Common Cause Announces Winners of National Contest to End Gerrymandering

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  • Dan Vicuna
Wendy Tam Cho and Yan Y. Liu of University of Illinois Take Top Prize in Gerrymander Standard Writing Competition

Three academics with fresh ideas to identify and analyze how politicians draw legislative boundaries for political advantage have been declared the winners of Common Cause’s second annual Gerrymander Standard Writing Competition.

1st Place: Wendy Tam Cho and Yan Y. Liu of the University of Illinois claimed the competition’s top prize with a paper describing how they can generate millions of simulated redistricting maps with desirable characteristics to provide context and insight into the role of partisanship in devising a disputed plan.

2nd Place: Second place went to Sam Wang of Princeton University, whose paper proposes three statistical tests to reliably assess asymmetry, which occurs when the number of seats each party would receive changes in an unequal fashion if the parties switched places in the popular vote.

3rd Place: Ted Arrington, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, took third place with a paper presenting a workable criteria for determining when districting arrangements so distort the process of translating votes into seats in a legislature that the process or the redistricting plan rises to a constitutional violation.

Common Cause sponsored the 2nd Annual Gerrymander Standard Writing Competition to generate measurements for partisan gerrymandering that could be used in court to demonstrate that this undemocratic practice violates Americans’ constitutional rights. In a 2004 U.S. Supreme Court case, Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concurring opinion stated that partisan gerrymanders could be challenged in court but that a judicially manageable standard for measuring them would have to be developed before a court could overturn such maps.

“Americans are growing increasingly frustrated that politicians are drawing districts for political advantage rather than fair representation,” said Kathay Feng, Common Cause’s national redistricting director. “However, recent legal developments in cases out of Maryland, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and other states suggest that courts are ready to do something about it. We congratulate the winners of our Gerrymander Standard Competition for creating a new set of tools that will empower the public to challenge maps that prioritize the needs of politicians over the will of the people.”

The focus of this year’s contest was applying measures of partisan gerrymandering to the legislative maps citizens are challenging in Shapiro v. McManus and Whitford v. Nichol, cases out of Maryland and Wisconsin respectively. The judging panel included Duke Law Professor Guy-Uriel Charles, UC Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Office of Congressional Ethics Board of Directors memberAllison Hayward, Brennan Center for Justice Senior Counsel Michael Li, and Pepperdine University Law School Professor Derek Muller.   

Winners will receive cash prizes and their papers will be published in Election Law Journal. For more information, contact Dan Vicuna at (213) 623-1216 or