2016 First Amendment Gerrymander Standard Writing Competition – Due March 27, 2016

In December 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling in Shapiro v. McManus allowing a First Amendment challenge to Maryland’s congressional districts to move forward. Separately, a three-judge federal district court panel rejected a motion to dismiss in Whitford v. Nichol, a case challenging Wisconsin’s state legislative Assembly districts. These cases challenging partisan gerrymanders have potentially significant consequences for fair democratic representation. Either could open the door to a ruling against political gerrymandering that leads to its demise.

The Supreme Court has long suggested there is a limit for what is acceptable partisan gerrymandering, but like obscenity, so far the line is undefined and left to courts to know it when they see it. The Court has said that it is willing to hear constitutional challenges to partisan gerrymandering, but existing legal theories have been insufficient to empower citizens and advocates with the tools they need to overturn partisan gerrymanders in court. Common Cause’s 2016 “Gerrymander Standard” Writing Competition is your chance to change that.

For the second year, we invite legal and social science practitioners, scholars, and students to submit papers that will identify partisan gerrymanders and distinguish them from districts drawn using neutral redistricting principles while developing legal theories or arguments that could be used by courts to declare partisan gerrymanders unconstitutional. This year, we are asking authors to focus specifically on the First Amendment issue in Shapiro and Whitford to demonstrate why the drawing of Maryland’s congressional districts or Wisconsin’s Assembly districts is a partisan gerrymander that should be condemned under the First Amendment. Winning papers are selected by a distinguished panel of democracy scholars.

Winning Authors Receive:

  • Prize money: 1st place: $5,000, 2nd place: $3,000, 3rd place: $2,000
  • Publication in a leading academic journal
  • Payment of travel expenses to present papers at a national redistricting reform symposium

See submission requirements here.

If you have any questions, contact Dan Vicuna via email or at (213) 623-1216.