Redistricting - Opposing Gerrymandering
As politics in the U.S. has polarized along geographic and racial lines, drawing political maps has become a partisan arms race. Even the smallest decisions about where to draw district boundaries can alter the power dynamic in Congress — without a single voter switching parties or moving.
It’s easy for opponents of gerrymandering — the drawing of political boundaries for the benefit of one party or group over another — to argue what districts shouldn’t look like. All they have to do is ridicule the absurdity of the most bizarre patchworks ever woven to elect members of Congress. For example, “The Rabbit on a Skateboard,” “The Upside-Down Chinese Dragon” or the “Mask of Zorro.”
But it’s much more difficult to say what districts should look like, because reformers can disagree on what priorities should govern our political cartography.
Courtesy of FiveThirtyEight / The Gerrymandering Project
“The threat of partisan gerrymandering isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue; it’s an issue for all American voters,” said Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center, and former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “Across the country, we’re witnessing legislators of both parties seizing power from voters in order to advance their purely partisan purposes. We’re confident that when the justices see how pervasive and damaging this practice has become, the Supreme Court will adopt a clear legal standard that will ensure our democracy functions as it should.”
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Gerrymandering, Gaming the System
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Voters approve reform of Ohio's redistricting process
- A Model for Other States?
The Columbus Dispatch • Wednesday November 4, 2015
Voters overwhelmingly backed a plan to reform Ohio’s hyper-partisan process for drawing legislative districts, and supporters are already looking ahead to passing the same reforms for congressional districts next year.
“Today's win was an important first step, but it only got us halfway there," said Carrie Davis, executive director of the League of Women Voters. “We need to take these new anti-gerrymandering rules that Issue 1 applied to the General Assembly and extend them to congressional districts, which are even more gerrymandered.”
Issue 1, which will change the legislative redistricting process starting in 2021, when the lines are scheduled to be drawn again, won with 71 percent of the vote, according to final, unofficial results.
“Ohio voters can do amazing things when they work together. Let’s work together to reform the congressional map,” said Sandy Theis, executive director of ProgressOhio.
The new process will attempt to curtail the partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts that critics say has led to too many non-competitive districts, artificially protects the majority party’s power, and creates a system where incumbents have more fear of being challenged from the far flanks of their parties, causing them to govern in a more partisan manner...
League of Women Voters / Redistricting Reform - http://lwv.org/search/content/redistricting
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Supreme Court of US Rules in support of constitutionality of Arizona state model of independent redistricting
Potential for State Initiatives and Ballot Law Reforms
In 2000, Arizona voters adopted Proposition 106, an initiative aimed at the problem of gerrymandering. Proposition 106 amended Arizona’s Constitution, removing redistricting authority from the Arizona Legislature and vesting it in an independent commission, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC). After the 2010 census, as after the 2000 census, the AIRC adopted redistricting maps for congressional as well as state legislative districts. The Arizona Legislature challenged the map the Commission adopted in 2012 for congressional districts, arguing that the AIRC and its map violated the “Elections Clause” of the U. S. Constitution, which provides: “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations.” Because “Legislature” means the State’s representative assembly, the Arizona Legislature contended, the Clause precludes resort to an independent commission, created by initiative, to accomplish redistricting. A three-judge District Court held that the Arizona Legislature had standing to sue, but rejected its complaint on the merits.
997 F. Supp. 2d 1047, affirmed.
GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which KENNEDY, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. ROBERTS, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which THOMAS, J., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA, J., joined.
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Supreme Court Backs Arizona's Redistricting Commission
JUNE 29, 201510:47 AM ET
U.S. states' efforts to counter extreme gerrymandering won a victory Monday, as the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a bipartisan Arizona panel that draws the state's districts. The court's vote was 5-4; Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, as did Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the opinion for the majority, in which her citations included James Madison writing in The Federalist Papers.
