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Public choice principles of redistricting

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  • Thomas Gilligan

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  • John Matsusaka

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Abstract

This paper uses fundamental principles of public choice, mainly the median voter theorem, to develop a simple theory of redistricting. The focus is on how closely policy outcomes correspond to majority rule. The main results are: (1) Potential policy bias in favor of nonmajority groups is structurally linked to the number of legislative seats and the population, and the structure of most states puts them very close to the theoretically maximum bias. (2) Random districting, which might seem like the essence of neutrality, does not eliminate policy bias on average. (3) Traditional principles of compact, contiguous districts that respect existing political boundaries, stressed in the Supreme Court’s Shaw v. Reno decision, minimize the chance of nonmajoritarian outcomes. Our analysis also offers a gerrymandering explanation for the positive relation between seats and spending that is usually taken as support for the “Law of 1/n.” Copyright Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2006

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Gilligan & John Matsusaka, 2006. "Public choice principles of redistricting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 129(3), pages 381-398, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:129:y:2006:i:3:p:381-398
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-006-9062-8
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s11127-006-9062-8
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. John Bradbury & W. Crain, 2005. "Legislative district configurations and fiscal policy in American States," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 125(3), pages 385-407, December.
    2. 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.
    3. Dalenberg, Douglas R & Duffy-Deno, Kevin T, 1991. "At-Large versus Ward Elections: Implications for Public Infrastructure," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 70(3), pages 335-342, June.
    4. Reza Baqir, 2002. "Districting and Government Overspending," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1318-1354, December.
    5. Matsusaka, John G, 2000. "Fiscal Effects of the Voter Initiative in the First Half of the Twentieth Century," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(2), pages 619-650, October.
    6. Katerina Sherstyuk, 1998. "How to gerrymander: A formal analysis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 95(1), pages 27-49, April.
    7. Gilligan, Thomas W & Matsusaka, John G, 1995. "Deviations from Constituent Interests: The Role of Legislative Structure and Political Parties in the States," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(3), pages 383-401, July.
    8. Gilligan, Thomas W & Matsusaka, John G, 1999. "Structural Constraints on Partisan Bias under the Efficient Gerrymander," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 100(1-2), pages 65-84, July.
    9. Mueller,Dennis C., 2003. "Public Choice III," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521894753, April.
    10. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416-416.
    11. repec:cup:apsrev:v:95:y:2001:i:03:p:673-687_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Matsusaka, John G, 1995. "Fiscal Effects of the Voter Initiative: Evidence from the Last 30 Years," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 587-623, June.
    13. Bradbury, John Charles & Crain, W. Mark, 2001. "Legislative organization and government spending: cross-country evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 309-325, December.
    14. Weingast, Barry R & Shepsle, Kenneth A & Johnsen, Christopher, 1981. "The Political Economy of Benefits and Costs: A Neoclassical Approach to Distributive Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 642-664, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bracco, Emanuele, 2013. "Optimal districting with endogenous party platforms," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 1-13.
    2. Jan Schnellenbach & Lars Feld & Christoph Schaltegger, 2010. "The impact of referendums on the centralisation of public goods provision: a political economy approach," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 3-26, February.
    3. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2010. "Strategic Redistricting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1616-1641, September.
    4. 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.
    5. Feld, Lars P. & Schaltegger, Christoph A. & Schnellenbach, Jan, 2008. "On government centralization and fiscal referendums," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(4), pages 611-645, May.
    6. Justin Svec & James Hamilton, 2015. "Endogenous voting weights for elected representatives and redistricting," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 434-441, December.
    7. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2007. "Competitive Redistricting," Levine's Bibliography 321307000000000748, UCLA Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Redistricting; Voting rights; Median voter;

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