“Process Failure and Transparency Reform in Local Redistricting: Harnessing the Power of 21st-Century Technologies to Fix 19th-Century Democracies”

Michael Halberstam has posted this draft on SSRN (forthcoming, Election Law Journal). Here is the abstract:

Redistricting reform during this cycle has pushed for greater transparency in redistricting, more public participation, the removal of redistricting from the hands of legislatures, and the design of more legitimate redistricting institutions and decision procedures. Reform efforts, however, are generally focused on statewide and congressional redistricting. Meanwhile, little, if anything, is being done to reform or study thousands of local redistrictings across the country, which typically take place under the radar. Local redistricting processes, moreover, vary between jurisdictions and levels of government, take place in institutional contexts that differ from statewide redistricting, are subject to different political dynamics, and are more vulnerable to serious process failures than statewide redistricting. This article advances a policy proposal to reform local redistricting that weds aspects from several contemporary governance approaches – including so-called ‘third-generation transparency” methods. The article suggests that sates establish centralized statewide redistricting clearinghouses for local redistricting (RDCs) that would standardize and systematize the disclosure of redistricting data and process information across the whole range of jurisdictions within a state. It sets forth the proposed design of such RDCs in some detail upon a careful dissection of the concrete information requirements of the different governmental and nongovernmental actors at each stage of the redistricting process; and of the institutional and political dynamics of local processes. The proposal envisions adapting new technologies to address process failures, but leaving existing local institutional arrangements in place.

Apart from its specific intervention in the national debate about redistricting reform, this article can also be read as a contribution to the broader literature about new governance approaches, and more specifically, as a case study on how certain mechanisms of “targeted transparency” or “choice architecture” can be applied to regulating the democratic political process.


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