In 1812 the Jeffersonian-dominated Massachusetts legislature, with the approval of Governor Elbridge Gerry, split Essex County in an effort to dilute the strength of the Federalists. Noting the resemblance of the new, oddly shaped district to a well-known amphibian, a local newspaper dubbed the creation a "gerrymander". Less well known about this oft-recounted episode of American history, writes political scientist Mark Rush, is its outcome: in the ensuing election, the Federalists won the district anyway.
Today, politically divisive redistricting -- gerrymandering to some -- still causes bitter reapportionment disputes, renewed threats of class action lawsuits, and legislative wrangling. In Does Redistricting Make a Difference? Rush offers a skeptical inquiry into this controversy and a critical assessment of the assumptions underlying current analyses of the redistricting process. He focuses on long-term voting results in redrawn districts and concludes that redistricting -- at least given present criteria and guidelines -- has little impact.
Does Redistricting Make a Difference?. . . provides evidence that the assumptions made by legal experts and political scientists regarding the possibility of, and the consequences from, partisan gerrymandering may be faulty. It raises serious theoretical questions about concepts such as "fair representation" and "politically relevant groups."--American Political Science Review