT Fellow, a program for new mathematics faculty sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America. Her research interests center on combinatorics and hyperplane arrangements, as well as the applications of mathematics to biology and chemistry

Stenson is a member of the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America and the Association for Women in Mathematics.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.