To Fix Gerrymandering, Lawmakers Might Need To Give Up Some Control

Does redistricting need to be such a partisan process? Spoiler alert: No.
Posted at 5:56 PM, Aug 13, 2018

I know you've heard of gerrymandering. And gerrymandering wouldn't really exist without redistricting which is the drawing of the legislative lines which determines where you vote. 

The most common way to redistrict is through a state legislature. More than half of states use this process and it's definitely the most partisan and political way to do it. 

"It is an inherently political process. And it is even more inherently political when one party controls all the branches of government,"  Michael Li, Senior Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice told Newsy. 

But is there a way to try and take some of the partisanship out of the process and draw lines that are as fair as possible, no matter the outcome? Yep, there is. 

"There are a number of ways, you can make the process better," Li said. 

One of those ways is to have some sort of redistricting commission. Some states already use this process to draw their Congressional or Legislative districts. There are essentially two types - one is just a normal bipartisan commission and the other is what's called an advisory commission. 

Both types are similar in that they are meant to be truly bipartisan. They are full of people from different areas of the state, different backgrounds and from every side of the political spectrum. 

The biggest difference is advisory commissions don't have the final final say. The state legislatures can typically come in and overrule them if they don't really like what the commission comes up with. 

Some experts point to a state like California as proof these kind of commissions really work and work in really big states. The Golden State's commission has equal parts GOP, Democrats and third party representation. 

"That fosters compromise and negotiation in a way that doesn't happen when for example Republicans in Michigan can just pass a plan because they have a majority and the governor's mansion," Li said. 

And even commissions aren't always perfect. Experts say it really matters how the commission is chosen; if they are chosen by state lawmakers like in New Jersey, you can end up with some of the same issues if the state legislature drew the district on its own. 

"It's important that commissions be well designed and they sort of fit the state where they're in or the jurisdiction they are in because it's not a one-size fits all sort of thing. Even if commissions aren't perfect, they are a 100,000 times better than leaving it in the hands of legislatures," Li said.