Gerrymandering, the drawing of a political district map to specifically give advantage to an incumbent, or to a political party, is an issue across the nation. It’s a way of watering down the will of the voters by drawing irregular lines on the map to pack the voters you don’t want into one district, while leaving another district easily won by your party.
In Michigan, that’s resulted in a disproportionate number of Republican legislators and members of Congress, compared to how the state votes.
A group called Voters Not Politicians collected signatures to put a measure on this November’s ballot to establish an independent commission to draw districts that more accurately represent voters.
But how might that work?
The group invited members of California’s independent redistricting commission to explain how it works in that state.
Peter Yao, a Republican member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, joined Stateside today.
Yao said in California, the commission has been “a clear success.”
“And we have voters telling us after the task is complete – after they see the election results – two out of the three respondents suggest that we have done a good job,” he said. “So on that basis, I think we’ve met the requirement of the task.”
The independent commission in California, strictly speaking, is not a non-partisan commission. There are five Republicans, five Democrats, and four members not affiliated with either of those parties.
But Yao said what the commission actually does is non-partisan.
“Let me explain that,” he said. “When the proposition required us not to take the political parameters into consideration, we as a commission decided that we’re not going to look at any political data.”
“What does that mean? We do not know the registration of the people that we’re doing the districts for,” he said. “We do not look at the address of the incumbents.”
When determining how to draw a district, he said the independent commission follows the criteria defined by the proposition, the requirements for the maps, and community data.
“If it happened to favor a Republican, it just happened by accident,” he said. “If it happened to favor the Democrat, likewise.”
He said the commission’s objective is “free of any political parameters.”
Listen above for more on how California’s districts have changed, and how that state's independent redistricting commission works.