Coase-Sandor Working Paper Series in Law and Economics

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Law & Economics Working Papers


In recent years, scholars have come to a general agreement about the relationship between partisan gerrymandering and racial redistricting. Drawing districts that contain a majority of minority voters, as is often required by the Voting Rights Act, is said to help minority voters in those districts but hurt the Democratic Party more broadly. This Article argues that this familiar claim is based on a mistaken assumption about how redistricters can best manipulate districts for partisan gain—an assumption grounded in the idea that all voters can be thought of as either Democrats or Republicans. Relaxing this assumption, and acknowledging that voters come in diverse ideological types, we highlight the fact that the optimal partisan gerrymandering strategy is quite different from the pack-and-crack strategy that is pervasive in the literature. Understanding this optimal strategy leads to a second insight—that the Voting Rights Act constrains Republicans' partisan ambitions, not Democrats', as is typically thought. We conclude by discussing some implications for the future of the Voting Rights Act and the next round of decennial redistricting.



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