Redistricting, Candidate Entry, and the Politics of Nineteenth-Century U.S. House Elections


  • An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2004 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. We would like to thank the University of Georgia Research Foundation for financial support of this project, John Aldrich, Anthony Bertelli, Michael Crespin, Gerald Gamm, Nathan Monroe, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments, Yagmur Sen and Matt Holleque for research assistance, and Craig Goodman for sharing his electoral data.

Jamie L. Carson is assistant professor of political science, The University of Georgia, 104 Baldwin Hall, Athens, GA 30602 ( Erik J. Engstrom is assistant professor of political science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 325 Hamilton Hall, CB#3265, Chapel Hill, NC 27599 ( Jason M. Roberts is assistant professor of political science, University of Minnesota, 1414 Social Sciences Bldg., Minneapolis, MN 55455 (


The effects of redistricting on candidate entry patterns in contemporary House races has received growing attention in the scholarly literature, yet virtually no consideration has been given to this question in the context of historical elections. This is unfortunate as the wider variation in congressional redistricting during the nineteenth century gives us increased leverage in terms of understanding strategic candidate behavior. Utilizing a new dataset of candidate quality for nineteenth-century House races, we examine whether candidates with prior electoral experience are more likely to run in districts that are altered during the redistricting process, and provide an account of how differences in the prevalence of redistricting may affect strategic entry decisions of politicians. Our results suggest that entry decisions and electoral outcomes are affected by redistricting in this era. Moreover, our analysis provides an opportunity to use history to test contemporary theories of congressional elections in a broader context.