Gerrymandering and Independent Commissions

Gerrymandering, or the act of redrawing district borders in order to benefit one political party, is an often debated topic.  Some think that taking the ability to gerrymander away from elected officials and placing it on independent commissions would be an effective way to resolve this issue, but a recent study performed by researchers at UCLA and Yale shows that these commissions tend to draw maps that are even more biased than those maps drawn be elected officials.

The researchers began by creating a series of theoretical district borders which were based solely on equal population and geographical continuity. Once these maps were created, the researchers assessed what the margin of victory would have been for either Democrat or Republican in each of these new districts. These new maps, with their theoretical margins of victory, were then compared against maps from elected officials to see which map resulted in less competitive elections.  (e.g. if the map has a high percentage of re-election of incumbents, it would by definition be a map that is less competitive.)  The independent commission’s maps assured that 75% of the incumbents would be re-elected, while elected officials provided a similar surety of re-election at 77%.  Thus, there really was little difference.  The independent commission maps were just as competitive as the elected official drawn maps.

Some politicians and voters are beginning to believe that we must hire non-biased commissions to redraw district borders, but these groups don’t produce maps any more competitive than elected officials.  Moreover, if you don’t like the independent commission’s map, then you have no recourse.  These independent commissions answer to no one.  The elected officials can be thrown out of office at the polling booth.  So why send election map drawing to a body that answers to no one and produces a product that is not any better than the product developed by elected officials who answer to everyone?

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