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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: June 2012

8 - Elbridge Gerry's Salamander

Summary

Cox and Katz argue that the massive wave of redistricting that occurred post-1964 created an “incumbency advantage” in the U.S. House. They find that the political composition of the courts and state legislatures that redrew the districts are critical to understanding which party benefited from redistricting. On balance, they find that the redistricting created a larger advantage for Republican incumbents.

THE REAPPORTIONMENT REVOLUTION

A Sketch of the Reapportionment Revolution

The Court's Decisions

On March 26, 1962, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case of Baker v. Carr, thus initiating what has since been known as the reapportionment revolution. The suit was brought by urban plaintiffs in Tennessee, who challenged their state legislature's failure to reapportion despite widespread population shifts that had made urban districts vastly more populous than their rural counterparts. The ramifications of the case were clearly national, because urban and especially suburban Americans were significantly underrepresented in state legislatures throughout the country. Thus, although the Court limited itself to declaring that state legislative reapportionment was justiciable, leaving more specific action in the case to the lower courts, its decision was immediately seen as a revolutionary step – one the Court had repeatedly declined to take.

The immediate consequence of Baker was more litigation. Indeed, within a year of the decision, all but 14 states were involved in reapportionment suits, and the Supreme Court used some of these cases to stake out a clearer substantive position.

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