Sampling Balanced Forests of Grids in Polynomial TimeSarah Cannonhttps://www1.cmc.edu/pages/faculty/SCannon/Wesley Pegdenhttps://www.math.cmu.edu/~wes/meproceedings2024JuneSTOCACM Symposium on Theory of Computinghttp://acm-stoc.org/stoc2024/USAVancouver, CanadaarXivhttps://arxiv.org/abs/2310.1515220 minute STOC talkhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5OMYie3-FI60 minute talk at Quasiworldhttps://youtu.be/_zzcBYWlEmg?si=SxxiYqjsGuGTQEiV&t=542We prove that a polynomial fraction of the set of k-component forests in the m x n grid graph have equal numbers of vertices in each component, for any constant k. This resolves a conjecture of Charikar, Liu, Liu, and Vuong, and establishes the first provably polynomial-time algorithm for (exactly or approximately) sampling balanced grid graph partitions according to the spanning tree distribution, which weights each k-partition according to the product, across its k pieces, of the number of spanning trees of each piece. Our result follows from a careful analysis of the probability a uniformly random spanning tree of the grid can be cut into balanced pieces.
Beyond grids, we show that for a broad family of lattice-like graphs, we achieve balance up to any multiplicative (1 +/- epsilon) constant with constant probability, and up to an additive constant with polynomial probability. More generally, we show that, with constant probability, components derived from uniform spanning trees can approximate any given partition of a planar region specified by Jordan curves. These results imply polynomial time algorithms for sampling approximately balanced tree-weighted partitions for lattice-like graphs.
Our results have applications to understanding political districtings, where there is an underlying graph of indivisible geographic units that must be partitioned into k population-balanced connected subgraphs. In this setting, tree-weighted partitions have interesting geometric properties, and this has stimulated significant effort to develop methods to sample them.