CFDP 2328

Gerrymandering and the Limits of Representative Democracy


Publication Date: March 2022

Pages: 32


We assess the capacity of gerrymandering to undermine the will of the people in a
representative democracy. Citizens have political positions represented on a spectrum,
and electoral maps separate people into districts. We show that unrestrained gerrymandering
can severely distort the composition of a legislature, potentially leading half the
population to lose all representation of their views. This means that, under majority
rule in the congress, gerrymandering enables politicians to enact any legislation of their
choice as long as it falls within the interquartile range of the political spectrum. Just as
worrisome, gerrymandering can rig any legislation to pass instead of the median policy,
which would otherwise prevail in a referendum against any other choice.

Keywords: Gerrymandering, representatives, legislature, Bayesian persuasion

JEL Classification Codes: D72, D78, D82, K16

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