by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
Mitch Kokai wrote a commentary in Carolina Journal on a divergent way to think about gerrymandering. Kokai writes:
Most debate about gerrymandering reform focuses on partisan outcomes. But focusing on the pros and cons for D’s and R’s distracts would-be reformers from a change that would benefit all voters.
Kokai, along with Charles Blahous, Mercatus Center senior research strategist and author of a new report on gerrymandering, suggest a different solution:
Rather than attempt to draw election maps that set aside a certain number of safe seats for Democrats and Republicans, reformers should take a different approach. “Clearly, the foundation idea of geographical districting is that people who share a constituency ought to live reasonably close to one another,” Blahous said. “To the extent that gerrymandering really warps and distorts the shapes of congressional districts, it’s departing from that principle.”
So gerrymandering reform ought to focus on “limiting the irregularity of district shapes.”
Rather than adopting independent commissions for redistricting, Blahous suggests congressional action to limit geographical scope of districts:
Blahous recommends that Congress adopt a standard limiting the degree to which an election district can stray from its most compact geographic option. That standard would say nothing about how the resulting districts would affect partisan splits in a congressional delegation.
Blahous sees potential bipartisan support, Kokai writes:
“Both sides in the issue really have a stake in a neutral, rules-based reform,” Blahous added. “It constrains the amount of gaming or gimmicking that the mapmakers would do.”
“But if you’re in the majority, I would think you would want this as well,” he said. “It basically protects you from second-guessing by the courts. It also protects the perceived legitimacy of your decisions while governing.”