PaperLink (Coming Soon)
We argue that some of the incoherence in partisan districting jurisprudence stems from a failure to clearly distinguish culpability for gerrymandering and harm from gerrymandering. This paper seeks to bring some conceptual clarity to what is meant by harm to individual voters from gerrymandering; to introduce a class of microfounded disparate impact measures aimed at capturing that harm; and to root these measures in legal and constitutional theory. We begin by reviewing some of the most common approaches to diagnosing gerrymanders, including partisan bias and asymmetry, mean-median difference, declination, and efficiency gap. All of these approaches are "phenomenological" in that they are not derived directly from a theory of representation. Moreover, only the efficiency gap purports to measure harm at all; and as alluded to by the US Supreme Court majority in its Rucho decision, the harm captured by this approach is to political parties rather than to citizens or voters. As an alternative, we derive an agency-theoretic model of representation under symmetric uncertainty that captures some of the most salient features of the partisan gerrymandering debate: (1) partisan attachment and polarization; (2) incumbent action that may benefit co-partisans and partisan opponents alike; and (3) selection-based incumbency advantage. The model naturally yields a class of welfare disparity metrics that may be taken to publicly available data. Using an ensemble approach that compares enacted to simulated maps, we demonstrate that a number of claims about representational harm from gerrymandering are highly sensitive to the underlying theory of representation.
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For more information, please contact the co-organizers: Cathy Hafer (email@example.com) and Congyi Zhou (firstname.lastname@example.org).