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Partisan gerrymandering is not a new problem in American politics. Indeed, the practice can be traced back to the first congressional elections, when the districts in Virginia were drawn so that James Madison would be forced to compete against James Monroe.

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Changes within the electorate and the information and tools now available to legislative mapmakers have made it much easier to predict voting patterns and draw districts with fine lines. As a result, the incentives to engage in partisan redistricting have grown stronger, and the practice has become more common, more efficient, and more effective. The amount of information now available about voters combined with innovations in digital mapping tools has improved the capacity of legislative mapmakers to devise partisan districts.

These data have become more useful because of digital mapping tools and automated redistricting algorithms that facilitate the construction of mapping scenarios with thousands of variations and allow detailed analysis of each of these districting designs. These tools also make possible rigorous sensitivity testing that allows mapmakers to test potential election outcomes under various scenarios, including shifts in voting behavior and projected population and demographic changes within each district.

Redistricting has thus become more of a science than a matter of political judgment or legislative debate. Predicting voting behavior within political jurisdictions and geographic constituencies has also become much easier due to the rising polarization within the electorate. Voters have become increasingly rigid in their voting behavior, with party identification a stronger indicator of how an individual will cast a ballot. Also, splitticket voting is now much rarer than in previous decades. This social segregation facilitates the identification of geographic areas that can be targeted for packing or cracking.

Furthermore, as voters have become more partisan and polarized, so too have legislatures. Both in Congress and in state legislatures, Democrats and Republicans have become more divided and have moved away from the center of the political spectrum. In Congress and state legislatures, there is now relatively little ideological overlap between Democratic and Republican legislators.

Legislatures that have become more polarized are more likely to approve extremely partisan redistricting plans when unified party control provides the opportunity to adopt such plans. When legislative control is divided between the parties, legislators are more likely to agree to bipartisan plans that entrench incumbents and minimize the number of seats that are truly competitive, as would packing and cracking in a purely partisan gerrymander.

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Thus, as the partisan divide in legislatures has become more apparent, redistricting plans that reflect and reinforce this polarization have become more common. Partisan gerrymandering reverses the normal course of politics by allowing legislators to select their voters, rather than the voters selecting their representatives. The effects of this practice on voter efficacy and electoral competition were made clear in the most recent redistricting cycle following the elections.

Once the election results were settled, one party held control in most state legislatures, with the Republicans controlling both legislative chambers in 25 states and Democrats controlling both chambers in 16 states. Thirty-one of these states had unified party control when the governor is included, with Republicans holding unified control in 20 states and the Democrats in 11 states. Of the US House districts, were in states where one party determined the districts.

Of these districts, were in states where the legislature was responsible for redistricting, and the Republicans controlled the legislative and executive branches of government. Democrats controlled both branches in states that held 49 districts. Of the remaining districts, 92 were in states with divided government and 92 in states where commissions draft redistricting plans or in Iowa, which uses its unique Legislative Services Agency process. Consequently, partisan gerrymandering surged to unprecedented levels of severity, producing maps in some states that were extreme in their partisan bias.

An analysis of districting plans conducted by Professor Simon Jackman of Stanford University, which encompassed state legislative elections in 41 states in the period from —, found that the maps approved in the most recent redistricting cycle exhibited some of the worst partisan asymmetries at both the congressional and state level in the past 40 years.

In Wisconsin, which was controlled by Republicans, the redistricting plan allocated votes among newly created state legislative districts in a way that made it likely that the party would retain a majority in the state assembly under any likely election scenario. In , Republicans won In both and , Republicans won a narrow majority of 52 percent of the vote but won 63 seats in and 64 seats in In Massachusetts, which was controlled by Democrats, the districting plans secured the Democratic majority. In state house elections, Democrats in received 73 percent of the vote, but 82 percent of the seats.

In , they received 67 percent of the vote and 78 percent of the seats. Conversely, Republicans received 25 percent of the vote in state house races in and 31 percent in but took only 18 percent and 22 percent of the seats. In Pennsylvania, which was controlled by Republicans, the new congressional district map packed Democrats into five districts. In , Democrats received a total of 2. In , with a new districting plan in place, Democratic candidates received 2.