"The people of Arizona turned to the initiative to curb the practice of gerrymandering," Ginsburg wrote, "and, thereby, to ensure that Members of Congress would have 'an habitual recollection of their dependence on the people.' "
Ginsburg continued, quoting a 2005 gerrymandering case: "In so acting, Arizona voters sought to restore 'the core principle of republican government,' namely, 'that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.' "
More re: Redistricting and Reapportionment
In the age of computers, such political gerrymanders can result in state congressional maps that look like a madman's jigsaw puzzle. And even the U.S. Supreme Court has said that these gerrymanders can rig the process to deprive citizens of fair representation.
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Stuart Rothenberg editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report; columnist, Roll Call Richard Hasen professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine; author of "The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown" Jan Baran head of the election law group at Wiley Rein LLP; former general counsel, Republican National Committee; author, "The Election Law Primer for Corporations." Colleen Mathis chair, Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (2010 - present)
SR: ... putting in the context of the larger discussion, most states, over 40 states, I believe it's 43 states, allow the legislature to draw often their own lines, but also congressional districts. And there has been a call, increasingly, around the country for non-partisan groups, non-legislatures to draw lines, to create districts that are more competitive not less competitive, that are less polarized in terms of partisan and ideology to presumably result in a more compromising cooperative Congress.
Rick Hasen, do you think a number of other states are going to follow Arizona's lead?
Well, we do know that in Ohio, there were some efforts -- and Ohio is a very important battleground state, very close state in terms of, you know, lots of different elections there. Ohio, there was an effort to try and do this and that effort was put on hold pending the outcome of this decision. People thought, why spend millions of dollars and have a big campaign if we don't know if thing's going to work.
So now, I think there's going to be momentum there. But I would add, just to go back to the point that Jan made about this happening only once every 10 years, although the litigation lasts all 10 of those years in some places, that it is not just about redistricting. It's about, you know, you think of California adopted the top two primary where instead of running where it's a Democrat against a Republican, against maybe someone from the Green Party or a libertarian, it's the top two candidates that go on in the general election.
Sometimes that means two Democrats or two Republicans. I'm not sure that that's a wise policy, just like I'm not sure it's a wise policy to have citizen redistricting. But I'd rather have the people make that choice through the initiative process than have the courts take away the option. So now, as Stu said, there are all kinds of various ways that we could try and do redistricting. What this opinion does is it allows for state experimentation.
It's actually kind of a pro-federalism opinion in that it gives lots of opportunities to try different things that might improve our political process and maybe get rid of some of the gridlock.
Rick Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California Irvine and author of "The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown."
This is an inherently political process as it is. Drawing political boundaries is political by nature. And so I don't think you can entirely remove the politics from the process, but what you can do is bring it out into the open and engage as many citizens as you can, listen to them and get them to participate in the process and hope that you come out with a set of maps that reflects those viewpoints to the extent you can.
California officials praise Supreme Court ruling on independent redistricting commissions
Political reformers in California and Arizona and the voters who supported them won a big round at the Supreme Court on Monday, when the justices upheld the use of independent redistricting commissions to draw election districts for members of Congress.
In a 5-4 decision, the justices said the Constitution did not prevent states from taking this power away from elected politicians and lodging it in the hands of a nonpartisan board.
If the court had struck down the independent commissions in Arizona State Legislature vs. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, it would have threatened numerous congressional districts in Arizona and California that were drawn by nonpartisan citizen commissions.
In addition, five other states have semi-independent commissions that could have been affected by the ruling: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii and New Jersey.
Richard Hasen, an election law expert at UC Irvine, called the ruling a rejection of “mindless literal reading” of a constitutional provision.
The decision is a victory for reformers who see independent commissions as the best weapon to stop politicians from manipulating electoral district lines to protect incumbents or political fiefdoms.
National Conference on State Legislatures -- http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/ballot-measures-database.aspx
Official title Proposition 106's official ballot title said:
“Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Arizona; Amending Article IV, Part 2, Section 1, Constitution of Arizona; relating to ending the practice of gerrymandering and improving voter and candidate participation in elections by creating an independent commission of balanced appointments to oversee the mapping of fair and competitive congressional and legislative districts.”
