Public Choice Principles of Redistricting

32 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2005

See all articles by John G. Matsusaka

John G. Matsusaka

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business; USC Gould School of Law

Thomas W. Gilligan

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Date Written: April 2006

Abstract

This paper uses fundamental principles of public choice, mainly the median voter theorem, to develop a simple theory of redistricting. The focus is on how closely policy outcomes correspond to majority rule. The main results are: (1) Potential policy bias in favor of nonmajority groups is structurally linked to the number of legislative seats and the population, and the structure of most states puts them very close to the theoretically maximum bias. (2) Random districting, which might seem like the essence of neutrality, does not eliminate policy bias on average. (3) Traditional principles of compact, contiguous districts that respect existing political boundaries, stressed in the Supreme Court's Shaw v. Reno decision, minimize the chance of nonmajoritarian outcomes.Our analysis also offers a gerrymandering explanation for the positive relation between seats and spending that is usually taken as support for the "Law of 1/n."

Keywords: redistricting, gerrymander, public choice

JEL Classification: D7, K00

Suggested Citation

Matsusaka, John G. and Gilligan, Thomas W., Public Choice Principles of Redistricting (April 2006). USC CLEO Paper No. C05-8; USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 05-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=775186 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.775186

John G. Matsusaka (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

Department of Finance & Business Economics
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-6495 (Phone)
213-740-6650 (Fax)

USC Gould School of Law

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-6495 (Phone)

Thomas W. Gilligan

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-6515 (Phone)
213-740-6650 (Fax)

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