Blurring Party Lines Assessing the Performance of Independent Redistricting Commissions

Marotta, Sebastian [Browse]
Senior thesis
107 pages


Frymer, Paul [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
This thesis sets out to evaluate and explain the congressional redistricting performance of independent commissions as compared to state legislatures. Background is given on redistricting and gerrymandering, in addition to an overview of the literature on the subject. The author then performs a quantitative analysis using two statistical tests and a regression, which show that bipartisan commissions receive some of the most neutral scores on indicators of gerrymandering; performing better than all but a few legislatures. It is hypothesized that decreased partisanship – rather than simply isolation from voters and politicians – is the key to understanding why independent commissions generally perform fairer redistricting jobs than legislatures, and also why there is variation in the level of partisan asymmetry in the congressional maps produced by different commissions. To assess the impact of partisanship, the thesis goes on to analyze the deliberations of commissions in California and Arizona using primary source evidence and to perform a second statistical analysis to compare the different commission states. The results show that a less partisan commission California performed better than a more partisan one in Arizona, indicating that partisanship also has an effect on intra-commission variability. Non-partisan commissions in Canada and Iowa are then introduced, and in another statistical analysis are found to redistrict more equitably than either bipartisan commissions or legislatures. This once again provides support for the hypothesis. Finally, suggestions are made for potential reforms that could be applied to bipartisan independent commissions from their non-partisan counterparts.

Supplementary Information