Reforms to Accompany Independent Redistricting

Reforms to Enhance Independent Redistricting Proposals

Several states have attempted to make their redistricting processes fairer by instituting independent redistricting commissions that take direct control of redistricting away from the state legislature. While this is a worthwhile reform strategy to address the conflict of interest inherent in politicians picking their own voters, independent redistricting alone cannot guarantee competitive elections, partisan fairness, racial fairness, geographic coherence and accountable leadership at the same time. Independent redistricting speaks to how district lines are drawn, but it does not change the more important factor of what election method is used to cast and count votes in those districts. 

Competition, for example, requires districts with a narrow partisan division, which almost certainly means that racial minorities will not have the power to consistently elect candidates of choice as can be required under the Voting Rights Act. Competitive districts also mean that overall partisan balance can swing wildly based on a small shift in votes statewide. And given that most areas have natural partisan leanings, drawing competitive districts makes it difficult to follow traditional criteria like compactness and maintenance of local political lines.

Perhaps due to these inherent conflicts, independent redistricting has had low impact on electoral competition, and a mixed impact on fair partisan and racial representation. We need voting system reforms to enhance redistricting reform.

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