Publications

My current research agenda includes two main streams of research: legislative redistricting and political representation. Below you will find my current publications including abstracts and links to the full paper.

To see more information on my works in progress, click here.

For an interactive of the Top 10 Most Gerrymandered Districts in the United States based on my work with John Curiel, click here.

"No Experience Required: Early Donations and Amateur Candidate Success in Primary Elections" with Rachel Porter. (Conditionally accepted at Legislative Studies Quarterly).

Abstract

The electoral dominance of "quality'' candidates---political insiders with past electoral experience---is well-established. However, research on the recent rise in successful political neophytes is less studied. Despite longstanding trends in the predominance of experienced candidates in primary elections, nearly half of all quality candidates who ran in non-incumbent races lost to a candidate without prior electoral experience in 2018. In this article, we investigate the success of political newcomers by examining a topic often overlooked in the growing literature on primaries: campaign finance. We show that political newcomers are most successful when they collect early money from outside their congressional district. Further, we find evidence that out-of-district donors look to amateurs as "surrogate representatives" for their values and interests in Congress. We demonstrate that forces outside a candidate's own district play a much greater role in explaining the dynamics of congressional primary elections than previously thought.

Abstract

Racial identification is a critical factor in understanding a multitude of important outcomes within many fields. However, inferring an individual’s race from ecological data is prone to bias and error. This process was only recently improved via Bayesian Improved Surname Geocoding (BISG). With surname and geographic-based demographic data, it is possible to more accurately estimate individual racial identification than ever before. However, the level of geography used in this process varies widely. Whereas some existing work makes use of geocoding to place individuals in precise census blocks, a substantial portion either skips geocoding altogether or relies on estimation using surname or county-level analyses. Presently, the tradeoffs of such variation are unknown. In this letter we quantify those tradeoffs through a validation of BISG on Georgia’s voter file using both geocoded and non-geocoded processes. We find that when estimating the racial identification of White and Black voters, non-geocoded ZIP code-based estimates are acceptable alternatives. However, census blocks provide the most accurate estimations when imputing racial identification for Asian and Hispanic voters. Our results document the most efficient means to sequentially conduct BISG analysis to maximize racial identification estimation while simultaneously minimizing data missingness and bias.


Abstract

How do citizens interpret contentious symbols that pervade their community? And what downstream effects does state protection of these symbols have on how citizens of different backgrounds feel they belong in their community? We approach these questions through the lens of race and Confederate monuments in the American South. We rely on two original surveys to illustrate 1) the symbolic meanings Americans attach to these monuments and 2) how state protection of them impacts residents’ feelings of belonging. We find that perceptions of Confederate monuments vary by race: White U.S. residents are drastically less likely to perceive them as symbolic of racial injustice than are Black U.S. residents. Further, state protection of Confederate monuments leads to a diminished sense of belonging among Blacks, while leaving Whites unaffected. This research moves beyond scholarship examining simple support for or opposition toward contentious symbols, developing a deeper understanding of what meaning those symbols can hold for individuals and what their impacts are on individuals’ feelings of belonging and engagement in their communities.

Abstract

In 2018, the interest group EMILY’s List endorsed over fifty women running for the US Congress, a list that is far from inclusive of the almost three-hundred women running in the November mid-term election. Extant work leads us to believe that incumbency status is the primary motivation behind whether an interest group will endorse a candidate for public office. However, scholarship has yet to systematically consider why interest groups endorse non-incumbent candidates and how these groups come to choose one incumbent over another. By studying the symbolic and substantive endorsements of two interest groups—EMILY’s List and the National Rifle Association—we show that interest groups place varying value on incumbent legislators and also take other factors (like district partisanship and seat competitiveness) into account when endorsing candidates. Further, we find that district-level characteristics, not candidate characteristics, are most important for interest groups in their endorsement decisions of candidates in open-seat races. Our findings have important implications for understanding how interest groups come to select candidates to endorse and also call into question the power of incumbency in these decisions.

Abstract

In this article, we respond to the critique by Bernard Grofman (2019) of our 2018 work published in the Election Law Journal, “Redistricting Out Representation: Democratic Harms in Splitting ZIP Codes.” We pursue two purposes within this response. First, we seek to address some misconceptions and elaborate upon our previous work to demonstrate the applicability and measurement of the constituent-representative link via ZIP codes. Second, we contextualize our work and Grofman's (2019) counterproposal to develop a standard for measuring and adjudicating gerrymanders in light of the Supreme Court's majority opinion in Rucho et al v. Common Cause et al. (2019). We argue for scholars and litigators interested in moving forward in a post-Rucho v. Common Cause world, election outcome measures without the compliment of a strong theory and measurement of the constituent-representative link are prone to failure in litigation. Our work provides this path forward by integrating the constituent-representative link into a legal framework that bolsters the theory and direct evidence of harm to representation that occurs due to district design.

Abstract

Redistricting poses a potential harm to American voters in limiting choice and accountability at the polls. Although voters still technically retain their right to contact their congressional representatives in order to seek redress for their concerns, we argue that the confusion created when redistricting divides ZIP Codes confounds the constituent-representative link and leaves a substantive minority of voters in representational limbo. ZIP Codes perform a functional role by organizing groups of residents into easily accessible blocs for mail service. However, congressional districts split the ZIP Codes of over 100 million Americans. Splitting ZIP Codes across multiple congressional districts leads to constituents being confused about who their member is and greater inefficiencies for representatives to mail to their constituents. Additionally, several members of Congress actively ignore out-of-district mail. We posit that constituents from ZIP Codes split by multiple congressional districts will be less likely to recognize, contact, or ideologically identify with their representative. We conducted a population overlap analysis between ZIP Codes and congressional districts to determine the impact of splitting ZIP Codes on a battery of items on the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES) from 2008–2016. Our analysis provides evidence that splitting ZIP Codes across multiple congressional districts impairs the constituent-representative link. Finally, we demonstrate the preservation of ZIP Codes in redistricting is feasible and produces a substantive reduction in partisan bias.