Common Cause “Gerrymander Standard” Second Place Winners

Written by Norm Ornstein & Dan Tokaji on June 3, 2015

As promised, we are announcing the winners of Common Cause’s inaugural Democracy Prize writing competition to identify the best “gerrymander standard.” On Monday, we announced the third place winners. Today we’d like to offer our congratulations to second place winners Jowei Chen from the University of Michigan and Jonathan Rodden of Stanford University, authors of “Cutting through the Thicket: Redistricting Simulations and the Detection of Partisan Gerrymanders”.

This paper identifies a redistricting algorithm that can be used to distinguish partisan gerrymandering from a state legislature’s efforts to apply acceptable districting criteria, keep communities of interest together, and facilitate minority representation. This algorithm can generate benchmark plans that can be contrasted with a challenged plan to identify partisan advantage not attributable to legitimate districting goals.

The authors demonstrated the strength of their idea by showing its effectiveness in identifying partisan intent in a redistricting plan that was in fact found to be unlawful. Their paper combined the creation of a sophisticated new tool with a clear and well-written explanation making it accessible and useful to the lawyers and judges who are the ultimate audience. Chen and Rodden’s ability to demonstrate an accurate real-world application make their paper an outstanding contribution to efforts to accurately identify unfair partisan gerrymandering.

Congratulations to the second place winners. Read the introduction to the paper here. The final version will be published in Election Law Journal this fall. The first-place winner will be announced later today.

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Voting and Elections

Tags: Redistricting

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