Background

Over the last several decades, concerns have grown in many states over the impact of partisan gerrymandering, in which state legislators redrew district lines to shore up reelection prospects both for themselves and their respective party at the congressional level. In short, as good governance groups have described, partisan gerrymandering allows policymakers to choose their voters, rather than allowing voters to choose their policymakers.

To preclude this tendency, about a dozen states have adopted redistricting commissions, in which every 10 years, a group of individuals collaboratively draws new district lines for the state legislature and/or the U.S. House of Representatives, depending on state statute.

However, not every redistricting commission is created equal, and the process through which they complete their work varies greatly.

Such process-related decisions have a significant impact on the success or failure of the commission. To illustrate this impact, the divergent actions and outcomes of redistricting commissions in two states—New York and Michigan—are outlined.

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