The Efficiency Gap, Voter Turnout, and the Efficiency Principle

Ellen Veomett, Saint Mary's College of California

Preprint. arXiv:1801.05301


Recently, scholars from law and political science have introduced metrics which use only election outcomes (and not district geometry) to assess the presence of partisan gerrymandering. The most high-profile example of such a tool is the efficiency gap. Some scholars have suggested that such tools should be sensitive enough to alert us when two election outcomes have the same percentage of votes going to political party A, but one of the two awards party A more seats. When a metric is able to distinguish election outcomes in this way, that metric is said to satisfy the efficiency principle.
In this article, we show that the efficiency gap fails to satisfy the efficiency principle. We show precisely how the efficiency principle breaks down in the presence of unequal voter turnout. To do this, we first present a construction that, given any rationals 1/4