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The Gerrymanderers Are Coming! Legislative Redistricting Won't Affect Competition or Polarization Much, No Matter Who Does It

Seth E. Masketa1, Jonathan Winburna2 and Gerald C. Wrighta3

a1 University of Denver

a2 University of Mississippi

a3 Indiana University

Abstract

Redistricting received substantial attention in the popular media in 2011, as states redrew state legislative and congressional district boundaries. Many reformers continue to argue for a de-politicization of the redistricting process, claiming that partisan redistricting is responsible for declining electoral competition and increasing legislative polarization. Our analysis of evidence from state legislatures during the last decade suggests that the effects of partisan redistricting on competition and polarization are small, considerably more nuanced than reformers would suggest, and overwhelmed by other aspects of the political environment.

Seth E. Masket is associate professor of political science at the University of Denver. He is the author of No Middle Ground: How Informal Party Organizations Control Nominations and Polarize Legislatures (University of Michigan Press, 2009). He can be reached at smasket@du.edu.

Jonathan Winburn is assistant professor of political science at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of The Realities of Redistricting: Following the Rules and Limiting Gerrymandering in State Legislative Redistricting (Lexington, 2008). He can be reached at jwinburn@olemiss.edu.

Gerald C. Wright is a professor of political science at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is a co-author of Statehouse Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 1994) and numerous articles on elections and representation. He can be reached at wright1@indiana.edu.

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