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Districting principles and democratic representation

Citation

Altman, Micah (1998) Districting principles and democratic representation. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechETD:etd-05192004-142452

Abstract

Redistricting is always political, increasingly controversial, and often ugly. Politicians have always fought tooth-and-nail over district lines, while the courts, for most of their history, considered the subject a thicket too political even to enter.

Three decades ago the courts finally entered the political thicket, ruling in Baker v. Carr (1962) that redistricting was justiciable. A decade ago, the court showed signs that it wanted to chop the thicket down, ruling in Davis v. Bandemer (1986) that partisan gerrymanders were actionable. But, in fact, few suits followed this potentially momentous decision. Just five years ago, however, the court took its ax to the thicket in earnest: In a line of cases starting with Shaw v. Reno in 1993, and continuing through the 1996-97 term of court in Abrams v. Johnson (1997), the Court has made a strong bid to outlaw what it terms "racial gerrymandering." In this attempt to eliminate gerrymandering, the Court has placed an extreme emphasis on what they term "traditional districting principles," which are primarily formal, measurable criteria such as population equality, compactness, and contiguity.

This extreme emphasis threatens to radically change the redistricting process in the United States. Justice Souter, in a dissent in Vera in which Justices Ginsburg and Breyer joined, argued that the logic of the Shaw line of cases can lead only to one of two outcomes: Either "the Court could give primacy to the principle of compactness," or it could radically change traditional districting practice -- eliminating it or "replacing it with districting on some principle of randomness..."

In this dissertation, I examine "traditional districting principles," and their implications for representation. I am motivated by, and attempt to answer, the following questions: What theories of representation are implicit in the Court's recent line of cases? Where do "traditional districting principles" come from, and are they really traditional? Are the formal standards that the Court wishes to adopt judicially manageable? Are they theoretically consistent? What effect will using these principles have on politics? Can we eliminate politics in redistricting by automating the process?

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Social Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Kousser, J. Morgan
Thesis Committee:
  • Kousser, J. Morgan (chair)
  • Alvarez, R. Michael
  • Kiewiet, D. Roderick
Defense Date:31 May 1998
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-05192004-142452
Persistent URL:http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechETD:etd-05192004-142452
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:1871
Collection:CaltechTHESIS
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:19 May 2004
Last Modified:26 Dec 2012 02:43

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