Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-cf9d5c678-5wlnc Total loading time: 0.643 Render date: 2021-07-27T18:32:21.092Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Gerrymandering in Electoral Autocracies: Evidence from Hong Kong

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2017


To authoritarian rulers, holding somewhat competitive elections enhances legitimacy, but entails political risks. Committing electoral fraud can secure victory, but may jeopardize regime legitimacy. However, there is a tool of electoral manipulation that allows authoritarian rulers to reduce electoral risk while preserving legitimacy: gerrymandering. This article undertakes a systematic study of gerrymandering in Hong Kong, using a dataset that documents boundary changes at the level of residential buildings. The empirical findings show a significant partisan bias in electoral redistricting: opposition constituencies are more likely to be redistricted. Redistricting, however, fails to deter opposition incumbents from seeking re-election. No significant negative relationship is found between redistricting and opposition incumbents’ vote share, although redistricting does reduce their overall chances of re-election. The results suggest that gerrymandering, which involves the use of packing and cracking strategies in different districts, can be employed to undermine the aggregate electoral performance of the opposition parties.

© Cambridge University Press 2017 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Department of Applied Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (email: I thank the three anonymous reviewers, Martin Dimitrov, Barbara Geddes, Bernard Grofman, Franziska Keller, Karl Ho, Iris Hui, Lianjiang Li, Ngok Ma, Dorothy Solinger, Hiroki Takeuchi and Daniel Treisman for helpful comments. I am grateful to Kelvin Chan and Tim Tang for excellent research assistance. All remaining errors are my own. The research is funded by an internal grant of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Data replication sets are available at

