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Published August 15, 2017 | Submitted
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The Reapportionment Revolution and Bias in U.S. Congressional Elections


We develop a simple formal model of the redistricting process that highlights the importance of two factors: first, partisan or bipartisan control of the redistricting process; second, the nature of the reversionary outcome, should the state legislature and governor fail to agree on a new districting plan. Using this model, we derive various predictions about the levels of partisan bias and responsiveness that should be observed under districting plans adopted under various constellations of partisan control of state government and reversionary outcomes, testing our predictions on postwar (1946{70) U.S. House electoral data. We find strong evidence that both partisan control and reversionary outcomes systematically affect the nature of a redistricting plan and the subsequent elections held under it. Further, we show that the well-known disappearance circa 1966 of what had been a long-time pro-Republican bias of about 6% in nonsouthern congressional elections can be explained completely by the changing composition of northern districting plans.

Additional Information

Revised version. Original dated to July 1997. We thank Michael Alvarez, Chris Den Hartog, Rod Kiewiet, Mike McDonald, Jonathan Nagler, Tom Palfrey, and participants in seminars at Stanford, the University of Minnesota, and the University of California at Riverside for their helpful comments. We also thank Chris Den Hartog for research assistance. For research support, Jonathan N. Katz thanks the John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation. Published as Cox, G.W., & Katz, J.N. (1999). The reapportionment revolution and bias in US congressional elections. American Journal of Political Science, 812-841.

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