The congressional delegation elected, however, consisted of 13 Republicans and 5 Democrats. In Maryland, which was controlled by Democrats, the Democrats drew a map designed to increase their 6—2 advantage in US House seats to 7—1 by targeting term Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlett. In , Bartlett lost to Democrat John Delaney by about 75, votes, and Delaney has won reelection in the district ever since.

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Conversely, the Republicans received 33 percent of the vote but only one of the eight seats. Both parties have thus been able to gain additional seats by crafting maps to their advantage. Republicans achieved the greater benefit from the districting because they had control of more states where legislatures are responsible for districting, including 10 of the 15 states that gained or lost seats through reapportionment based on population shifts, and controlled more of the larger states with a greater number of congressional districts.

According to an analysis of the US House races by the Associated Press, the Republicans gained as many as 22 additional US House seats as compared to the average vote share in congressional districts due to the partisan advantage achieved through the districting process. Partisan gerrymanders achieve their objectives by diluting voter influence and increasing the number of safe seats in elections. Maps drawn with partisan intent treat voters as a means to an end, rather than treating them as citizens who have the individual responsibility of deciding electoral outcomes.

In this way, they reduce the influence of a substantial share of voters by ensuring that their ballots will not have a meaningful effect in determining the outcome of a legislative race. In the other districts, the winning candidate won by margins greater than 10 percentage points, including 12 districts where the winning candidate faced no opposition at all in the general election. In , only 63 of the districts featured competitive races. The other districts did not feature competitive races, including 13 in which the winning candidate had no general election opponent. By encouraging the creation of uncompetitive districts or districts with a clear partisan advantage, partisan redistricting exacerbates the problem of polarization in Congress and state legislatures.

While redistricting is not a major cause of the ideological polarization and partisan conflict that plagues our political system, it exacerbates the problem by producing districts that are more partisan and homogeneous, thus exposing representatives to fewer dissenting voices or fewer disparate groups of constituents. Our representative system of government is designed to work best when it is based on neutral rules and procedures that do not impose or enforce narrow political interests.

A fair and equitable electoral process is the best way to encourage robust competition and broad voter participation, which are essential to meaningful representation of public views and a government that is responsive to the will of all voters, not just those of one party or the other. The process used to draw district lines in most states fails to meet this basic conception of democratic governance.

Redistricting should rely solely on the application of neutral criteria to diminish partisan and political influence. Such criteria have already been established by the Constitution, federal law, state constitutions and statutes, and court decisions. Districts must adhere to all Constitutional and Voting Rights Act requirements. In addition to these requirements, some states have specified other neutral criteria to be used in redistricting, which we believe would mitigate political influence and should be applied to all redistricting efforts. Districts also should be drawn to promote partisan competitiveness, which serves to increase voter interest in elections and enhances electoral accountability by creating districts that will reflect major changes in voter sentiment.

The redistricting process also should be transparent, so that the public can be aware of the decisions that are made and have confidence that the outcome was not a result of secret deals or a rigging of the process in favor of one party. We recognize that an adherence to these widely affirmed guidelines does not resolve completely the problem of political gerrymandering. Fulfilling these diverse criteria often involves trade-offs that require judgments concerning the best way of balancing these objectives.

For example, the creation of compact districts might best be achieved by concentrating the voters in a city into one district, but this approach can work against the promotion of partisan competition, since these urban districts are likely to be uncompetitive. Furthermore, as recent experience demonstrates, partisan maps still can be constructed in accord with such criteria. That is why we have concluded that fundamental reform of the districting process is needed to bring about meaningful change. One significant and highly valuable step towards reducing the role of partisan gerrymandering may come from the Supreme Court.

This question is now before the court in the case of Gill v. However, even if the court finds the Wisconsin map to be unconstitutional, such a ruling will not resolve the problem of political influence.

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Partisan maps that do not surpass the constitutional quantum established by the court still may be possible. In addition, bipartisan gerrymanders designed to protect incumbents in both parties and minimize the number of competitive districts also may be permitted. Consequently, we believe a change in the designation of the redistricting authority in most states is needed to effectively address the abuses in the current system. Independent Redistricting Commissions We support the use of nonpartisan, independent commissions as the entities responsible for drawing district lines.

