|Redistricting Commissions: A Better Political Buffer?|
|Bruce E. Cain [View as PDF]|
121 Yale L.J. 1808 (2012).
The new institutionalism in election law aims to lessen the necessity of court
intervention in politically sensitive election administration matters such as redistricting by
harnessing politics to fix politics. Many hope that independent citizen commissions (ICCs) will
improve the politics associated with drawing new district boundaries. As the recent round of
redistricting comes to a close, I offer some observations about ICCs as effective court
redistricting buffers. My basic points are as follows. Independent citizen commissions are the
culmination of a reform effort focused heavily on limiting the conflict of interest implicit in
legislative control over redistricting. While they have succeeded to a great degree in that goal,
they have not eliminated the inevitable partisan suspicions associated with political line-drawing
and the associated risk of commission deadlock. Additional political purity tests and more careful
vetting of the citizen commissioners are not the solution. I argue that ICCs in the future should
adopt a variation of New Jersey’s informal arbitration system as a means of reducing partisan
stakes and encouraging coalition building among stakeholders.