Monday, March 2, 2015

Congressional Redistricting Commission: Can they pass the Constitutional Muster?

Kudos to the good folks at the Independent Voter Network for this great story on a topic most American voters sadly don't hear much about: Congressional Redistricting

Every decade, with the new census comes the need to evaluate the current 435 congressional districts in the United States. Because the current number of members in the House of Representatives is fixed at 435, there is a serious need every decade to re-draw these congressional districts so that each has roughly the same number of people in it (thus ensuring that each member of Congress represent the same number of citizens).

How exactly this redistricting is carried out is decided on a state-by-state basis, but there is no general rule: No gerrymandering

What's Gerrymandering? Simply put, its the purposely re-drawing of congressional districts to serve a particular political party/faction's agenda.

"In theory", such methods are illegal in the United States by various Supreme Court decisions, especially Davis v. Bandemer. Problem is, even the Supreme Court couldn't say by what standard gerrymandering cases should be held to. In other words, the Supreme Court agrees gerrymandering should be illegal and they have the authority to try such cases but are not sure to draw the actual "legal line".

One idea over the years to help prevent political interests from taking too big a role in re-drawing congressional districts is to use so-called "Independent Redistricting Commissions". These commissions are initially set-up by the state legislature but once created, has relatively free-reign in how they ultimately re-draw the lines. These commissions are normally created via popularly voted on amendments to the state's constitution.

Question is, are such commissions constitutional? By taking the power away from the state legislatures to conduct their task, are they interfering the state's right to determine congressional districts?

Those are some of the questions the Supreme Court will be working to answer in the upcoming Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Com'n.

Thanks again to IVN's Daniel Kim for this story!

Do Independent Redistricting Commissions Pass Constitutional Muster?

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