Thinking Apolitically about Gerrymandering

42 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2019

See all articles by Charles Blahous

Charles Blahous

Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Date Written: July 17, 2019


In popular opinion surveys, a majority of Americans express strong concerns about gerrymandering. These concerns are well founded insofar as gerrymandering undermines the perceived fairness of legislative representation and is expected to contribute to political polarization and “leapfrog” representation. Purported rem- edies for gerrymandering that aim to balance the interests of competing political parties are unlikely to be satisfactory or enduring. The US Supreme Court, in Rucho v. Common Cause, recently confirmed that the US Constitution protects individual voting rights against discrimination but does not guarantee or even suggest that political alliances are entitled to proportional representation. Moreover, reforms aiming to balance the effects of redistricting upon opposing political parties would fail to address potentially critical adverse consequences of gerrymandering, such as political self-segregation and polarization. In contrast to reform frameworks based on political balancing, much constitutional, legislative, and judicial history supports the simpler principle that legislative districts should be reasonably com- pact. Congress’s constitutional power to make or alter the rules for congressional elections is undisputed. Accordingly, enacting a federal law that limits the irregularity of legislative district shapes would represent a more promising and apolitical approach to gerrymandering reform, as well as one more likely to provide stability, predictability, and reduced risk of capricious judicial intervention, than an approach based on balancing the interests of political parties.

Keywords: gerrymandering, redistricting, compactness, representation, polarization, gerrymandering reform, Congress, districts, elections, mapmaking, Rucho, G score

JEL Classification: K16

Suggested Citation

Blahous, Charles, Thinking Apolitically about Gerrymandering (July 17, 2019). Mercatus Research Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Charles Blahous (Contact Author)

Mercatus Center at George Mason University ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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