What if we said that all congressional or state legislative election districts must be rectangular (a grid plan) except those along state borders, which must have boundaries that are determined solely by geographic reality? Perhaps in variants defined by this order of precedence:
- Legislative districts shall be perfect rectangles (of some acceptable range of ratios?) wherever physically possible, and then, only if not physically possible,
- three sides of a rectangle and one natural border defined by a state line, or
- where the land within the district is too narrow to accommodate three sides of a rectangle (see the middle of West Virginia’s northern panhandle) the district shall have two parallel straight line borders with two natural state line line borders, and finally, if nothing else works,
- three natural state line borders and one straight line border (the tip of West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle).
It will certainly be argued that a proposal like this does not preserve community integrity. But, sadly, “preserving community integrity” in redistricting projects can be little more than a code phrase for reducing the voting power of groups statistically in opposition majority party interests.
So, let’s do something to get the politics out of voting. Voting is sometimes about partisan politics, but the process itself should never be a partisan political activity.
A grid plan is simple. It can be automated and implemented in minutes instead of months of closed-door haggling about how to make sure community A’s voters do not upset representative B’s apple cart, and it might actually be good to have a legislator represent diverse communities. It might require them to devote some time to careful consideration of legislative impact, something sorely lacking in politics today.
Just food for thought.