The Solution to Gerrymandering is a Lottery

The Supreme Court will consider this fall whether gerrymandering is politics-as-usual or unconstitutional. If unconstitutional, how might we take humans with motives out of the process of district selection?

Gerrymandering is dividing up voting districts for political advantage. The term is named after Elbridge Gerry, who, as Governor of Massachusetts in 1812, pushed though a plan best seen by the accompanying cartoon. Since before and after Gerry, choosing districts for voters has been a national obsession. The unassailable principle is “one (hu)man, one vote”: districts must contain (about) the same number of voters based on the decennial census.

What politicians have been doing for two hundred years is deliberately dividing up the voters into carefully selected districts of equal size so the politicians in charge have political advantage.

Political Cartoon of the 1812 Massachusetts Gerrymander

If the Supreme Court says no more finger-on-the-scale of redistricting justice, the question becomes how does society impartially map equal-size district boundaries? States have tried all sorts of commissions and panels, all labelled as impartial. However, lawsuits against these same panels for political bias are rampant. Getting humans and their political biases out of the equation is the obvious solution, via impartial computing.

But wait, you say, district-defining applications are the means to creating today’s gerrymandered district maps!

Absolutely true. All districts are selected with mapping applications that have been legally tested for accuracy in counting voters. Today’s district-defining applications are step one.

Step two is “Let many flowers blossom;” open the district-mapping process to interested parties, one and all. Have each state run the the district-defining applications and create a few hundred unique, compliant district maps.

Step three cuts out the politicians from selecting their plan-of-choice. Instead, do it via a lottery, using the same lottery software that selects the daily numbers. Each state Lottery Commission has, one presumes, adequate safeguards to ensure a random result. Voila! One of many district maps is chosen and that becomes the state’s official district boundaries for the next political cycle.

States with lotteries

– Peter S. Kastner