This method is used in a number of Western democracies, with a nonpartisan administrative board or commission, or some form of politically neutral body given the responsibility of redrawing district lines. In Great Britain, for example, a nonpartisan Boundary Commission carries out this task. In Canada, independent commissions that explicitly exclude members with partisan connections redraw district lines for the Parliament and every provincial legislature.

A few US states also have adopted an independent commission process. The institutional arrangements, specific criteria to be employed when drawing districts, and formal procedures that dictate the practices of these commissions vary widely, with some states relying on commissions that are more bipartisan than nonpartisan, since members are appointed by legislative leaders or membership consists of individuals associated with the major parties with an individual who is not affiliated with the major parties serving as chair.

An independent redistricting commission should meet certain requisites to minimize partisan or political influences:. Commission members should be selected from a pool of candidates named by a mix of nominating authorities, including some authorities that represent civic or scholarly interests. Commission members should be appointed through a process that involves selection by a mix of appointing authorities. Commission membership should be structured to include an equal number of members affiliated with each party and members affiliated with neither party.

The qualifications for commission membership should exclude elected officials or legislative candidates from serving on the commission. Commission members also should be prohibited from running as legislative candidates in the two elections following redistricting. The process for determining districts should be transparent and open to the public. Commission meetings should be a matter of public record and provide opportunities for public comment and input. The commission should be charged with drawing maps based on neutral criteria established to govern their task, including a charge to promote the creation of competitive districts.

The commission should have sole authority for creating maps. The commission should have a nonpartisan staff and funding necessary to carry out its responsibilities. Should the commission fail to agree to a redistricting plan within the time frame established for the completion of its task, a designated court or court-appointed panel of judges should be responsible for resolving any issues and determining the map.

The Commission should be accountable to a designated court, which will be responsible for review of its actions and addressing any controversies concerning its actions. We believe that a commission-based redistricting process that incorporates these features will resolve the abuses evident in the current system.

While it may not wholly insulate redistricting from partisan and political influence, it will be free of the conflicts of interest and blatant partisan motivations that have come to dominate redistricting in far too many instances. The Census We also recognize that any redistricting effort must be based on accurate and timely data, given the constitutionally mandated timetable for reapportioning congressional seats and revising district maps based on the decennial census.

The decennial census is the foundation of fair political representation in our system of government because the population count serves as the basis for apportioning seats in the House of Representatives and drawing district boundaries to conform to the constitutional requisite of equal population. Similarly, it is the basis for drawing district lines for state legislative seats and other elected positions, including city councils, school boards, and some municipal offices. An accurate and robust census is thus the essential component of the redistricting process.

Given the importance of the census to political representation and many public and private stakeholders, ensuring an accurate count and high-quality data is a national policy priority. Florence utilized a combination of lot and scrutiny by the people, set forth by the ordinances of The nominatori were thereafter chosen by lot from among the members of the Great Council, indicating a decline in aristocratic power.

Because financial gain could be achieved through the position of mayor, some parts of Switzerland used random selection during the years between and in order to prevent corruption. Local government in parts of Tamil Nadu such as the village of Uttiramerur traditionally used a system known as kuda-olai where the names of candidates for the village committee were written on palm leaves and put into a pot and pulled out by a child.

Sortition most commonly used to form policy juries , such as deliberative opinion polls , citizens' juries , Planungszelle planning cells , consensus conferences , and citizens' assemblies. As an example, Vancouver council initiated a citizens' assembly that met in —15 in order to assist in city planning.

Sortition is commonly used in selecting juries in Anglo-Saxon legal systems and in small groups e. In public decision-making, individuals are often determined by allotment if other forms of selection such as election fail to achieve a result. Examples include certain hung elections and certain votes in the UK Parliament. Some contemporary thinkers [ who? Sortition is also used in military conscription, as one method of awarding US green cards, and in placing students into some schools.


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A modern advocate of sortition, political scientist John Burnheim , argues for systems of sortition as follows:. Let the convention for deciding what is our common will be that we will accept the decision of a group of people who are well informed about the question, well-motivated to find as good a solution as possible and representative of our range of interests simply because they are statistically representative of us as a group.

