Randomizing Districts for Reelections: A Thought Experiment

30 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2011 Last revised: 21 Apr 2011

See all articles by Scott Wentland

Scott Wentland

Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)

Peter C. Stone

Trinity College (Dublin); Stanford University


Legislators depend upon their respective electoral districts for reelection. As a result, they face incentives to advance the interests of their constituencies, even when those interested are at odds with the wider interests of the country as a whole. These incentives generate logrolling, pork barrel projects, and other effects that are potentially detrimental to the national interest. Any solution to these problems would have to align the interests of legislators more closely with the national interest. This paper explores one possible proposal for accomplishing this aim. The proposal would require candidates seeking legislative election (or reelection) to run in different districts for primary and general elections. While a candidate would be at liberty to seek nomination by a particular party in any district she chooses, once nominated she would be required to face the candidates of other parties in another district selected at random. The result would be that legislators would make decisions behind what we call a veil of randomness.Our paper describes such a rule, including its philosophical and economic underpinnings, and subsequently demonstrates how the rule changes each politician’s preference function to align with a more universal interest. It concludes by reflecting upon the lessons of this proposal for the project of institutional reform.

Suggested Citation

Wentland, Scott and Stone, Peter C., Randomizing Districts for Reelections: A Thought Experiment. Western Political Science Association 2011 Annual Meeting Paper , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1767079

Scott Wentland (Contact Author)

Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) ( email )

1441 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20910
United States

Peter C. Stone

Trinity College (Dublin) ( email )

2-3 College Green
Dublin, 2

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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