Americans Don’t Trust Their Congressional Maps To Be Drawn Fairly. Can Anything Change That?

The United States is in the midst of a process that can only happen once a decade: redistribution. And while it’s early – 19 states are not expected to finish their maps until next year – a number of states have proposed maps and there are debates to go over across the country. Six states have ready-made maps.

But Americans are not necessarily confident that the process will be fair. Only 16 percent of US adults said they believed their states’ congressional maps were being drawn up fairly, while 44 percent said they felt the maps were being drawn unfairly in August YouGov / Economist poll. Another 40 percent of adults said they weren’t sure the cards would be fair. This could be one reason why independent commissions, which are supposed to give ordinary citizens the opportunity to draw map lines, have grown in use since the last redistribution cycle. In the same YouGov / Economist poll, 50 percent of Americans said they believe independent commissions should be responsible for the redistribution process in their state.

However, it is unclear whether independent commissions will be enough to build confidence in the redistribution process. For some, the redistribution process is simply “the most political activity in American politics,” said Michael Bitzer, a professor of politics and history at Catawba College and author of “Redistricting and Gerrymandering in North Carolina: Battlelines in the Tar Heel State.” ”

And Bitzer doesn’t see that this will change anytime soon.

The problem

Many Americans think that cards that intentionally favor a party are a serious issue in US elections. After a AP-NORC In a poll conducted in March, 67 percent of Americans believed that states that draw such maps were “a big problem.” Indeed, respondents to this poll felt that gerrymandering was a bigger problem than disenfranchisement or electoral fraud.

Reallocation has been a problem in a number of states and the court has had to intervene. According to the non-partisan redistribution website Everything about redistribution, courts in five states rejected all or part of the cards and signed new cards in 12 other states. And there is already a lawsuit pending this year.

In states like North Carolina, where gerrymandering has been a particular issue, confidence in the redistribution process is extremely low. In the past decade, the state has had to redraw its congressional districts three times. Following the first drawing in 2011, the courts in a 2016 ruling found that the state’s map had been racially redesigned to discriminate against black voters in the state, a decision that upheld by the Supreme Court. Following the decision of the lower court, Public Policy Polling found in a 2017 survey that 86 percent of North Carolina voters were either “somewhat” or “very” concerned about the impact of partisan policies on the maps of the state. Then, in 2019, a state court threw away the 2016 North Carolina map for ruling a partisan Gerrymander that gave the Republicans the upper hand.

Bitzer emphasized that the perception of fairness in states like North Carolina has a lot to do with the political nature of the process. “Then there is the hyper-partisanship, the strong polarization and the lack of trust from one side of the political corridor to the other – I think all these factors come together and probably make us even more cynical, even more intensely questioning.” The process of redistribution. “

Even the third map of North Carolina, made before the 2020 elections, wasn’t entirely fair – for example, we found in our analysis that the central district of the state was still 7 points more Republican than the state as a whole.

Why it is so difficult to ensure a fair card

However, it is difficult for states like North Carolina to correct unfair maps. That’s because the Supreme Court ruled that in 2019 partisan gerrymandering is a political issue which the federal courts cannot resolve. This has resulted in states being able to decide whether a card is fair or unfair – and this process can vary widely from state to state.

For example, a jury of federal judges following the 2019 Supreme Court ruling on a partial gerrymandering case in Wisconsin that affected the 2011 map of the state and left that map in place. Wisconsin is now redrawing its map, of course, but since the government is split – the governor is a Democrat, but Republicans control the state legislature – and it already exists two lawsuits Above the reclassification process, it is possible that the courts will have to draw the line if Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on a map.

In some states, voters are trying to deal with the redistribution themselves in the form of independent redistribution commissions.

Independent commissions are designed to keep party-political measures out of the redistribution process by giving citizens the power to draw boundaries – although in some states these commissions comprise a bipartisan group of lawmakers. And research has shown that independent commissions can increase voter confidence in the redistribution process. For example, University of Southern California researchers found that 73 percent of respondents thought the process was fair when California voters were told that the state is setting up independent commissions (which it does) and explained to them the process. But when they were told that the state legislature was drawing the line (which it didn’t), only 32 percent thought the process was fair.

“[T]the ability to explain how to voters [commissions] In fact, work could improve their perception of trust, and it definitely improves their perception of fairness, ”said Christian Grose, professor of political science at USC and co-author of the paper.

In 2010, only four states had an independent citizens’ commission, but that amount is now eight in the 2020 reclassification cycle.

In states like Colorado and Michigan, in 2018 voters led the indictment for independent redistribution commissions by overwhelmingly approving the creation of such commissions: In Colorado 71 percent of voters supported the commission, and in Michigan.61 percent supported the commission.

Still, it is possible that independent commissions are not a panacea for a lack of confidence in the redistribution process. In March, only 41 percent of Michigan voters said they did have a positive image of the state commission, according to a survey by the Glengariff Group. And the Colorado Commission map is likely to displease Democrats as it opens up the possibility of a 4-4-seat Democratic-Republican split in a state that has been reliably blue in recent years – although the map is better than the old one in that respect Card promotes more competitive choices.

It’s a risk Russell Berman from The Atlantic Pointed out earlier this month. Democrats in particular have long advocated more independent commissions, but better governance often runs counter to political gain. And of course, in the 2020 redistribution cycle, Republicans will draw 2.5 times as many cards as Democrats. Meanwhile, states with independent commissions or shared partisan control will be responsible for drawing lines in only 38 percent of the districts. But even if the framework were more balanced, it is not clear whether voters would trust the redistribution process more.

As Bitzer told me, voters’ perception of a fair card often boils down to their own partisan leanings.

“They will know if something is fair or unfair by knowing how many Republicans are elected, how many Democrats are elected, and what political party affiliations they have [are]”Said Bitzer.

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