Common Cause “Gerrymander Standard” Third Place Winner

As co-chairs of Common Cause’s inaugural Democracy Prize writing competition to identify the best “gerrymander standard”, it’s our privilege to announce the winners of the competition this week, as promised on Friday.  First up is our third-place entry, which is titled “A Discernable and Manageable Standard for Partisan Gerrymandering.” The authors are Anthony McGann from the University of Strathclyde, Charles Anthony Smith and Alex Keena from UC Irvine, and Michael Latner from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

This paper argues that the way to effectively combat partisan gerrymandering is to demonstrate that existing measures can be grounded in constitutionally protected rights. The authors argue that the right to equal protection of individual voters implies that a majority of voters should be able to elect a majority of representatives. They then show why this majority rule principle logically implies the partisan symmetry standard, which means that each party can elect the same fraction of legislative seats as the other party would receive if it had received the same percentage of voters. Finally, the authors explain how the partisan symmetry standard can be implemented.

This paper sheds important light on theories for measuring gerrymandering with which the legal community is already familiar and comfortable. The authors effectively explain how these measurements illuminate the anti-democratic consequences of partisan gerrymandering, and how litigators can argue that the imbalance between votes and outcomes represents a constitutional violation.

Congratulations to the third place winners. Read the paper’s introduction here. The final version will be published in Election Law Journal this fall. And stay tuned. The second-place winner will be announced tomorrow and the first-place winner Wednesday.

Norm Ornstein & Dan Tokaji

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