If this group is then responsible for carrying out what it decides, the problem of control of the execution process largely vanishes. This advantage does not equally apply to the use of juries. Cognitive diversity is an amalgamation of different ways of seeing the world and interpreting events within it, [47] where a diversity of perspectives and heuristics guide individuals to create different solutions to the same problems.

According to numerous scholars such as Page and Landemore, [49] cognitive diversity is more important to creating successful ideas than the average ability level of a group. This "diversity trumps ability theorem" [50] is essential to why sortition is a viable democratic option. Sortition is inherently egalitarian in that it ensures all citizens have an equal chance of entering office irrespective of any bias in society: [51].

Compared to a voting system — even one that is open to all citizens — a citizen-wide lottery scheme for public office lowers the threshold to office. This is because ordinary citizens do not have to compete against more powerful or influential adversaries in order to take office, and because the selection procedure does not favour those who have pre-existing advantages or connections — as invariably happens with election by preference.

Random selection has the ability to overcome the various demographic biases in race, religion, sex, etc. Greater perceived fairness can be added by using stratified sampling. For example, the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform in British Columbia sampled one woman and one man from each electoral district and also ensured representation for First Nations members.

Bias may still exist if particular groups are purposefully excluded from the lottery such as happened in Ancient Athens where women, slaves, younger men and foreigners were not eligible. Greek writers who mention democracy including Aristotle , [5] Plato and Herodotus emphasise the role of selection by lot or state outright that being allotted is more democratic than elections. For example, Plato says:.

Democracy arises after the poor are victorious over their adversaries, some of whom they kill and others of whom they exile, then they share out equally with the rest of the population political offices and burdens; and in this regime public offices are usually allocated by lot. The idea that democracy is associated with sortition remained common in the 18th century.

Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu writes in The Spirit of the Laws , "The suffrage by lot is natural to democracy, as that by choice is to aristocracy. Sortition may be less corruptible than voting. Author James Wycliffe Headlam explains that the Athenian Council administrators randomly selected , would commit occasional mistakes such as levying taxes that were too high. Additionally, from time to time, some in the Council would improperly make small quantities of money from their civic positions.

However, "systematic oppression and organized fraud were impossible". Furthermore, power did not necessarily go to those who wanted it and had schemed for it. The Athenians used an intricate machine, a kleroterion , to allot officers. Headlam also explains that "the Athenians felt no distrust of the lot, but regarded it as the most natural and the simplest way of appointment". Like Athenian democrats, critics of electoral politics in the 21st-century argue that the process of election by vote is subject to manipulation by money and other powerful forces and because legislative elections give power to a few powerful groups they are believed to be less democratic system than selection by lot from amongst the population.

An inherent problem with electoral politics is the over-representative of the politically active groups in society who tend to be those who join political parties. As a result, political members of the UK population were represented by one MP per of those belonging to a party whilst those who did not belong to a party had one MP per 19 million individuals who did not belong to a party.

Additionally, participants grow in competence by contributing to deliberation. Citizens are more significantly empowered by being a part of decision-making that concerns them. Most societies have some type of citizenship education, but sortition-based committees allow ordinary people to develop their own democratic capacities through participation. Supporters [ who? Elected representatives typically rely on political parties in order to gain and retain office. This means they often feel a primary loyalty to the party and will vote contrary to conscience to support a party position.

Representatives appointed by sortition do not owe anything to anyone for their position. The most common argument against pure sortition that is, with no prior selection of an eligible group is that it does not discriminate among those selected and takes no account of particular skills or experience that might be needed to effectively discharge the particular offices to be filled.

Were such a position to require a specific skill set, sortition could not necessarily guarantee the selection of a person whose skills matched the requirements of being in office unless the group from which the allotment is drawn were itself composed entirely of sufficiently specialized persons.

The Athenians, for example, did not fill the roles of military commander Strategos by sortition for this reason. By contrast, systems of election or appointment ideally limit this problem by encouraging the matching of skilled individuals to jobs they are suited to. By submitting their qualifications to scrutiny beforehand, either by the electorate or other persons in positions of authority, those manifestly unqualified to hold a given position can be prevented from being elected or appointed to discharge it. According to Xenophon Memorabilia Book I, 2.

