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Reviving Legislative Avenues for Gerrymandering Reform with a Flexible, Automated Tool

James Saxon

Political Analysis, 2020, vol. 28, issue 3, 372-394

Abstract: After seeking a “manageable standard” to apply to claims of partisan gerrymandering for over three decades, the Supreme Court has finally given up the chase, ruling that such claims are nonjusticiable. What is to be done? An extended history of successful congressional action suggests that the legislative pathway is more practical than often believed. Statutory requirements also make it possible to consider a broader suite of districting objectives. This paper presents a flexible new software and a framework for evaluating the practical implications of explicit objectives. I apply this approach to the conditions last required by Congress, generating equipopulous, contiguous, and compact districts. Among these conditions, the formal definition of compactness has proven contentious. Does it matter? I contrast the representation of the political parties and of racial and ethnic minorities under plans optimized according to 18 different definitions of compactness. On these grounds, the definitions are markedly consistent. These methods may be extended to alternative districting objectives and criteria.

Date: 2020
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