TRENDS: The Geography of Law: Understanding the Origin of State and Federal Redistricting Cases

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Abstract

Knowing where legal complaints arise can tell us something about them and reveal clues about their conditions of origin. In this paper, we examine the geographic origins of litigation challenging the boundaries of electoral districts—an increasingly salient and prominent source of political conflict. We construct an original dataset of all redistricting cases in state and federal courts nationwide, from 1960 to 2019. We show that redistricting litigation surfaces not just in states where there are regions undergoing rapid population change or that have a greater proportion of aggrieved racial minority groups but also in areas where there is close partisan competition. The filing of redistricting litigation is highly responsive to hypercompetitive political environments, suggesting that parties pursue judicial intervention vigorously when political power hangs in the balance and not simply due to demographic changes associated with decennial population measurement. These findings have important implications for understanding the temporal and spatial dynamics of redistricting politics and the consequences of intense partisan electoral competition in the United States.

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Gimpel, J. G., Hightower, T. M., & Wohlfarth, P. C. (2021). TRENDS: The Geography of Law: Understanding the Origin of State and Federal Redistricting Cases. Political Research Quarterly, 74(4), 779–794. https://doi.org/10.1177/10659129211029723

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