In the 2012 last Congressional election, Democrats received 1.4 million more votes than Republicans, yet Republicans won control of the House by a 234 to 201 margin. That is a statistical anomaly that is impossible to understand without gerrymandering.
Americans believe in majority rule, and you would think that the party that wins more than half the votes should get at least half the seats in Congress. But it doesn’t work that way because we let politicians draw the Congressional district boundaries.
Two studies, one at Princeton and the other University of California Santa Barbara, clearly show that Republican-controlled State legislatures have deliberately drawn Congressional district boundaries that favor their party, rather than creating districts that reflect the will of the voters.
The process of drawing Congressional election districts is left to individual States. In almost all the States, the State legislatures draw the Congressional district boundaries, California, however, uses panel-drawn redistricting.
California is different because California voters took redistricting out of legislators’ hands by creating the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.
In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 11, the Voters FIRST Act, which took redistricting out of the hands of the State Legislature and put in the hands of a 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission.
The Commission is made up of three Democrats, three Republicans, and two people who are not registered in either party. Commissioners are selected by the legislature from a list of candidates identified on by the Auditor’s Applicant Review Panel.
By law the commission must create districts that represent California’s diverse demographics and geography.
In the past forty years, the redistricting process in California has alternated between legislatively-drawn and panel-drawn districts, so there is ample data available to determine which method produces fair and unfair Congressional districts.
Corbett Grainger used roll-call voting data, voter registration, and election returns at the state legislature level to examine the evidence.
Grainger found that legislative redistricting results in districts that do not reflect voter demographic and that legislative redistricting has been a major contributor to polarization in the political system.
Sam Wang, from Princeton, found that gerrymandering is a major form of disenfranchisement.
Wang found that ten States that use legislative redistricting have severely gerrymandered Congressional districts: Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio (home of House Speaker John Boehner), Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Seven of those States have Republican-controlled State Legislatures.
In the seven states where Republicans redrew the districts, Republican candidates received 16.7 million votes democratic candidates received 16.4 million votes. However, because of the way the election districts were drawn, 73 Republicans and only 34 Democrats were elected.
Republican candidates received 50.45% of the vote but won 68.22% of the seats in Congress. Democratic candidates received 49.55% of the vote but won only 31.78% of the seat in Congress.
The current composition of the Hose is 232 Republicans and 200 Democrats. How different would it be without gerrymandering?
Wang thinks that Americans need t do two things to preserve majority rule and minority representation, redistricting must be brought into fairer balance: Establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions in all 50 states, and adopt a statistically robust judicial standard for partisan gerrymandering
In 2004, Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy cast the critical vote when the Supreme Court (Vieth v. Jubelirer) voted against intervention to overturn gerrymandered redistricting in Pennsylvania, But Kennedy left the door open for future remedies elsewhere if a clear standard could be established.
The California model for honest redistricting may be that standard. It’s time for Americans to take redistricting out of the hands of the politicians and put it into the hands of nonpartisan commissions.