I wrote in an earlier post today on national gerrymandering of electoral districts and how the redistricting process that occurs following each census results in the winners of the most recent election controlling the process and gerrymandering the electoral boundaries to entrench a bias in their favor for future elections.
In 2010 California voted for a system in which redistricting was taken out of the hands of exclusively elected officials and into that of a citizens commission.
Ohio has a similar issue on the ballot in this election and I urge any Ohioans reading this to vote ‘YES’ on Issue #2.
It seems to me that drawing electoral districts is something that is best done by computer. The minimal parameters for a good system are straightforward. The district should have roughly equal numbers of people. Each district should be contiguous (i.e., should not be split into distinct regions). Each district should be as compact as possible. (i.e., closer to the shape of a circle than a straight line and thus not produce districts that look like seaweed.) The district boundaries should hew to other convenient boundaries such as city and township and county lines, so that people in one city are not split into two or more different districts.
If the public wants, they could impose additional requirements such as how they want districts to reflect economic and racial/ethnic diversity. Currently those issues are inserted covertly but it would be healthy to have that discussion in the open.
Once those parameters are set, a computer algorithm could easily come up with one or more electoral maps that meet those criteria. A commission could then select the one they think best reflects the electorate and maybe tweak it at the margins to deal with issues that the algorithm could not handle.