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Optimal Gerrymandering: Sometimes Pack, but Never Crack

Author

Listed:
  • John N. Friedman
  • Richard T. Holden

Abstract

Standard intuitions for optimal gerrymandering involve concentrating one's extreme opponents in "unwinnable" districts ("packing") and spreading one's supporters evenly over "winnable" districts ("cracking"). These intuitions come from models with either no uncertainty about voter preferences or only two voter types. In contrast, we characterize the solution to a problem in which a gerrymanderer observes a noisy signal of voter preferences from a continuous distribution and creates N districts of equal size to maximize the expected number of districts she wins. Under mild regularity conditions, we show that cracking is never optimal—one's most ardent supporters should be grouped together. Moreover, for sufficiently precise signals, the optimal solution involves creating a district that matches extreme "Republicans" with extreme "Democrats," and then continuing to match toward the center of the signal distribution. (JEL D72)

Suggested Citation

  • John N. Friedman & Richard T. Holden, 2008. "Optimal Gerrymandering: Sometimes Pack, but Never Crack," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 113-144, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:98:y:2008:i:1:p:113-44
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.98.1.113
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Puppe, Clemens & Tasnádi, Attila, 2009. "Optimal redistricting under geographical constraints: Why "pack and crack" does not work," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 93-96, October.
    2. Ebonya Washington, 2012. "Do Majority-Black Districts Limit Blacks' Representation? The Case of the 1990 Redistricting," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(2), pages 251-274.
    3. Clemens Puppe & Attila Tasnádi, 2015. "Axiomatic districting," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 44(1), pages 31-50, January.
    4. Justin Svec & James Hamilton, 2015. "Endogenous voting weights for elected representatives and redistricting," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 434-441, December.
    5. Ebonya L. Washington, 2011. "Do Majority Black Districts Limit Blacks' Representation? The Case of the 1990 Redistricting," NBER Working Papers 17099, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2007. "Competitive Redistricting," Levine's Bibliography 321307000000000748, UCLA Department of Economics.
    7. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2010. "Strategic Redistricting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1616-1641, September.
    8. N. Chesterley & P. Roberti, 2016. "Populism and Institutional Capture," Working Papers wp1086, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    9. Bittó, Virág, 2017. "Az Imperiali és Macau politikai választókörzet-kiosztási módszerek empirikus vizsgálata
      [Empirical Analysis of the Imperiali and Macau Apportionment Methods]
      ," MPRA Paper 79554, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Stephen Coate & Brian Knight, 2007. "Socially Optimal Districting: A Theoretical and Empirical Exploration," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1409-1471.
    11. Tim Willems, 2014. "You Can Go Your Own Way: Explaining Partisan Support for Independence," Economics Series Working Papers 717, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    12. repec:lan:wpaper:616564 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Pei Li & Yi Lu & Tuan-Heww Sng, 2017. "Artificial Administrative Boundaries: Evidence from China," CEH Discussion Papers 09, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    14. Corbett A. Grainger, 2010. "Redistricting and Polarization: Who Draws the Lines in California?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(3), pages 545-567.
    15. Belin Thomas R & Fischer Heidi J & Zigler Corwin M, 2011. "Using a Density-Variation/Compactness Measure to Evaluate Redistricting Plans for Partisan Bias and Electoral Responsiveness," Statistics, Politics and Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 2(1), pages 1-27, May.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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