Ground War: Courts, Commissions, and the Fight over Partisan Gerrymanders

ISBN : 9780197626634

Nicholas Goedert
336 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Apr 2022
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Partisan gerrymandering, the drawing of legislative district lines to deliberately favor one political party, has been present and controversial in American politics since before the ratification of our Constitution. Yet in the past couple of decades, parties in power at the state level have developed greater expertise than ever before at redistricting to their own advantage. Since 2010, a series of legislative, electoral, and judicial events have given this issue a prominence it has never before seen, especially as it applies to the United States Congress. In Ground War, Nicholas Goedert tackles the controversies, litigation, and effects surrounding partisan gerrymandering of Congress. He contends that the appropriate actors to address the fairness of a map are nonpartisan commissions within each state, not the US courts. Goedert illustrates how existing measures and legal standards are too narrow-while they are well-adapted to evaluating maps in swing states in close elections, they fail to properly address states or national electoral environments that favor one party. In turn, Goedert demonstrates that the bias and responsiveness of partisan maps is highly sensitive to both the make-up of a state's electorate and the ephemeral election conditions under which individual elections take place. But this does not mean that partisan gerrymandering must be excused as a dilemma without a reasonable remedy. Using multiple empirical approaches and a novel metric to measure the partisan fairness of maps, Ground War shows that nonpartisan commissions, adopted state-by-state, represent the best alternative to legislative districting. These commissions foster competitive elections, produce unbiased delegations, and give consideration to representational claims distinctive to each state. A rigorous account that explains how our system works and provides practical solutions for improving it, Ground War is an essential work for all scholars of US elections.


1. Introduction: A Tale of Two Gerrymanders
2. The Theory Behind Gerrymandering
3. Legal Developments and Standards in Partisan Gerrymandering
4. Gerrymandering and Competitive Elections
5. Measuring Historical Bias: Historically Weighted Efficiency Gap
6. Bias and Responsiveness in Partisan Maps
7. Bias and Responsiveness in Nonpartisan Maps
8. Conclusion: The Road to Reform

About the author: 

Nicholas Goedert is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Virginia Tech. His research encompasses legislative politics, electoral institutions, public opinion, and constitutional law. He has been published in journals including the American Journal of Political Science, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, and Election Law Journal. He has served as an expert witness in redistricting law, a writer for the Monkey Cage blog at The Washington Post, and a consultant for the FairVote voting reform advocacy group.

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