Hostname: page-component-758b78586c-9l7gn Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-11-29T15:07:13.326Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Partisan Dislocation: A Precinct-Level Measure of Representation and Gerrymandering

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 June 2021

Daryl R. DeFord
Assistant Professor of Data Analytics, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Washington State University, Pullam, WA, USA. E-mail:
Nicholas Eubank
Assistant Research Professor, Duke Social Science Research Institute, Durham, NC, USA. E-mail:
Jonathan Rodden*
Professor, Department of Political Science and Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA. E-mail:
Corresponding author Jonathan Rodden


We introduce a fine-grained measure of the extent to which electoral districts combine and split local communities of co-partisans in unnatural ways. Our indicator—which we term Partisan Dislocation—is a measure of the difference between the partisan composition of a voter’s geographic nearest neighbors and that of her assigned district. We show that our measure is a good local and global indicator of district manipulation, easily identifying instances in which districts carve up clusters of co-partisans (cracking) or combine them in unnatural ways (packing). We demonstrate that our measure is related to but distinct from other approaches to the measurement of gerrymandering, and has some clear advantages, above all as a complement to simulation-based approaches, and as a way to identify the specific neighborhoods most affected by gerrymandering. It can also be used prospectively by district-drawers who wish to create maps that reflect voter geography, but according to our analysis, that goal will sometimes be in conflict with the goal of partisan fairness.

© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for Political Methodology

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.)


Edited by Jeff Gill


Best, R., Donahue, S., Krasno, J., Magleby, D., and McDonald, M. D.. 2018. “Considering the Prospect for the Establishment of a Packing Gerrymandering Standard.” Election Law Journal 17(1):120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bowen, D. 2014. “Boundaries, Redistricting Criteria, and Representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.” American Politics Research 42(5):856895.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chen, J., and Rodden, J.. 2013. “Unintentional Gerrymandering: Political Geography and Electoral Bias in Legislatures.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 8(3):239269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chen, J., and Rodden, J.. 2015. “Cutting through the Thicket: Redistricting Simulations and the Detection of Partisan Gerrymanders.” Election Law Journal 14(4):331345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cho, W. K. T., and Liu, Y. Y.. 2016. “Toward a Talismanic Redistricting Tool: A Computational Method for Identifying Extreme Redistricting Plans.” Election Law Journal 15:351.Google Scholar
Curiel, J., and Steelman, T.. 2018. “Redistricting out Representation: Democratic Harms in Splitting Zip Codes.” Election Law Journal 17(4):328353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DeFord, D., Duchin, M., and Solomon, J.. 2021. “Recombination: A Family of Markov Chains for Redistricting.” Harvard Data Science Review. Scholar
DeFord, D., Eubank, N., and Rodden, J.. 2020a. “Partisan Dislocation: A Precinct-Level Measure of Representation and Gerrymandering.” Code Ocean. Scholar
DeFord, D., Eubank, N., and Rodden, J.. 2020b. “Replication Data for: Partisan Dislocation: A Precinct-Level Measure of Representation and Gerrymandering.”, Harvard Dataverse, V1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grofman, B. 1983. “Measures of Bias and Proportionality in Seats-Votes Relationships.” Political Methodology 9(3):295327.Google Scholar
Grofman, B. 2019. “Tests for Unconstitutional Partisan Gerrymandering in a Post-Gill World.” Election Law Journal 18(2):93115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gudgin, G., and Taylor, P.. 1979. Seats, Votes, and the Spatial Organisation of Elections. London: Pion Limited.Google Scholar
Henderson, J. A., Hamel, B. T., and Goldzimer, A. M.. 2018. “Gerrymandering Incumbency: Does Nonpartisan Redistricting Increase Electoral Competition?The Journal of Politics 80(3):10111016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Herschlag, G., Kang, H. S., Luo, J., Graves, C. V., Bangia, S., Ravier, R., and Mattingly, J. C.. 2020. “Quantifying Gerrymandering in North Carolina.” Statistics and Public Policy 7(1):3038.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Herschlag, G., Ravier, R., and Mattingly, J. C.. 2017. “Evaluating Partisan Gerrymandering in Wisconsin.” arXiv:1709.01596. Scholar
Katz, J. N., King, G., and Rosenblatt, E.. 2020. “Theoretical Foundations and Empirical Evaluations of Partisan Fairness in District-Based Democracies.” American Political Science Review 114(1):164178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kromkowski, C. 2002. Recreating the American Republic: Rules of Apportionment, Constitutional Change, and American Political Development, 1700–1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Magleby, D., and Mosesson, D.. 2018. “A New Approach for Developing Neutral Redistricting Plans.” Political Analysis 26(2):147167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mathematicians’ Amicus Brief 2018. Amicus Brief of Mathematicians, Law Professors, and Students in Support of Appellees and Affirmance. Amicus Brief, Supreme Court of the United States, Rucho et al. v. Common Cause et al.Google Scholar
Mattingly, J. C., and Vaughn, C.. 2014. “Redistricting and the Will of the People.” Scholar
McDonald, M. D., and Best, R. E.. 2015. “Unfair Partisan Gerrymanders in Politics and Law: A Diagnostic Applied to Six Cases.” Election Law Journal 14(4):312330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McGann, A., Smith, C., Latner, M., and Keena, A.. 2016. Gerrymandering in America: The House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and the Future of Popular Sovereignty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Niemi, R., Powell, L., and Bicknell, P.. 1986. “The Effects of Congruity between Community and District on Salience of U.S. House Candidates.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 11:187201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pegden, W. 2017. Pennsylvania’s Congressional Districting Is an Outlier: Expert Report. Expert report submitted in League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, September.Google Scholar
Pegden, W., Rodden, J., and Wang, S.. 2018. Brief of Amici Curiae Professors Wesley Pegden, Jonathan Rodden, and Samuel Wang in Support of Appellees. Supreme Court of the United States, March.Google Scholar
Rehfeld, A. 2008. The Concept of Constituency: Political Representation, Democratic Legitimacy and Institutional Design. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Rodden, J. 2019. Why Cities Lose: The Deep Roots of the Urban-Rural Political Divide. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
Rodden, J., and Weighill, T.. 2020. “Political Geography and Representation: A Case Study of Districting in Pennsylvania.” In Political Geometry, edited by Duchin, M. and O. Walch. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Stashko, A. 2020. Crossing the District Line: Border Mismatch and Targeted Redistribution. Working Paper, University of Utah.Google Scholar
Stephanopoulos, N. 2012. “Spatial Diversity.” Harvard Law Review 125:19032012.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: Link

DeFord et al. Dataset

Supplementary material: PDF

DeFord et al. supplementary material

DeFord et al. supplementary material

Download DeFord et al. supplementary material(PDF)