Thomas Library

Honors Thesis Archive

Author Abby Reynolds
Title Redistricting Processes Across the States: Effects on Electoral Competition
Department Political Science
Advisors Rob Baker, Staci Rhine, and Dave Wishart
Year 2013
Honors University Honors
Full Text View Thesis (238 KB)

The intent of redistricting is to produce fair representation within the government by turning out state and Congressional district winners who reflect the political desires of the population within their districts. However, there has been an ongoing debate about whether or not certain redistricting processes actually produce fair election outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to study the relationship between type of redistricting process and the election results of a sampling of Congressional districts across three electoral cycles to determine if less partisan processes yield more electoral competition within the districts.

A number of scholars have studied this relationship; however, the approaches they used to determine competitiveness within the districts, as well as their research findings, have produced contentious trends within the literature. For example, scholars such as Cain, Donald, and McDonald (2005) identify in their research an inverse relationship between the redistricting process and electoral competition: partisan redistricting processes produce less electoral competition, while less partisan processes result in a greater competition. On the other hand, Abramowitz, Alexander and Gunning (2006) conducted two studies using U.S. House election results and found that redistricting does not affect electoral competition; it is determined by other factors, such as partisan polarization and incumbency. This paper intends to help close the gap in this theoretical and empirical debate.

The central hypothesis is that partisan redistricting processes yield less electoral competition, whereas bipartisan or nonpartisan processes yield greater district-level competition. The data for the study include all Congressional election results in 26 states from 2002, 2006, and 2012 allowing for an examination of two redistricting periods. Even when controlling for incumbency, Real GDP, and the candidates' level of campaign spending, the results support the hypothesis.

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