Rethink redistricting reform
`Fair and competitive' legislative districts don't appear as if by magic

By Ted Arrington
Published March 18th 2005 in The Charlotte Observer

From Ted Arrington, professor and chair of the department of political science at UNC Charlotte

As one who has drawn legislative districts for courts and other parties in places from Canada to Louisiana, I favor the idea of having bipartisan commissions draw legislative districts.

I think it is unfortunate, however, that the pressure for this kind of reform is coming in states like North Carolina and California where the bias in the districts, if any, is slightly in favor of the Democratic Party, while states with extreme Republican bias like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Texas are off the hook.

The U.S. House of Representatives has a large Republican bias, which would be made worse if North Carolina and California were to use bipartisan commissions for districting. Until there is reform in the states with Republican bias, Democratic legislatures should resist such reforms.

The idea that such commissions should ignore party affiliation of voters and voting data from previous elections comes from individuals who have never been involved in the process of trying to draw fair districts. It assumes that fair and competitive districts appear by magic from the use of geography alone.

This is nonsense. Bipartisan commissions must be charged to use such data to construct districts which provide both politically unbiased districts and a reasonable number of competitive districts.

The main problem is with the single-member-district system. There is no way to draw single-member districts which provide both competition and representation. To obtain both we must use multimember districts and some kind of proportional voting system, such as cumulative voting.