Daily Archives: January 2, 2008

Do independent or bi-partisan commissions solve gerrymandering?

An approach to solving gerrymandering of districts is to use an independent commission to draw the districts. This approach can work but often instead of creating an independent commission a bipartisan commission is created. The bipartisan commission still gerrymanders but it does so in a way that is agreeable to the two main parties. (If you need a reminder of how a bipartisan gerrymander works, play mission 3 of the redistricting game)

You can read more about how this hazard seems to occur in practice.

Quoting Eli Rosenbaum from the WASHINGTON POST Saturday, 29 October, 2005:

So why don’t independent commissions work? One big reason is that, as the current commissions demonstrate, equal representation on the panel for both parties tends to favor the status quo. The commission is indeed bipartisan, not nonpartisan, and each party’s delegates on the panel are closely connected to their state parties and politicians. To avoid gridlock and approve a plan, commissioners must draw a map that is pleasing to both sides, and of course nobody on either side really wants a competitive district. Political scientists even have a name for this type of redistricting scheme: bipartisan gerrymandering.

On the other hand, non partisan redistricting seems to have worked well in some places.

Take Canada, where gerrymandering is almost non-existent.

The Canadians have an “independent non-partisan agency” to draw districts (“Elections Canada”). Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the Chief Electoral Officer, appointed 1990 to serve until age 65 or resignation, is Canada’s best paid civil servant. This post is appointed directly by parliament and reports to them. The C.E.O. can be removed from office only for cause, by the Governor General after a joint request following a majority vote by the House of Commons and Senate.

(Lazyweb: I can use some images to back the claim that Canada is not very gerrymandered.)

Iowa, which has used a non-partisan redistricting service since 1980 is also rather nice.