State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Independent Redistricting

Dead on Arrival: Oklahoma’s State Question 804

By: Parker Klingenberg

The Oklahoman citizen group People Not Politicians, backed by the Women Voters of Oklahoma, led the charge earlier this year to get State Question 804, also known as the Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative, on the ballot for Oklahomans voting on November 3, 2020. State Question 804 would have laid out a new framework for drawing both state and federal district lines, complying with both federal law and numerous other criteria. These lines would be drawn not by the state legislature like in the past, however, but would be drawn by a newly created Independent Redistricting Commission consisting of three members of the majority party, three members of the minority parties, and three non-party affiliated members. State Question 804 will not be on the ballot, however. The Oklahoma Supreme Court blocked it based on the grounds that the “gist,” or the summary that would appear to citizens during the process of gathering the required signatures to get on the ballot, was not “sufficiently informative to reveal its design and purpose.” Specifically, the gist failed to properly inform citizens that the ballot initiative was designed to stop partisan gerrymandering, and how the proposed committee would do so. While Oklahomans were not able to decide in November whether they want to vote for or against this proposal, it still raises interesting issues about Oklahoma’s future.

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Electoral Competitiveness in Washington State – Part Two

By: Rachael Sharp

As established in Part One, a facial analysis of two possible measures of competitiveness – margins of victory and incumbent reelection rates – seems to indicate that Washington’s independent redistricting commission has not been especially successful at accomplishing its mandated goal of creating competitive elections in the state. However, this analysis may not be dispositive as a judgement against the success of the commission as a whole. In fact, the lack of change in the metrics of competitiveness analyzed in Part One also may actually be an indicator of the commission’s success in other ways.

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Electoral Competitiveness in Washington State – Part One

By Rachael Sharp

Prior to 1983, Washington was among the large number of states whose state and national electoral districts were drawn by its state legislature. This arrangement changed in 1983, when a constitutional amendment (as enacted in § 43 of the Constitution) made Washington the third state to have an independent commission conduct its redistricting process. Washington’s commission is a five-person panel made up of two Democratic appointees, two Republican appointees, and one nonvoting chairperson chosen by the four appointees.

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South Dakota Redistricting: Legislature or Independent Commission?

By: Bethany Bostron

Along with the extensive campaign finance reform posed by Initiated Measure 22, South Dakotans will be deciding whether to amend the state constitution to have state legislative redistricting conducted by an independent commission. The constitution currently provides that the legislature itself conducts state legislative redistricting. The commission established under Constitutional Amendment T would be comprised of nine registered voters selected by the State Board of Elections in each redistricting year (currently every 10 years). These nine commission members would be selected from a pool of 30 applicants comprised as follows: 10 from the Democratic Party, 10 from the Republican Party, and 10 individuals not registered with either party. Each applicant must be registered or not registered with a party for the three years prior to appointment. Of the nine selected members, no more than three may belong to the same party. Commission members are barred from holding office in a political party or certain local or state offices for the three years before and three years after their appointment. The amendment calls for the new commission to redistrict the state in 2017, 2021, and then every 10 years. The new commission must comply with applicable state and federal law when drawing districts and allow for public comment on the proposed map. Attorney General Marty Jackley’s explanation of the amendment does not state any foreseeable challenges to the change.

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Crafting Competitive Criteria: The Institution is Critical

By: Benjamin Williams

With the rapid increase in political polarization in recent years, momentum is building in several states to dramatically alter the redistricting process after the 2020 Census. True to the idea of the states being laboratories of democracy, there have been state constitutional amendments in Florida, partisan gerrymandering challenges in Wisconsin, Maryland, and North Carolina, redistricting criteria bills in Virginia, as well as a myriad of racial gerrymandering challenges. But the new idea—based on a blend of Iowa-style and Florida-style redistricting—is to create stringent criteria for legislatures to follow. That idea is simple enough: if the redistricting body (legislature, independent redistricting commission, college students, etc.) is forced to follow strict criteria when redistricting, the result will be “better” districts that aren’t ugly and are more competitive. But does the data actually bear this out?

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