University of Illinois at Chicago
IR13_CH7c_Redistrict (1).pdf (1.8 MB)

Revisiting Redistricting: Who Should Be Afraid of Partisan Mapmaking?

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posted on 2021-07-20, 18:44 authored by Brian Gaines, James H. Kuklinski, Christopher MooneyChristopher Mooney
Delving into the complicated and often politically fraught process of redrawing electoral district boundaries after each decennial census, this chapter examines whether there is evidence that the purportedly gerrymandered maps played a role in the 2012 election. Using the 2012 U.S. House election, the authors reveal why partisan control of the process should be regarded with suspicion.

For the first time since 1970, Illinois did not have divided government in the first session following a census and reapportionment, and thus Democrats were free to draw any maps they liked. • After Illinois lost a House seat due to reapportionment, the Democrat-drawn map ensured that Republican incumbents faced fewer familiar voters than Democrats. The new district map produced fewer competitive seats, most of which lean to the Democrats, providing Democratic U.S. House candidates in Illinois a clear advantage. • Nineteen states, including Illinois, gave complete control to one party or the other in 2011 U.S. House redistricting. Republicans controlled redistricting in 14 states having 164 seats, while Democrats did so in only five states, having a mere 42 seats. • When one party drew the new U.S. House map in a state after the 2010 census, that party did comparatively well in 2012. Parties that gained control of redistricting in 2011, not having had it in 2001, seem to have engineered larger swings in their own favor

The Founders created a separation-of powers system in part to prevent large waves of enthusiasm from being too quickly translated into policy. They feared excessive volatility and valued deliberation. The House Republican majority in Congress will presumably require a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate to negotiate and compromise on policy. We take this argument seriously, and our purpose in this chapter is not to denounce Democratic control of the Illinois U.S. House delegation or Republican control of the U.S. House. But as we emphasized at the outset, it is, in the end, difficult to defend electoral maps that are expressly designed to exaggerate partisan advantages and insulate elected officials from public sentiment. Any electoral system involving single-member districts will have some redistricting effects. However, these can be small when the lines are not driven almost exclusively by partisan considerations.


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