The same argument is also made by Edmund Burke in his essay Reflections on the Revolution in France :. There is no qualification for government but virtue and wisdom, actual or presumptive. No rotation; no appointment by lot; no mode of election operating in the spirit of sortition or rotation can be generally good in a government conversant in extensive objects. Because they have no tendency, direct or indirect, to select the man with a view to the duty or to accommodate the one to the other.

Because it introduces randomness in determining outcomes, there is always the statistical possibility that sortition may put into power an individual or group that do not represent the views of the population from which they were drawn. This argument is mentioned by Isocrates in his essay Areopagiticus section 23 :. This argument applies to juries, but less to larger groups where the probability of, for example, an oppressive majority, are statistically insignificant.

The modern processes of jury selection and the rights to object to and exclude particular jurors by both the plaintiff and defence are used to potentially lessen the possibilities of a jury not being representative of the community or being prejudicial towards one side or the other. Today, therefore, even juries in most jurisdictions are not ultimately chosen through pure sortition. Those who see voting as expressing the " consent of the governed ", maintain that voting is able to confer legitimacy in the selection. According to this view, elected officials can act with greater authority than when randomly selected.

As such, politicians would be open to charges of illegitimacy, as they were selected purely by chance. Moreover, the logistical constraints of sortition and deliberation encourage that governing bodies be kept small, limiting participation. Identifying the source of sortition's legitimacy has proven difficult. As a result, advocates of sortition have suggested limiting the use cases of sortition to serving as consultative or political agenda-setting bodies. In an elected system, the representatives are to a degree self-selecting for their enthusiasm for the job. Under a system of pure, universal sortition the individuals are not chosen for their enthusiasm.

Elected representatives choose to accept any additional workload; voters can also choose those representatives most willing to accept the burden involved in being a representative. Individuals chosen at random from a comprehensive pool of citizens have no particular enthusiasm for their role and therefore may not make good advocates for a constituency.

Unlike elections, where members of the elected body may stand for re-election, sortition does not offer a mechanism by which the population expresses satisfaction or dissatisfaction with individual members of the allotted body. Thus, under sortition there is no formal feedback, or accountability, mechanism for the performance of officials, other than the law.

Before the random selection can be done, the pool of candidates must be defined. Systems vary as to whether they allot from eligible volunteers, from those screened by education, experience, or a passing grade on a test, or screened by election by those selected by a previous round of random selection, or from the membership or population at large.

A multi-stage process in which random selection is alternated with other screening methods can be used, as in the Venetian system. Using it, multiple specific sources of random numbers e. When the random numbers become available, anyone can calculate the winners. David Chaum , a pioneer in computer science and cryptography, proposed Random-Sample Elections in Via recent advances in computer science, it is now possible to select a random sample of eligible voters in a verifiably valid manner and empower them to study and make a decision on a matter of public policy.

This can be done in a highly transparent manner which allows anyone to verify the integrity of the election, while optionally preserving the anonymity of the voters. A related approach has been pioneered by James Fishkin, director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford, to make legally binding decisions in Greece, China and other countries. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Proportional representation.

Mixed systems. Mixed-member proportional additional member system Parallel voting mixed-member majoritarian Scorporo Majority bonus Alternative Vote Plus Dual-member proportional Rural—urban proportional. Cumulative voting Binomial voting Proxy voting Delegated voting Random selection sortition , random ballot Comparison of electoral systems Social choice theory Arrow's theorem Gibbard—Satterthwaite theorem Public choice theory.

Archived from the original PDF on December 8, Random House Inc. Retrieved October 1, Election by Lot at Athens. Oxford: Oxford University Press. The Funeral Oration of Pericles. The Principles of Representative Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


  1. Second Amendment to the United States Constitution;
  2. Le Guide du Bien-être (French Edition).
  3. Heavens Flower;
  4. Edited by Gregory A. Caldeira, R. Daniel Kelemen, and Keith E. Whittington.
  5. The Political Potential of Sortition: A study of the random selection of citizens for public office. Imprint Academic. On the Social Contract. New York: St Martin's Press. Florentine Politics and Society