Revealing Preferences: Why Gerrymanders are Hard to Prove, and What to Do about It

62 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2015  

Micah Altman

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries; The Brookings Institution

Brian Amos

University of Florida

Michael P. McDonald

University of Florida

Daniel A. Smith

University of Florida - Department of Political Science

Date Written: March 22, 2015

Abstract

Gerrymandering requires illicit intent. We classify six proposed methods to infer the intent of a redistricting authority using a formal framework for causal inferences that encompasses the redistricting process from the release of census data to the adoption of a final plan. We argue all proposed techniques to detect gerrymandering can be classified within this formal framework. Courts have, at one time or another, weighed evidence using one or more of these methods to assess racial or partisan gerrymandering claims. We describe the assumptions underlying each method, raising some heretofore unarticulated critiques revealed by laying bare their assumptions. We then review how these methods were employed in the 2014 Florida district court ruling that the state legislature violated a state constitutional prohibition on partisan gerrymandering, and propose standards that advocacy groups and courts can impose upon redistricting authorities to ensure they are held accountable if they adopt a partisan gerrymander.

Keywords: Gerrymandering, Redistricting, Revealed Preferences

Suggested Citation

Altman, Micah and Amos, Brian and McDonald, Michael P. and Smith, Daniel A., Revealing Preferences: Why Gerrymanders are Hard to Prove, and What to Do about It (March 22, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2583528 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2583528

Micah Altman

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

HOME PAGE: http://informatics.mit.edu

The Brookings Institution ( email )

1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

HOME PAGE: http://informatics.mit.edu

Brian Amos

University of Florida ( email )

PO Box 117165, 201 Stuzin Hall
Gainesville, FL 32610-0496
United States

Michael P. McDonald (Contact Author)

University of Florida ( email )

PO Box 117165, 201 Stuzin Hall
Gainesville, FL 32610-0496
United States

Daniel A. Smith

University of Florida - Department of Political Science ( email )

PO Box 117325
Gainesville, FL 32611-7325
United States
352-392-0262 x279 (Phone)

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