Review of “To Divide and Not Conquer: Preventing Partisan Gerrymandering with Independent Nonpartisan Commissions”

I was recently contacted by a fellow writer by the name of Victoria Stoklasa who had asked me to review her essay titled “To Divide and Not Conquer: Preventing Partisan Gerrymandering with Independent Nonpartisan Commissions.”  Once I read the essay, I quickly agreed since the issue of gerrymandering is rarely brought into the public spotlight.

The essay begins as to explain what gerrymandering is by defining it as “the process of one population—in the case of this paper, a political party—to gain an advantage over others by changing district lines.”  For years, politicians have had control over where district lines are drawn and have often come in favor of the incumbent.  The goal of the essay is to examine which options would best adhere to the National Conference of State Legislatures seven principles of fair legislation.

Stoklasa breaks down the options into partisan commissions, nonpartisan commissions, bipartisan commissions, and the courts.  She then looks to the work of Jonathan Winburn who studied which type of organization would best follow the NCSL’s principles.  His study examined partisan commissions, neutral commissions, divided legislatures, unified legislatures, and the court system.  She explained that his work concluded that nonpartisan commissions would closely follow NCSL principles, she then looked on to examine if a nonpartisan commission or a bi-partisan commission would be the better choice.

To determine whether a nonpartisan or bipartisan commission would better serve the public, she then turns to the work of Michael Lyons and Peter F. Galderisi.  Lyons and Galderisi came to the found that bipartisan commissions experienced a lower incumbent displacement rate possibly because they did not adhere to the NCSL principle of using incumbency data.  Stoklasa uses this finding and combines it with Winburn’s work to conclude that independent nonpartisan commissions would better adhere to the NCSL’s principles.

Overall, Stoklasa put together a very well-written essay and supported her argument throughout her entire piece.  Every question that may arise in your mind as you are reading the essay is quickly answered with credible evidence put together in great synchronicity by Stoklasa.  If you are looking to better inform yourself on an issue that is rarely talked about by mainstream news outlets then I encourage you to check out her essay here.