“California and the Limits of Independent Redistricting Commissions with Winner-Take-All”


Three months after the 2012 election, independent redistricting continues to gain attention as a panacea for American congressional elections. Making the case from the quantitative flank is Sam Wang, professor of neuroscience at Princeton and founder of the Princeton Election Consortium, whose February 2 op-ed in the New York Times purported to show that the partisan bias in the U.S. House of Representatives could be corrected nearly entirely by implanting independent redistricting nationwide in the form that it is currently used in states like California. Wang later expressed his admiration for the California commission model by tweeting, in response to a National Journal article on the defeat of Congressman Howard Berman, “What independent redistricting looks like: races blown wide open, incumbents ousted.”

As FairVote has long argued, independent redistricting is a necessary reform, and we support it wholeheartedly. But proponents are simply wrong to suggest it would be sufficient if left to operate within winner-take-all elections. A perfect illustration of this point is the effect of the independent redistricting commission in California. Election results clearly show that  “wide open” races and “ousted incumbents” were not the norm in California in 2012 – and are likely to become even more scarce in the state’s future elections.

See also Geography as a Failed Unit of Representation: Why Fifty Equal Population States Is no Solution for Presidential Elections.


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