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Are Individuals Harmed by Gerrymandering? Examining Access to Congressional District Offices

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Social Science Quarterly

Published online on

Abstract

["\n\nObjective\nWe consider proximity and access to the district offices of members of Congress to explore whether gerrymandering affects individuals’ capacity to be heard and thus impairs their representation.\n\n\nMethods\nIn a study of six states, we conduct more than 123 million distance measurements to identify residents whose closest district office is in the wrong congressional district. Based on survey results, we then estimate the likelihood that such mismatched individuals will personally visit the office of their member of Congress.\n\n\nResults\nWe find that in five gerrymandered states, between 28.7 and 47.5 percent of residents have a mismatched closest district office, a rate several times higher than in a non‐gerrymandered state. Extrapolating from survey results, we find that mismatched residents are 38 percent less likely to visit their own district office, and that across five states gerrymandering effectively deters nearly 600,000 office visits over a two‐year congressional session.\n\n\nConclusion\nOf significance in both the legal and scholarly arena, we find that gerrymandering increases the prevalence of mismatched district offices, thereby impeding constituents from making in‐person visits that are widely viewed as the most effective mechanism for communicating their opinions and needs to Congress. We believe this heretofore undocumented mismatch warrants additional scholarly consideration of gerrymandering's effects on individual's access to tangible aspects of representation.\n\n", "Social Science Quarterly, EarlyView. "]