Friday, January 28, 2022

Independent commissions can eliminate partisanship and make redistribution fair to voters

States across America are attracting new electoral districts for the next decade in a process called redistribution. In some states, districts are created by the state legislature; In others, by an independent redistribution commission.

By federal law, congressional districts must be of equal population and must protect minority representation under the Voting Rights Act, by guaranteeing that minority voters have an equal opportunity to choose their preferred candidates.

In many states, elections to political parties or candidates must be “fair,” as stipulated by explicit provisions on partisan fairness, or enshrined in state law under “free and equal” clauses.

We are two scholars who study redistribution and electoral competition. To understand whether different redistribution institutions produce better or less fair results, we compared very different paths taken in three competing states of similar size: North Carolina, Michigan and Virginia.

In North Carolina, like most states, the state legislature draws up electoral district maps.

That was the case in Michigan and Virginia, until Michiganders in 2018 and Virginians in 2020 voted to amend their constitutions to assign the task of redistributing commissions to electoral districts.

Advocates for those commissions hoped that by separating from the legislatures, the commissions would provide better maps of the new polling districts.

We found that it is possible for commissions to develop an unbiased outcome, but this is not a given – and this depends at least in part on how the commission is structured.

The new electoral maps will help determine who will win elections in the next decade. Here, Donald Trump campaigns for Ohio congressional candidate Max Miller on June 26, 2021.

What is a proper map anyway?

Over the years, various courts and legislatures have sought to define fairness in different ways in districts beyond the same population.

Mathematical analyzes are often important to evaluate the objectivity of a proposed map. In 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued what is perhaps the clearest legal standard of mathematical fairness. This requires first identifying a hypothetical electoral map or maps that are politically neutral – and therefore fair and non-partisan – and then comparing any redistribution plans to such neutral maps.

One way to find a hypothetical neutral map is to go back to the origins of American democracy and look at the original 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution, in which each county, as well as the city of Philadelphia, had its own electoral district. Each of these districts got seats in proportion to its population at that time. County lines have long been fixed and drawn without considering the partisan interests of today.

Using this historical precedent as a hypothetical neutral benchmark, one can evaluate the fairness of a proposed redistribution map in two steps:

First, let’s look at threshold-level polling results from the most recent election. Add up the votes for each party by county, and find out which party won the most votes in each county. Then, for each party, add up the total population in all the counties in which the party won the most votes. The share of this population over the total population in the state is the neutral benchmark share of seats that the party would have won with these election results if we had counted the votes and declared the winner by county.

Second, look at the border-level results of the same recent election, but add up the votes for each party according to the proposed new districts to see how many of these districts the party will win.

If we count by county, compare the share of new districts a party wins with a neutral benchmark share. The closer the results of the proposed map are to the by-county method, the better the proposed map. We use this method to evaluate map proposals for each state.

North Carolina’s Partisan Process

In 2020, Joe Biden won the presidential election in 25 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, which account for more than 50% of the state’s population. Donald Trump won in another 75 counties, which are home to less than half of North Carolinians.

So a neutral Congressional redistribution map would give Democrats just over half the seats, and just under half to Republicans. North Carolina has 14 seats, so with adjustments for rounding, each party should win seven seats under a fair map.

The official map of the Republican-dominated state legislature was approved by lawmakers on November 4. Looking at the results of the 2020 presidential election according to that map, Biden would win four districts and Republicans would win 10.

Conducting the same analysis using results from other recent elections, including the 2016 presidential, gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races, also shows that a neutral map is equally divided, seven and seven – and a proposed map of North Carolina. Provides a 10-4 Republican majority.

Virginia’s partisan standoff

The Virginia Redistribution Commission is bipartisan and political: Democratic and Republican state legislative leaders appoint elected officials for half of the commission’s seats, and they nominate citizens for the other half, so the commission has eight Democrats and eight Republicans, including Each is half of the pool. Professional politician.

This commission was divided in a partisan manner, and due to disagreements, it was unable to produce a map. According to the state’s constitution, the Virginia Supreme Court appointed a special officer, or several of them, to draw up new electoral districts that, as we might expect, would be fair.

In Michigan, True Freedom Provides Fairness

The Independent Citizens Redistribution Commission in Michigan is made up of 13 volunteer regular citizens – not politicians – four who identify as Republican, four as Democratic and five who do not identify with either of the two parties.

The commission released four draft plans in October and held public hearings to receive comments. The commission then revised its work and on November 15 released three proposed maps, named Apple v2, Birch v2, and Chestnut, after the state’s native trees. After another round of public hearings, the commission will give a final vote to adopt one of these maps as the official map for Congressional elections in Michigan for the next decade.

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Our analysis shows that, in general, all three of these maps are unbiased. Based on recent past election results in Michigan’s 83 counties, we find that the Democratic candidate will win the most votes in 11 counties with 55% of the population, and Republicans will win the most votes in 72 counties with the remaining 45% of the population. Proportionately splitting the state’s 13 congressional seats would give Democrats 6.6 seats and Republicans 6.4.

Of course, actual seats do not come in fractions. Overall, a neutral actual result would provide six Democrats and six Republicans, with the 13th seat slightly more likely to be won by a Democrat than a Republican.

Under Apple V2 and Birch V2, 6.6 seats will be won by Democrats, and under Chestnut, 6.8.

In contrast to the partisan maps adopted by legislators in North Carolina and the failure of the Political Commission of Virginia, we find that in Michigan, an independent commission of citizens has drawn up maps of impartial Congress.

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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