Mijeong Baek, Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science, College of Arts and Sciences
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
In the 2012 election for the United States House of Representatives, a plurality of voters voted for a Democratic candidate, but despite this, the Republican Party won a majority of the House races. There are several possible explanations for this discrepancy, most notably partisan gerrymandering. However, with this paper, I wanted to explore another explanation, one which has received little attention in comparison to partisan gerrymandering. I believe that “Unintentional Gerrymandering” is a key reason for the discrepancy between votes and seats in many elections, including in the 2012 House of Representatives election. Unintentional Gerrymandering occurs when the voters for each party are distributed in such a way as to give one side a structural advantage. Today, Democrats tend to either live in landslide Democratic districts, or they tend to live in small Democratic communities surrounded by Republican voters. This causes Republicans to be over-represented in comparison to Democrats. Because of the different choices Democratic and Republican voters make about where to live, even a truly nonpartisan redistricting process would result in a district map that favors the Republican party. I decided to examine and summarize the literature concerning Unintentional Gerrymandering, as well as to discuss the factors that cause it. Finally, I’ve given several suggestions for how the effects of Unintentional Gerrymandering could be mitigated.
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Towzey, Thomas P., "Unintentional Gerrymandering: Why Location Matters in Politics" (2014). USF St. Petersburg campus Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate). 159.