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Who should draw congressional districts?

October 24, 2014

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

In early October, the Supreme Court decided to hear a case that may decide who draws the congressional districts in Arizona, which could have implications beyond the Grand Canyon State.

The case started in 2000, when voters approved a ballot measure to amend the state constitution and create an independent commission that would determine the U.S. House of Representatives districts in the state. The state legislature previously had drawn the districts, and it decided to sue the commission to keep that authority. It said that the commission was unconstitutional and that, under the U.S. Constitution, only the legislature can redraw congressional districts.

A lower federal court sided with the commission, ruling that the U.S. Constitution says that the state government, with any branch or commission determined by the state, shall have the authority to redraw the district lines, a power not entirely held by the state’s legislature.

This case brings up national questions because recently other courts have overturned redistricting plans, saying that they violate the 14th Amendment or that they are politically motivated.

For example, in Virginia, a panel of federal judges found that the state General Assembly violated the 14th Amendment when it redrew congressional boundaries based on race. “[W]e find that Plaintiffs have shown race predominated,” the opinion says. “We find that the Third Congressional District cannot survive review under the exacting standard of strict scrutiny.”

In Florida, a similar charge was lobbed against the state legislature’s recently redrawn congressional map. A state judge found that the districts were redrawn to favor one party over another and ordered the state to redraw the districts.

States are allowed to draw their congressional districts, as outlined in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, which establishes that every 10 years a national census shall be taken. Based on the outcome of the shifts in populations, each state must redraw their congressional districts, but how this is done was never specified, leaving it up to the states. This has meant that the political party in power has an advantage and might try to redraw the districts in its favor, sometimes resulting in oddly shaped districts.

The process of drawing districts to favor one party over another is called gerrymandering, and it’s about as old as this nation. The word first appeared in 1812, when the governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, approved a redistricting map that favored the Democratic-Republican Party. One of the odd-shaped districts resembled the mythical salamander, so writers at the Boston Gazette declared that the one district was the Gerry-mander. The word became popular for any party that tries to redraw congressional districts to help them in the national elections.

To try to reduce the effects of gerrymandering, some states have created independent commissions that redraw the congressional districts. Nine states, including Arizona, have some type of independent or bipartisan commissions.

Update, June 29, 2015: The Supreme Court decided, 5-4, that Arizona's use of an independent commission to redraw congressional districts is constitutional.

What do you think?

How should states draw congressional districts? Are independent or bipartisan commissions that draw the districts constitutional? Or did the framers intend state legislatures to have that power? How should the Supreme Court decide the Arizona case? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Comments
12/8/2014
Irving/Texas
Kierria S.
Bradley/Nimitz
After reading the article, having commissions to decide on how to draw districts would only be fair. If anything we should lawfully declare all states to have independent commissions to draw states’ districts. Sure the ancestors of American politics and government would want things to go smoothly for state governments, but if they were state governments wouldn’t they want the upper hand in votes in their states. Which brings me to another point, if we did have independent commissions, how long could the commissions go without giving into someone else’s bribery. In theory, there would be many competitors trying to find some way to get dominance over how to run the mapping of districts, whether if it’s through commission, constitution, or each other.

11/18/2014
Irving,TX
Miguel
Bradley/Nimitz
In most states, the Legislature draws the district lines in states. This old tradition though, can often lead to very unfair representations in Congress. Gerrymandering is a primary concern of the people when congressional districts are drawn. People losing representation because of the divisions placed by other political parties happens too often. The state of Arizona, along with 9 other states, have tried to combat this unfair drawing of lines. They want the lines to not be drawn by Legislators but instead by independent state commissions. These commissions don’t have the goal to make one political party stronger than the other, instead, their goal is for the people to be properly represented. This new system has been brought to court and succeeded in continuing. These new independent commissions, because their goal is to help people be properly represented in congress, should be the ones to draw congressional districts.

11/16/2014
Irving/TX
Erik
Ms.Bradley/Nimitz High School
I believe that in order to stop bias in the creation of congressional districts, the government should allow for either a computer program to create the districts or a committee of unbiased people to create them.This should eliminate or at least reduce bias in the outcomes of elections and better represent the population. The rights to creating congressional districts should never be in the hands of those who are in power because of personal interests.

11/16/2014
Irving/TX
Gabriel M
Bradley/Nimitz
Congressional districts should be drawn based on population density. Districts should not be drawn in odd shapes, but be made to resemble geometric shapes so common people could understand which district they are in. Yes, independent or bipartisan commissions are constitutional in regard to district drawing because the district would still have to be approved by the state. Districts should not be drawn based on the type of people, or the economy of an area, they should be drawn solely on the number of people living in the area.

11/14/2014
Irving/Texas
Flor
Bradley/Nimitz
There’s so much talk about this nation supposedly having to be equal and represent everyone equally. With everything having to represent the population equally, the states should draw congressional districts in a non biased manner, where there is no favored party, or gerrymandering going on. Although it should be done fairly, I believe the Framers intended that state legislators to have the power that they currently hold. Arizona should create the commission, because the only way for districts to be drawn out fairly and not being biased to their favored party would have to mean having bipartisan commissions drawing the lines.

11/14/2014
Irving/Texas
Tyler
Bradley/Nimitz
State's should be required to set up independent commissions to draw congressional redistricting lines after every census. Asking the legislature to redraw the lines is like asking a teacher to write their own formal evaluation. Anyone who values their job is going to make it as likely for themselves to retain their job as they can. There is no way for the legislators themselves to create an unbiased map of districts would take an extensive list of rules and regulations on the number of citizens and the shape that the district can be, and legislators would still find loopholes just like they have already. No, there has to be some kind of unbiased independent commission if you really want to stop gerrymandering, which is childish, foolish, and illegal.

11/14/2014
Irving/Tx
Jocelyn
Bradley/ Nimitz High School
States should base their congressional districts by population. It’s the most reasonable decision, since it would turn out to be a fair competition. Even though, population does end up changing at times, the congressional districts can still be adjusted to their certain growth or decay. Bipartisan commissions are the ones who would end up drawing fair congressional districts, or at least the most fair. If it were done by the Independent district , sure they aren’t from either party, but they also don’t have the input of two parties. In the Bipartisan commission, two parties would end up discussing until they both agree on an answer that they both see fit. Yes, both independent and bipartisan commissions are constitutional.Technically, they are not violating any of the fourteenth or tenth amendments. The framers intentions might have been to give the state legislatures the power to draw the congressional districts, but the drawback in having certain legislatures abuse that power was not within that plan. The framers would have wanted what’s just, to keep the districts at an equality in which everyone would have a good competition. The supreme court should end up letting the state draw the congressional districts.

11/13/2014
Irving,TX
Claudia
Bradley/Nimitz
States should draw district lines solely based off of population. In order to make the drawing more fair, independent commissions should be the ones to do the drawing of the districts. If the drawing were to be done by a bipartisan commission, the majority party of that state would be the party to most likely come out in favor. However, if it were to be done by an independent commission, there would be no favoritism because the decisions would be coming from an outside source. As for the Arizona case, they should go along with allowing an independent commission to do the redistricting in order to reduce the possibility of gerrymandering.

11/12/2014
Irving, TX
Jonathan
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that redistricting should be done by the state legislature, but due to "gerrymandering" the districts are always in favor of the majority party at the time. In Arizona's case it should be left to the state to decide the distracts and then the court over the case can review these districts just in case. There may always be some bias in districts due to the fact that not everyone that is a republican will all live in one area grouped together. So all in all not everyone will be happy, but you just have to move on and do what you think is best.

11/12/2014
Irving/TX
Colton
Bradley/Nimitz High School
Redistricting should be done by state legislature. However, thanks to gerrymandering, some congressional leaders are not mature enough to redistrict the congressional districts in an equal manner based on population. Instead, the majority party in the legislatures redraws the districts to favor their elections. So I ask, if this can not be done fairly in a constitutional manner, what's the point in even voting in the first place?

11/11/2014
Irving/Texas
Carolyn
Ms.Bradley/Nimitz
Redistricting is so districts are fair through population, but "gerrymandering" causes parties to redistrict lines unfairly, favoring a certain party. Though it has been around for a long time, it still needs to be stopped. States should draw congressional districts through a ratio of population to representatives. Since the census is constantly changing, it is good to redistrict once in a while, but fairly, and the only way it could be fair is if there are bipartisan commissions that draw the district lines. I think the Framers intended for state legislatures to have that power, but it should be done fair. The Supreme Court should have Arizona create their own congressional lines, but state judges should review them in case of violations.

11/11/2014
Irving/Texas
Peyton
Bradley/Nimitz
The United States government promotes equal representation as well as a fair voting process. Therefore, it is important that the districts of each and every state are created by a non biased point of view. I think that the independent and bipartisan commissions that draw the districts are not unconstitutional and do not technically violate the tenth or fourteenth amendments. Due to this, I believe that the Arizona case should be decided for them to have commissions created.

11/10/2014
Irving/TX
Marilynn
Ms.Bradley/Nimitz
I think that congressional districts should be drawn by the bipartisan commission. If the districts were to be draw by the bipartisan commission, this would involve both parties to come to a fair agreement on how the districts should be drawn.This would also allow citizens of either party to have a voice within their state.If the state were to draw their districts based off of a dominant party, then that would be unfair to the citizens who are for the opposing party. If there is no agreement between the parties, then an independent commission should draw the districts only because they are not from either parties.

11/9/2014
Irving,TX
Noemi
Bradley/ Nimitz High School
The United States' foundation is the belief of equal representation. However, gerrymandering has altered this belief. Districts have been redrawn in a manner that guarantees success for the dominant political party. In order for redistricting to be fair, independent commissions are in need because of their non corrupted points of view. The commissions themselves are not unconstitutional because they don't necessarily violate the tenth or fourteenth amendment. Thus, the Arizona commissions should be created.

11/8/2014
Irving/TX
Briana
Bradley/Nimitz
The states should draw congressional districts that will not favor any party. If they do so, there wouldn’t be a problem off gerrymandering and the election of politicians will be a more honest response to what the people want instead of redistricting in favor of one party over the other. Individual and bipartisan commissions should be able to draw district lines because the lines will be redistricted from people without biases. These commissions are constitutional because it will prevent the majority party from gerrymandering as well as determining how the citizens can vote in a more equal way instead of the districts being rigged. The framers intent always was to create a country with freedom and equality and the state legislatures aren’t making equal districts then surely the framers wouldn’t want them to hold that power. As for the supreme court case, they should vote for the independent commission because that’s what the people from Arizona want and they voted for the commission to draw the lines instead of the state legislature.

11/7/2014
Irving TX
Alex R
Ms.Bradley/Nimitz
I have grown up around many different sports, and one of the most important things my coaches have taught me was to play fair. I think the congressional districts should be drawn fairly. If i was running in a district that favored me and I won I wouldn't feel like I truly won because the district was not fair. The districts should be fair and make the voters pick the best candidate by their side on major issues. Not because they don't have anyone to vote for.

11/7/2014
Irving/Texas
Carlos
Bradley/Nimitz
I think states should have the right to draw congressional districts independently. Each one of the states have th right to be involved in what's happening around them. If the people of the states have the right to vote, so they wouldn't feel left out from important decisons. For example, the 10th amendment gives the right to the states and the people, and allowing them vote will create a more accurate view of the people's decison.

11/7/2014
Irving/Texas
Rachel
Ms. Bradley/Nimitz High School
The government of the United States is founded on the idea that those making the decisions for and governing the nation would be an accurate representation of the rest of the population. This core principle of our democracy is being blatantly violated through Gerrymandering, a process by which the majority party in a state can change the districts of representation to ensure that their party wins. This gives near supreme power to whichever party does it and leaves citizens who do not support said party entirely voiceless in their own state. The only way to end the corrupt nature of redistricting is to have an outsider of some sort draw the districts whenever there is just cause to do so (which there rarely ought to be.)

11/5/2014
Irving/TX
Jessica
Ms. Bradley/ Nimitz High School
I think that states should draw congressional districts independently. This should allow each state to be involve in what is happening. Letting them vote gives them a chance to be involved more and feel needed in important decisions . When I say’’ them’’, I mean the people who live in those states. The people should have a say in what happens, after all the make up the country. However whoever ends up drawing the congressional districts, not everybody is going to be happy with the choices. It is almost impossible to make everybody happy, there will always be conflicts and disagreements.

10/29/2014
Sidney, MT
Tate
Mr. Faulhaber, Sidney High School
I would have to agree with Christian that the States should allow independent commissions to redraw congressional districts. I also believe that this would be constitutional because of the Tenth Amendment. The Tenth Amendment gives right to the States and also the people of the States. If we allow independent commissions draw the lines then it could give a more accurate representation of the people.

10/28/2014
Sidney/Montana
Brady
Mr. Faulhaber/Sidney High School
I believe that bipartisan commissions should draw the congressional districts of the states. If the state legislatures continue to draw the congressional districts, flaws and unfairness are inevitable as the party in power could draw districts to favor their party through gerrymandering. A bipartisan commission would balance out the conflicting views of opposing parties and would produce equal and fairly drawn districts. Bipartisan commissions are constitutional because Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution gives redistricting power to the state as a whole, not a specific group of people. The framers left redistricting power to the state and it is up to the state to determine who holds that power. Today, bipartisan commissions should trump state legislatures because of the fairness factor. In terms of the Arizona case, the Supreme Court should rule in favor of creating the commission. The United States Constitution does not specify that only the state legislatures can redraw congressional districts. As a result, I agree with Christian and think the 10th Amendment gives the states the power to decide who holds redistricting duties.

10/28/2014
Sidney/Montana
Cody
Mr. Faulhaber/Sidney High School
An independent/bipartisan commission would be the best way to redraw voting districts. A lower federal court ruled that the U.S. Constitution says that the state government shall have the the authority to redraw the district lines, not just the state's legislature. This means the state can constitutionally create a commission to redraw the district. I agree with Christian that the Supreme Court should allow Arizona to create the commission. This will allow fairness and equal competition amongst the voters in the new districts.

10/28/2014
Sidney/MT
Kory
Mr. Faulhaber/Sidney High School
I believe that the states should draw congressional districts through a bipartisan commission rather than the state legislature. Apportionment has been an issue decided by state legislatures for years, but often leads to gerrymandering to win elections for a certain party. If one party holds the majority, they can have more say in redistricting for their own gains. A bipartisan commission is much more honest option in my opinion. In such a commission, the same amount of Democrats and Republicans could be members to create fairness. This would hopefully cut down on the amount of gerrymandering, since no one would hold the majority. Also, I believe that a bipartisan committee is very much constitutional. I agree with the lower federal court's ruling in 2000 that redistricting is not a power entirely held by the state legislature. But, I would suggest that members of the state legislature be elected to the commission just with equal numbers.

10/28/2014
Sidney/MT
Logan
Mr. Faulhaber/Sidney High School
I agree with Christian that the States should allow indpendent commissions to redraw congresssional districts. I think that this would certainly be Constitutional, becuase the Tenth Amendment gives rights to not only the States, but the people of the states. The more the people are involved in governmental processes, the more we can have a true democracy. Allowing independent commissions to draw congressional districts will provide a more accurate representation of the people in Congress. In regards to the Arizona case, the independent commission should draw the congressional districts.

10/28/2014
Sidney/Montana
Christian Anglesey
Brad Faulhaber/Sidney High School
The States should create independent commissions to redraw the districts. I believe that the creating these groups and commission would be constitutional. In the case of 2000 that determined whether the creating of independent commissions was constitutional, the courts sided with the creating of independent commissions saying that the powerthat the state government, with any branch or commission determined by the state, shall have the authority to redraw the district lines. According to the 10th Amendment to the constitution, powers not specifically mentioned in the constitution are reserved for the states. So this redrawing of districts is up to each state. The Supreme Court should decide to let Arizona create independent commissions to draw the districts. This creates fairness among both side of the ideological spectrum because it creates fairly drawn districts.

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