The Arizona Legislative Council, which produces summaries of Arizona's ballot measures for the state's official voter guide, said this about Proposition 106:
“Proposition 106 would amend the Arizona Constitution to establish an appointed Redistricting Commission to redraw the boundaries for Arizona's legislative districts (for the members of the Arizona Legislature) and to redraw the boundaries for the Congressional Districts (for Arizona's members of the United States Congress). Currently, state law provides that the Arizona Legislature draws the legislative and congressional district lines. These lines are usually redrawn every ten years, after the state receives the results of the U.S. Census.
This proposition provides that the appointed Redistricting Commission shall first draw districts that are equal in population in a grid-like pattern across the state, with adjustments to meet the following goals:
1. Districts shall comply with the United States Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act. 2. Both legislative and congressional districts shall be equal in population, to the extent practicable. This establishes a new strict population equality standard for legislative districts. 3. Districts shall be geographically compact and contiguous, as much as practical. 4. District boundaries shall respect "communities of interest," as much as practical. 5. District lines shall follow visible geographic features, and city, town and county boundaries and undivided "census tracts" as much as practical. 6. Political party registration, voting history data and residences of incumbents and other candidates may not be used to create district maps. 7. "Competitive districts" are favored if competitive districts do not significantly harm the other goals listed.
The Redistricting Commission would consist of five members, no more than two of whom can be from the same political party or the same county. Persons would be eligible for membership on the commission if they meet certain voter registration requirements, and if during the last three years, they have not been candidates for public office or appointed to public office, except for school board members or officers, have not served as an officer of a political party or as an officer of a candidate's election committee and if they have not been a paid lobbyist. The Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, the Minority Party Leader of the Arizona House of Representatives, the President of the Arizona State Senate and the Minority Party Leader of the Arizona State Senate would each appoint one person to the Redistricting Commission. These four members of the Redistricting Commission would then meet and vote to appoint a fifth member to chair the commission. The commission would provide at least 30 days for the public to review the preliminary lines drawn by the commission, and then the commission would make the lines final, subject to approval by the United States Department of Justice.
Proposition 106 allocates $6 million to the Redistricting Commission for use in the redistricting process that begins in 2001 and allows additional money for later redistricting. 
Supporters of Proposition 106 included:
Its sponsoring organization, "Fair Districts, Fair Elections"
Lisa Graham Keegan, Peoria, Superintendent of Public Instruction
John C. Keegan, Peoria, Mayor of Peoria
Janet Napolitano, Phoenix, Arizona Attorney General
Arizona Common Cause
League of Women Voters
Grant Woods, former Arizona Attorney General
The Arizona School Boards Association
Neil G. Giuliano, Mayor of Tempe
Sam Campana, former Mayor of Scottsdale, Scottsdale
Terry Goddard, former Mayor of Phoenix, Phoenix
Jim Pederson, the chair of "Fair Districts, Fair Elections," wrote:
“Every once in a while, an issue comes along that makes so much sense and so clearly embodies the basic principles of democracy, people put aside their partisan differences and take action to protect the collective interest of citizen self-government.
The Citizen's Redistricting Commission Initiative is such an issue. A simple idea about giving citizens a central role in creating more representative democracy with so much common sense appeal that it enjoys the support of Arizonans statewide.
Amending the state constitution is no small matter and this is no minor issue.
Every 10 years, state legislators redraw the lines of Arizona's legislative and congressional districts. It's a once-a-decade political power struggle that has grown more important as the state has grown.
When legislators draw their own lines the result is predictable. Self-interest is served first and the public interest comes in a distant second. Incumbent legislators protect their seats for today and carve out new congressional opportunities for their political future.
The legislature has created a system that distorts representative democracy. There is only a four- percent difference between the number of registered Republicans and registered Democrats in this state - yet out of 30 legislative districts, there is only one where the difference in party registration is within 5 percent.
Allowing legislators draw the lines is the ultimate conflict of interest...
Our voices cannot be heard in a system that distorts our representation. We share a responsibility to step forward and correct this systemic flaw.