WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY)- Two William & Mary professors created a tool to measure racial segregation in voting districts across the nation.

Salvatore Saporito, professor of sociology, originally devised the method to determine if school districts are racially segregated. He teamed up with Associate Professor of Government Dan Maliniak to apply the tool to voting districts.

“At the end of the day, voters want to feel like they have a representative who represents them and they have a system that is fair. So, I think in the way these lines are drawn, sort of directly determine how their representation matters,” Maliniak said.

The two partnered with the university’s Center for Geospatial Analysis to create a map to demonstrate segregation in districts throughout the country. They said that gerrymandering districts mean segregating voters. Black voters, they said, largely lean to the left politically.

“When I applied my method, I discovered pretty quickly that a lot of legislative districts are segregated by race,” Saporito said. “The amount of segregation we saw in some districts is pretty alarming.”

They said that while “gerrymandering” typically brings to mind bizarrely shaped districts, political parties and special interest groups are cunning in their use of data to create ordinarily-shaped districts that still skew the racial representation of their electorates.

“We all have in our head this idea, this really squiggly line, carefully drawn to grab certain communities, not others,” Maliniak said. “You would say, ‘Wow the districts don’t look particularly odd.'”

One egregious example, they said, is Alabama’s 7th Congressional District. Saporito said the ideal segregation score is 0. Alabama District 7’s score is 18.74.

“Sal and I are looking at the analogy of balls and strikes,” Maliniak said. “But, Alabama is a ball in the dirt. There’s no way anyone can agree that is a fair district.”

Virginia districts, they say, fare well against their tool.

“It turns out that in Virginia, at least in congressional districts in 2020, there’s not anything peculiar going on,” Saporito said.

Virginia’s congressional districts were decided by a special master appointed by the State Supreme Court after Republicans and Democrats couldn’t find common ground.

Since the 2020 Census and ensuing redistricting across the nation, case law has established that to challenge district maps, a plaintiff must reside in the district in question. Maliniak said it’s important for voters to know whether they’re fairly represented in the democratic process.

“Even though you have the right to vote, by packing so many people into the same district, that’s decreasing their ability to have as much influence in the larger process,” Maliniak said. “So you want to know that your district looks a little like your community so they’re making decisions for your community.”

To try the tool, CLICK HERE.