Jeff Ladewig: Election Law Journal Article

Jeff Ladewig published “‘Appearances Do Matter’: Congressional District Compactness and Electoral Turnout.” Election Law Journal, 17(2): 137-150.

Abstract: Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor famously declared in Shaw v. Reno that ‘‘appearances do matter’’ when it comes to the shape of congressional districts. Although there are no definitive legal requirements for districts’ geographical appearances, the argument is widely posited that more compact districts are better. The reasoning often asserts, and empirical studies have shown, that compactness improves
communication between representatives and constituents, increases political information flows, produces fairer results, as well as restricts excessive gerrymandering. These, in turn, can all increase political participation and improve the legitimacy our representative institutions. Despite this conventional wisdom, there is little empirical evidence on the electoral effects of compactness. Using a dataset on the compactness
of U.S. House districts—with multiple measures generated by geographic information system (GIS) analyses over two redistricting cycles, I estimate the effects of congressional district compactness on electoral turnout and argue that Sandra Day O’Connor is correct: ‘‘appearances do matter.’’