Volume 80 Publication Announcement: Nicholas Stephanopoulos's Our Electoral Exceptionalism

The University of Chicago Law Review is pleased to announce that we have accepted Nicholas Stephanopoulos's Our Electoral Exceptionalism for publication in Volume 80.  The abstract appears below.  The full paper is available for download and electronic viewing on SSRN here.


First, redistricting institutions can be categorized based on their levels of politicization and judicialization.  The United States is an outlier along both dimensions because it relies on the elected branches rather than on independent commissions and because its courts are extraordinarily active.  Unfortunately, the American approach is linked to higher partisan bias, lower electoral responsiveness, and diminished public confidence.

Second, redistricting criteria can be assessed based on whether they tend to make districts more heterogeneous or homogeneous.  Most of the usual American criteria (such as equal population, compliance with the Voting Rights Act, and the pursuit of political advantage) are diversifying.  In contrast, almost all foreign requirements (such as respect for political subdivisions, respect for communities of interest, and attention to geographic features) are homogenizing.  Homogenizing requirements are generally preferable because they give rise to higher voter participation, more effective representation, and lower legislative polarization.

Lastly, models of minority representation can be classified based on the geographic concentration of the groups they benefit and the explicitness of the means they use to allocate legislative influence.  Once again, the United States is nearly unique in its reliance on implicit mechanisms that only assist concentrated groups.  Implicit mechanisms that also assist diffuse groups—in particular, multimember districts with limited, cumulative, or preferential voting rules—are typically superior because they result in higher levels of minority representation at a fraction of the social and legal cost.