Up by Their Own Bootstraps: State Legislative Attempts to Bypass the Governor During Redistricting

48 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2020 Last revised: 4 Mar 2021

See all articles by Richard Ober

Richard Ober

Richard F. Ober, Jr.

Samuel Wang

Princeton University - Neuroscience Institute

Aaron Barden

Princeton University

Date Written: August 2, 2020


In the United States, the practice of line-drawing for partisan political advantage took on the name of “gerrymandering” in 1812. Since then, gerrymandering has been constrained by federal requirements that Congressional districts have equal populations, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which addressed racial districting. The increasing sophistication of technology has allowed redistricters in many states to comply with these federal requirements, as well as traditional state requirements that districts be compact, contiguous and avoid crossing political boundaries, while still creating extreme partisan gerrymanders. It is possible for one-fourth to one-third of the representation of a legislative chamber or delegation to be determined by who holds the redistricting pen, irrespective of the will of the voters.

Currently, in twelve states, the legislature is controlled by one of the two major political parties, while the governor is a member of the other party. This split-party control includes Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In this article, we review Federal and state court decisions regarding past attempts by legislators of one party to circumvent their opponents by excluding them from the redistricting process. These efforts have largely failed, however, usually due to judicial intervention. Even when courts have taken an expanded view of a state legislature’s redistricting authority, no court has ever allowed a legislature to bypass the governor when required by that state’s constitution.

Keywords: redistricting, gerrymandering, Wisconsin, election law, legislature, governor, joint resolution

Suggested Citation

Ober, Richard and Wang, Samuel and Barden, Aaron, Up by Their Own Bootstraps: State Legislative Attempts to Bypass the Governor During Redistricting (August 2, 2020). Albany Law Review: State Constitutional Commentary, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3669075 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3669075

Richard Ober

Richard F. Ober, Jr. ( email )

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

Samuel Wang

Princeton University - Neuroscience Institute ( email )

United States

Aaron Barden (Contact Author)

Princeton University ( email )

United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics