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Competitive congressional districts and contradictory redistricting principles

Authors: Dwayne Liller*,
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: Colorado, redistricting, competitive districts, Amendment Y, gerrymandering
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Colorado voters approved state constitutional Amendment Y in November 2018. This amendment aims to curtail partisan gerrymandering by creating a commission to accomplish future redistricting and by adding a new competitive criterion to existing redistricting principles. However, the mandated criteria for drawing congressional district boundaries includes what Forest (2005) calls “fundamentally contradictory principles.” Traditional redistricting principles such as equal population, compactness and keeping political subdivisions intact are inherently in conflict with one another. Some of Colorado’s redistricting criteria is not flexible and must be strictly adhered to. Requirements for equal population, district contiguity and Voting Rights Act compliance, for example, must be met under all redistricting schemes. However, district compactness, preservation of political subdivisions and, now, competitive districts are to be accomplished as able. The purpose of this research is to determine what impact a focus on the new competitive criterion has on the previously mentioned criteria that are to be accomplished as able. A quantitative correlation research design is employed to examine the relationship between measures of competitive districts and measures of compactness and preserved political subdivisions. Congressional redistricting maps focused on making Colorado districts competitive are constructed using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the resulting change to measures of compactness and preserved political subdivisions are evaluated with correlation analysis. Conclusions from this research include an acknowledgement of the inherent contradictions between redistricting criteria and a need for the newly established redistricting commission to understand how meeting one criterion impacts the ability to meet others.

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