References . 2008. ‘Zimbabwe: The Art of Gerrymandering’, 22 March.Google Scholar
Ansolabehere, Stephen, Snyder, James M. Jr., and Stewart, Charles III. 2000. Old Voters, New Voters, and the Personal Vote: Using Redistricting to Measure the Incumbency Advantage. American Journal of Political Science 44 (1):1734.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Birch, Sarah. 2011. Electoral Malpractice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Box-Steffensmeier, Janet M., and Jones, Bradford S.. 2004. Event History Modeling: A Guide for Social Scientists. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bunce, Valerie, and Wolchik, Sharon L.. 2006. Favorable Conditions and Electoral Revolutions. Journal of Democracy 17 (4):518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cain, Bruce, Ferejohn, John, and Fiorina, Morris. 1987. The Personal Vote: Constituency Service and Electoral Independence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carter, David B., and Signorino, Curtis S.. 2010. Back to the Future: Modeling Time Dependence in Binary Data. Political Analysis 18 (3):271292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Case, William. 2004. New Uncertainties for an Old Pseudo-democracy: The Case of Malaysia. Comparative Politics 37 (1):83104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Case, William. 2005. Southeast Asia’s Hybrid Regimes: When Do Voters Change Them? Journal of East Asian Studies 5 (2):215237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cheibub, José Antonio, Gandhi, Jennifer, and Vreeland, James Raymond. 2010. Democracy and Dictatorship Revisited. Public Choice 143 (1):67101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Coakley, John. 2008. Electoral Redistricting in Ireland. In Redistricting in Comparative Perspective, edited by Lisa Handley and Bernard Grofman, 155172. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Cox, Gary W., and Katz, Jonathan N.. 1996. Why Did the Incumbency Advantage in US House Elections Grow? American Journal of Political Science 40 (2):478497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cox, Gary W., and Katz, Jonathan N.. 2002. Elbridge Gerry’s Salamander: The Electoral Consequences of the Reapportionment Revolution. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crespin, Michael H. 2005. Using Geographic Information Systems to Measure District Change, 2000–2002. Political Analysis 13 (3):253260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Democratic Party. 2011., accessed 9 August 9 2012.Google Scholar
Desposato, Scott W., and Petrocik, John R.. 2003. The Variable Incumbency Advantage: New Voters, Redistricting, and the Personal Vote. American Journal of Political Science 47 (1):1832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Diaz-Cayeros, Alberto, Magaloni, Beatriz, and Weingast, Barry R.. 2003. Tragic Brilliance: Equilibrium Hegemony and Democratization in Mexico. Manuscript. Available at Scholar
Donno, Daniela. 2013. Defending Democratic Norms: International Actors and the Politics of Electoral Misconduct. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Electoral Affairs Commission. 2003. Report on the Recommended Constituency Boundaries for the 2011 District Council Election. Available from 2003dc_boundary_report.htm.Google Scholar
Electoral Affairs Commission. 2011. Report on the Recommended Constituency Boundaries for the 2011 District Council Election. Available from 2011dc_boundary_v1_report.htm.Google Scholar
Electoral Affairs Commission. 2013. Terms of Reference. Available from Scholar
Electoral Boundaries Review Committee. 2015. White Paper on the Report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee 2015. Available from White%20Paper%20on%20the%20Report%20of%20the%20Electoral%20Boundaries%20Review%20Committee%202015.pdf#zoom=100, accessed 6 November 2015.Google Scholar
Erikson, Robert S. 1972. Malapportionment, Gerrymandering, and Party Fortunes in Congressional Elections. American Political Science Review 66 (4):12341245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Geddes, Barbara. 2005. Why Parties and Elections in Authoritarian Regimes? Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington DC, 1 September.Google Scholar
Gelman, Andrew, and King, Gary. 1994. Enhancing Democracy Through Legislative Redistricting. American Political Science Review 88 (3):541559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grace, Jeremy. 2006. Singapore: Drawing Districts to Ensure Super-Majorities in the Parliament. In Delimitation Equity Project Resource Guide, edited by Lisa Handley. Washington DC: International Foundation for Electoral Systems.Google Scholar
Grofman, Bernard. 1985. Criteria for Districting a Social Science Perspective. UCLA Law Review 33:77184.Google Scholar
Grofman, Bernard, and Brunell, Thomas L.. 2005. The Art of the Dummymander: The Impact of Recent Redistrictings on the Partisan Makeup of Southern House Seats. In Redistricting in the New Millennium , edited by Peter F. Galderisi, 183199. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
Hayes, Danny, and McKee, Seth C.. 2009. The Participatory Effects of Redistricting. American Journal of Political Science 53 (4):10061023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hetherington, Marc J., Larson, Bruce, and Globetti, Suzanne. 2003. The Redistricting Cycle and Strategic Candidate Decisions in US House Races. Journal of Politics 65 (4):12211234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hong Kong Housing Authority. 2012. Housing in Figures 2012. Available from index.html#p2.Google Scholar
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. 2013. Electoral Affairs Commission Ordinance.Google Scholar
Hyde, Susan D. 2007. The Observer Effect in International Politics: Evidence from a Natural Experiment. World Politics 60 (1):3763.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jadaliyya . 2013. ‘Gerrymandering in Bahrain: Twenty-One Persons, One Vote’, 11 February.Google Scholar
Johnston, Ron. 2002. Manipulating Maps and Winning Elections: Measuring the Impact of Malapportionment and Gerrymandering. Political Geography 21 (1):131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kuntz, Philipp, and Thompson, Mark R.. 2009. More than Just the Final Straw: Stolen Elections as Revolutionary Triggers. Comparative Politics 41 (3):253272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levitsky, Steven, and Way, Lucan A.. 2010. Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lust-Okar, Ellen. 2006. Elections under Authoritarianism: Preliminary Lessons from Jordan. Democratization 13 (3):456471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lust-Okar, Ellen. 2009. Legislative Elections in Hegemonic Authoritarian Regimes: Competitive Clientelism and Resistance to Democratization. In Democratization by Elections: A New Mode of Transition, edited by Staffan I. Lindberg, 226245. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
Magaloni, Beatriz. 2006. Voting for Autocracy: Hegemonic Party Survival and its Demise in Mexico. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Magaloni, Beatriz. 2010. The Game of Electoral Fraud and the Ousting of Authoritarian Rule. American Journal of Political Science 54 (3):751765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Malesky, Edmund. 2009. Gerrymandering Vietnamese Style: Escaping the Partial Reform Equilibrium in a Nondemocratic Regime. The Journal of Politics 71 (1):132159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Manion, Melanie. 1996. The Electoral Connection in the Chinese Countryside. American Political Science Review 90 (4):736748.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ming Pao Daily. 2011. ‘Foxy Data Leak Donors of the Pan-Democracy Camp’, 18 October.Google Scholar
New York Times. 2007. ‘Zimbabwe Political Standoff May Be Easing’, 21 September.Google Scholar
Norris, Pippa. 2014. Why Electoral Integrity Matters. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rush, Mark E. 2000. Redistricting and Partisan Fluidity: Do We Really Know a Gerrymander When We See One? Political Geography 19 (2):249260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schedler, Andreas. 2002. The Menu of Manipulation. Journal of Democracy 13 (2):3650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schedler, Andreas. 2006. Electoral Authoritarianism: The Dynamics of Unfree Competition. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.Google Scholar
Simpser, Alberto. 2013. Why Governments and Parties Manipulate Elections: Theory, Practice, and Implications. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stokes, Susan C. 2005. Perverse Accountability: A Formal Model of Machine Politics with Evidence from Argentina. American Political Science Review 99 (3):315325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tan, Kevin Y. L. 2011. Constitutional Law in Singapore. Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands: Kluwer Law International.Google Scholar
Tan, Netina. 2013. Manipulating Electoral Laws in Singapore. Electoral Studies 32 (4):632643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tarre, Alejandro. 2011. Venezuela’s Legislative Elections: Arm Wrestling with Hugo Chavez. Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 35:137144.Google Scholar
Tucker, Joshua A. 2007. Enough! Electoral Fraud, Collective Action Problems, and Post-communist Colored Revolutions. Perspectives on Politics 5 (3):535551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wahman, Michael, Teorell, Jan, and Hadenius, Axel. 2013. Authoritarian Regime Types Revisited: Updated Data in Comparative Perspective. Contemporary Politics 19 (1):1934.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wong, Stan Hok-Wui. 2014. Resource Disparity and Multi-Level Elections in Competitive Authoritarian Regimes: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Hong Kong. Electoral Studies 33:200219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wong, Stan Hok-Wui. 2015. Electoral Politics in post-1997 Hong Kong: Protest, Patronage, and the Media. Singapore: Springer Singapore.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yoshinaka, Antoine, and Murphy, Chad. 2011. The Paradox of Redistricting: How Partisan Mapmakers Foster Competition but Disrupt Representation. Political Research Quarterly 64 (2):435447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Gerrymandering in Electoral Autocracies: Evidence from Hong Kong
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Gerrymandering in Electoral Autocracies: Evidence from Hong Kong
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Gerrymandering in Electoral Autocracies: Evidence from Hong Kong
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *