Can gerrymandering be solved?
There are a number of proposed reforms out there.
U.S. Representative John Tanner (TN) has proposed the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act (FAIR Act) which mandates the establishment of independent redistricting commissions in each state and limits the factors that can be considered in drawing lines by these commissions.
Read more about the FAIR Act.
I have also read some interesting ideas on the range voting yahoo group. There, some posters work with the (perhaps cynical, perhaps realistic) assumption that trusting ANY people to draw districts is an invitation to abuse. So instead they seek an algorithmic solution where you plug census data into a computer program and are told what the districts will be.
Here is a write up of their shortest-split line proposal.
They key insight is interesting but the proposal currently has some issues that prevent it from being an actionable reform.
Some issues with this proposal are:
- The plan is not compatible with current US law in that the law currently requires some gerrymandering as part of the Voting Rights Act. The act seeks to ensure that minorities are a majority in some districts. (caveat: I have not researched this claim but deduced it from the redistricting game)
- Districts are not stable in that small changes in the input data can cause large changes to the districts
- The algorithm intentionally ignores geographic and man made (eg bridges, roads) features. This means that:
- towns can be split into districts in ways that require surveys to determine which building belongs in which district
- districts can cross over natural features like bodies of water or mountains to include populations on both sides
Update 7/22: Here is Arizona’s 2nd congressional district referenced in the comments: