Is the public at large knowledgeable of and concerned about Gerrymandering? A quick scan of polling in the past year would indicate there is both broad understanding and broad concern about what it is doing to our country, and that something should be done.
Last November, Harris Interactive, after noting that only 4% of Americans give a positive assessment of Congress (an historic low) goes on to state:
[O]ver seven in ten Americans believe (71% – 48% strongly so) that those who stand to benefit from redrawing congressional districts should not have a say in how they are redrawn. And while Americans are regaled on a regular basis with tales of partisan divisions, U.S. adults are united in this perspective, showing comparable views when compared by both political affiliation (74% Republicans, 73% Democrats, 71% independents) and underlying political philosophy (69% Conservative, 71% Moderate, 73% Liberal).
When asked if redistricting should be handled by a non-partisan commission, voters tend to respond very favorably. In The Voter Update, a blog that tracks events in the North Carolina legislature, a poll taken last year indicated that 69% of voters in North Carolina expressed concern about the influence of partisan politics in drawing both statewide and US Congressional district boundaries, and 70% (consistently across party lines) favored turning over redistricting to non-partisan staff. An iSideWith online poll, though admittedly unscientific, shows Californians expressing a similar sentiment by almost 9:1. The Harris poll cites 50% of respondents prefer redistricting by non-partisan commission.
It might seem that “non-partisan commission” is the voters’ preference, but this tends to be the only alternative method presented in polls! Look at the results of the Harris survey on this question:
So, given a choice between between politicians of some kind doing redistricting and an “independent commission”, respondents plumped for the independent commission by more than 2:1. But what if they had been presented with even a single “Hands-Off” alternative to a commission rather than a total of four politician-focused alternatives?
I suspect voters will respond to Hands-Off Redistricting when they understand how practical it can be, and when they are presented it fairly as an option. As evidence, read carefully the comments in the iSideWith poll. By my count, over half are expressing concern that independent commissions can never be truly impartial, and more than 25% of the comments are asking for a Hands-Off alternative that they are not being given! Read these comments yourself:
“Who’s to call the commission non-partisan??? Honestly it will be another corrupt group making decisions to benefit another overpaid politician…Gerrymandering needs to be eliminated, at the same time we need to revisit our own constitution and do away with the bullshit parlor games; lets stop the self-implosion.” –a Republican in Poway, CA
“Irrelevant. Districts should be drawn equally according to proximity and population, not according to eco- and socionomics, by use of simple geometry; no need for a commission.” —a Green in Sacramento, CA
“No, use the shortest split-line method.” —a Green in Davis, CA
“Re-overhaul congressional districting entirely, and base it on something else. Gerrymandering of any kind is horrible.” —a Green in Emeryville, CA
“No, districts should be redrawn by geography with no modification from a grid pattern that combines relatively small (<20%) portions of the grid." —a Green in Windsor, CA
“Yes, but the notion of “non-partisan commissions” is ludicrous. What we need is a law that says the districts must be drawn to avoid insane “necks” and “legs” that stretch for miles into neighboring districts just so they can build and exclusively black or exclusively Hispanic, or exclusively anything, including party, district.” —a Republican in Monrovia, CA
“No, it should be determined by an impartial computer program that takes into account population, natural and man-made boundaries.” —a Republican in Fullerton, CA
“Redistricting should be done mathematically, providing the most COMPACT , equal population districts.” —a Republican in San Marino, CA
The work that needs to be done is to get out the word that Hands-Off Redistricting is an option, and to focus voters’ attention on that.