Let the People Draw the Lines Act: longshot bill to fight gerrymandering

Let the People Draw the Lines Act, a bill introduced by Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), would appoint panels of independent experts to adjust electoral district boundaries in an attempt to remove the "safe seats" created through gerrymandering, by which electoral districts are torturously redrawn to include as many voters likely to keep the incumbent in and to exclude everyone else. As Wonkblog explains, the bill is a long-shot, but it's also a shining example of the kind of legislation that fights corruption and creates a climate of real representative democracy. The fact that this bill is wildly unlikely to pass doesn't make it laughable: it makes Congress irredeemable.

Lowenthal's "Let the People Draw the Lines Act" would create independent panels consisting of five Democrats, five Republicans and four Independents. "These would be people who haven't run for office, who aren't paid by either party, and who haven't contributed to either party," Lowenthal says. "That group would follow set criteria for drawing maps, and would hold public hearings throughout the state. The commission would approve the maps, and would not require legislative or governor's approval. If there was a legal challenge it would immediately go to federal district court."

One easy way to end gerrymandering: Stop letting politicians draw their own districts [Christopher Ingraham/Wonkblog]

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  1. Ratel says:

    The fact that this bill is wildly unlikely to pass doesn't make it laughable: it makes Congress irredeemable.

    Not really: this is a pretty clear cut case where the authority to manage voting belongs to the States, and so that is where this battle should be fought. Incidentally, CA has already done this, with good results. Obviously places like Texas are terrified of this happening, and the current Republican congress is entirely a produce of Gerrymandering (they lost the overall popular vote by a good margin), but practically the fight will have to happen there.

  2. It's instructive to look at how other countries have solved this problem, or attempted to solve it, and what the results have been. Apparently, getting an actual nonpartisan panel to draw districts works fairly well, but there's a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem in establishing a trustworthy one. Notably, that's not what this bill calls for; it instead proposes a bipartisan panel, which tends to result in the preservation of the status quo.

  3. I live in CA, and the referendum was passed in part as a preventive measure when the political climate began to aggressively change nationally. It's because of CA's size and different types of population distribution that the action was taken. (Large rural areas bordering densely populated urban areas make gerrymandering easy. That's why it's a problem in TX, and why it's a concern here.)

    CA's mandate actually has had good results - whether you realize it or not. Population distribution on maps has been shown to be fairly equitable within the state and we've had changes to our officials. Not sure you guys are actually reading how the intended bill (or existing referendum) is set up.

    @Taymon even said the bill, "proposes a bipartisan panel." That's just not true. The actual panel for the "Let the People Draw the Lines Act" Is meant to be: 5 Dem, 5 Rep, 4 Independent. (The same as in CA.) While the two major parties do hold dominance, it is no way a "bipartisan panel" and the 4 independent votes are enough to sway either major party on decision-making.

    For the actual results of the change in policy, you guys may want to read the Wiki page on the subject. Just check out "Results".

  4. Couple of points:

    • The diagram used to illustrate the article isn't a measure of how gerrymandered a district is, it's a measure of compactness. The two are correlated, but not the same thing. You can gerrymander using perfectly straight lines if need be.
    • Doing this on a state-by-state basis makes the process more difficult, because it sets states where parties dominate against one another- "Sure, we want fair districts, but we've got to balance out what those idiots in (insert state of choice here) are doing or we'll lose control of congress forever "
    • This is how it's done over here. Entirely by non-partisan public employees, with the public given the right to object to the proposals before they are implemented. It's not perfect, but it's not awful either.

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