The Bright Side of Partisan Gerrymandering

Michael S. Kang, The Bright Side of Partisan Gerrymandering, 14 Cornell J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 443 (2005).

Abstract:  The Article distinguishes generally between offensive and defensive forms of partisan gerrymandering, argues that the latter form is a greater democratic harm, and explains that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Vieth v. Jubilirer thus had an overlooked bright side. Offensive gerrymandering is aimed at making re-election more difficult for the opposition party incumbents, whereas defensive gerrymandering is aimed at making re-election more assured for one’s own party incumbents. The Article explains that the political dynamics of redistricting are such that restriction of one form of gerrymandering leads to a larger measure of the other form. The Court’s refusal in Vieth to restrict offensive gerrymandering – the less harmful form between the two and the only one presented for judicial consideration – therefore had a beneficial effect, a bright side. A contrary decision in Vieth to restrict offensive gerrymandering likely would have led to even more defensive gerrymandering and greater entrenchment of incumbents on both sides of the aisle. The Article then closes with observations about the role of national party leadership in the Vieth re-redistricting of Texas and other offensive partisan gerrymanders.

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