A topic more than a decade since being discussed by the SCOTUS is returning to the court (http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/338404-supreme-court-to-consider-wisconsin-gerrymandering-case). Gerrymandering revolves around the tactic that public officials undertake to set up their districts. Named after former Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, it focuses on the act of drawing a district in such a way as to provide benefit to the leaders in question. As a result, gerrymandering is a huge potential boon to incumbents staying in power. Therefore, a case like this would seem to be paramount in constraining the ability of public officials to abuse their abilities. However, as with many subjects, such a topic becomes more complicated upon closer reflection.

A common complaint is how public officials misuse their ability to draw districts in order to garner unfair advantage in electoral cycles, and how this must be curtailed. However, a question that arises from such a complaint is how to effectively do so. Some propose pushing such decisions onto a non-partisan board, but such a board still requires the decision-making of public officials in order to be set up. Also, by removing such individuals from public scrutiny, there is much to be concerned as to whether they will effectively be kept in check by the voters. Lobbying and personal interests will still very much be at work, with the aim being now more directed at the non-partisan (any way to verify such a stance?) board as opposed to representatives. Redistricting criteria, with the aim of objectivity, would still be left to the eye of the beholder in how they would be implemented.

Therefore, while gerrymandering does indeed carry a risk of corruption, explicitly reforming it directly doesn’t automatically remove the problems that it raises. The only change likely to occur would simply be where the pressure is applied concerning said corruption. A practice involved specifically in political decisions will likely involve political pressures, and that will always involve the drive for power. Perhaps a good method of dealing with such abuses would be better handled in a more indirect method…such as reforming campaign finance laws to free up the ability of people to support candidates of their choice in however way they wish, as well as removing the distribution of public funds to the candidates of major political parties. Making sure the process is as transparent as possible is also helpful. Media reports concerning how redistricting is taking place will serve informative to the voters as to whether extreme gerrymandering is taking place. After all, in the end, it is up to the voters at large to hold their government to account for any abuses that occur. No amount of intricate reform will substitute for such a thing, particularly when it is dabbled in the political.

Update:

New working paper has looked at the ability of supposedly independent commissions to fairly set up districts…and has found that they are just as likely to gerrymander as state legislatures. Perhaps my concern was justified after all – https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2961564

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