Looking Outside the U.S. For Gerrymander Fixes
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What’s the story?
Partisan gerrymandering, the arrangement of voting districts to privilege a single political party, will face a landmark case in front of the Supreme Court this fall that could drastically reshape American politics. The U.S. is not the only democracy that has encountered this issue, and other countries also have to figure out how to create fair and representative voting districts. The Washington Post looked at how some of them do it.
Why does it matter?
When ruling on the case this fall the Supreme Court will assess whether a measure called the "efficiency gap" can be used to quantify partisan gerrymanders, forcing a redistricting effort. So far the Court has not found a single measure that would allow for that quantification. But there are other ways to protect against partisan gerrymanders before they happen.
In many countries, they prevent partisan gerrymanders by electing more than one representative per district, adding or subtracting representatives based on population. In the U.S. some lawmakers are championing a similar idea through the Fair Representation Act. Through a combination of ranked choice voting and electing multiple representatives per district, they argue that no one party would take all the seats in any district, but only the amount that reflects their percentage of the population.
Other countries also leave all redistricting plans in the hands of neutral commissions. Party involvement in the neutral commissions varies per country. Some require them not to be involved at all, while some allow equal party representation along with neutral parties. Currently 21 states in the U.S. use some form of non-partisan or bipartisan redistricting commission.
Some countries make it harder to manipulate districts. In the U.S. we allow voting districts to cross other political boundaries, like county lines. In other countries they don’t. Also, some don’t use humans to create districts, but computers. In Mexico, single member district boundaries are created through an algorithm. The political parties review the map, but can’t change it unless their changes improve the map’s "good government" score.
France, which has the system closest to the U.S., creates redistricting plans on the federal, rather than the state level. The executive branch originates the plan and the congressional branch approves it. The Post reports that researchers have found this macro view means that partisan issues in terms of districting are practically nonexistent.
What can you do?
Are you concerned about partisan gerrymandering? Do you think any of the above ideas should be developed to prevent partisan gerrymandering in the U.S.?
Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!
— Asha Sanaker
(Photo Credit: Maryland District 3 map via Wikimedia / Creative Commons)
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