Population based segregation of voters make them struggle at ballot box

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Washington, Aug 7 (ANI): When a county's residents are carved into separate districts simply to maintain a numerical parity, many end up struggling at the ballot box, found a new US study.

There exists an age-old practice of dividing congressional districts evenly by population to maintain fairness and equality.

But, in a first-of-its-kind national analysis of voting behaviour, political scientists Michael Wagner and Jonathan Winburn examined the electoral consequences of redistricting on natural "communities of interest."

Most notably, they found that voters who had been carved into new districts that mainly covered areas outside their home counties knew far less about their new House candidates than voters who weren't redistricted.

In fact, the redistricted voters with low levels of political knowledge were only half as likely than voters in their former home district to even be able to name their congressperson or their congressperson's challenger in an upcoming election.

Redistricted voters with high political knowledge were only two-thirds as likely as voters in their former district to name their representative.

That's a huge informational disadvantage and can lead to big problems in the voting booth, claimed the study.

"The fact that people living in this 'short end of the split' are just as likely to cast a congressional ballot as anyone else, given their informational disadvantage, results in a vote about as random as buying a sealed 'mystery' bag of groceries - sure, they picked something, but they don't know quite what it is until they get home," said Wagner, assistant professor of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

"Consequently, there are real questions about the quality of representation these people are likely to receive through no fault of their own," he added.

The researchers have suggested that in some instances of redistricting - which will begin again next year after U.S. House seats are reapportioned across the nation following the 2010 Census - it would be better to focus first on preserving communities of interest, then on population equity.

The study appears in the current issue of the journal Political Research Quarterly. (ANI)

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