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Enhancing Democracy Through Legislative Redistricting

  • Andrew Gelman (a1) and Gary King (a2)

We demonstrate the surprising benefits of legislative redistricting (including partisan gerrymandering) for American representative democracy. In so doing, our analysis resolves two long-standing controversies in American politics. First, whereas some scholars believe that redistricting reduces electoral responsiveness by protecting incumbents, others, that the relationship is spurious, we demonstrate that both sides are wrong: redistricting increases responsiveness. Second, while some researchers believe that gerrymandering dramatically increases partisan bias and others deny this effect, we show both sides are in a sense correct. Gerrymandering biases electoral systems in favor of the party that controls the redistricting as compared to what would have happened if the other party controlled it, but any type of redistricting reduces partisan bias as compared to an electoral system without redistricting. Incorrect conclusions in both literatures resulted from misjudging the enormous uncertainties present during redistricting periods, making simplified assumptions about the redistricters' goals, and using inferior statistical methods.

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Alan Abramowitz . 1984. “Partisan Redistricting and the 1982 Congressional Elections.” Journal of Politics 45:767–70.

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Gary King , and Andrew Gelman . 1991. “Systemic Consequences of Incumbency Advantage in the U.S. House.” American Journal of Political Science 35:110–38.

Richard Niemi , and Simon Jackman . 1991. “Bias and Responsiveness in State Legislative Districting.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 16:183202.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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