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Four States Slated to End Gerrymandering; Schwarzenegger to Continue Pushing Redistricting Reform in 2020

Anybody want to take another shot at redistricting reform on the 2020 South Dakota ballot? Let’s get the Terminator to help!

Colorado, Missouri, and Michigan voters approved redistricting reforms last week:

Michigan and Colorado will join California and Arizona in adopting the country’s most independent redistricting processes, says Michael Li, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice. The new commissions will transfer the power to approve election maps from lawmakers to a group of carefully vetted citizens.

Each of Tuesday’s proposals varies in scope. In Missouri, Amendment 1 will task a nonpartisan demographer with drawing district maps. The maps will then need to be approved or changed by a 70 percent vote from the existing commission [Candice Norwood, “‘People Want Their Power Back’: Voters Approve Redistricting Reforms,” Governing, 2018.11.07].

Utah’s Proposition 4 to create an independent redistricting commission is also ahead by a hair, but they’re still counting ballots.

California millionaire Arnold Schwarzenegger supported those four redistricting measures, and he’s gunning to terminate gerrymandering in more states:

With Tuesday’s ballot questions, now nearly one-third of House districts will be drawn through independent redistricting according to a new report by the Schwarzenegger Institute, by commission or other methods. Schwarzenegger’s goal is to get that number to half by the end of 2020, and he already has his eyes on Virginia, among other states.

…“If that’s what it takes to get the signatures, I will be the one to do it. I’m not ashamed of standing in a mall and asking people for signatures,” Schwarzenegger said. “Anything that works and gets us there, because in the end the only thing I care about is to actually achieve our goal. We’ll improvise as we go along, because every state has different needs, and we don’t know where it’s going to take us” [Edward Isaac-Dovere, “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s War on Gerrymandering Is Just Beginning,” The Atlantic, 2018.11.09].

Schwarzenegger endorsed the failed open-primaries initiative, Amendment V, in South Dakota in 2016. South Dakotans turned down that measure and the Amendment T independent redistricting commission by about 40,000 and 50,000 votes, respectively. Bring Schwarzenegger to the Empire Mall for a couple days, or maybe have him do a bike and gym tour of our fair state, and I’ll bet we could recruit of few more voters to end gerrymandering in South Dakota.

Related Reading: Learn more about redistricting and the need to draw South Dakota’s election map more fairly in my four-part series on the League of Women Voters’ October forum on redistricting in Aberdeen:

  1. Citizens Practice Redistricting; Cory Flips the Map to Avoid Gerrymandering!
  2. Fouberg Discusses History and Practice of Redistricting—Academic Anti-Gerrymandering Committee in the Works?
  3. Panel Discussion: South Dakota Redistricting Process Needs Reform
  4. Wismer Pounds Novstrup with Straight Talk on Gerrymandering


  1. TAG 2018-11-13 09:39

    Great topic!

    Don’t forget Ohio, who enacted some kind of bi-partisan process for redistricting. Or Pennsylvania, who fixed it (for now) through the State Constitution and their state Supreme Court.

    Since SCOTUS punted this year on ending party gerrymandering, states will have to take up the cause.

    As much as I’d like to see Ranked-choice-voting in SD State multi-member districts (which can severely neuter any gerrymandering), the more likely reform here would be to go to single-member house districts, like most of the rest of the country. Right now the State house just matches the State Senate, with the majority party getting an outsized super-majority.

  2. TAG 2018-11-13 11:50

    Here’s a fun online tool that I found from the statistical website, fivethirtyeight:

    You can virtually gerrymander or un-gerrymander each state, or the whole US map. It also shows how close each state is with current lines to an extreme gerrymander. This is just the US Congressional districts, so SD’s map is just one district.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-13 12:20

    TAG, are single-member districts within but contiguous with the enclosing Senate districts sufficient for your reform goals?

    Whatever the boundaries, I want them not drawn by legislators. Systems of government should not allow feedback loops.

  4. TAG 2018-11-13 14:00

    I’m not super familiar with how other states work with Senate vs. House district lines. In SD, obviously the 35-seat and 70-seat legislatures makes it natural to just divide the senate districts in half, like we already did for those two districts involving reservations.

    I recently talked with Ann Tornberg about the elections, and she told me that those two districts were forced to provide single-member districts because they were splitting up the reservations (essentially gerrymandering). But you probably know the history of that better than me.

    It would seem to me that constraining the two single house districts inside the boundaries of each senate district would naturally limit gerrymandering opportunities, but I could be wrong.

    multi-member districts with “first past the post” or “plurality” voting like we have now, is illegal for US congressional districts because a state like Georgia could simply have all the congressmen/women be elected “at-large”, ensuring they they all come from the majority party. That’s what used to happen, actually. We see the same thing in SD on a smaller scale with our 2-seat districts dominated by Republicans.

    MMDs with Ranked Choice Voting, or another “proportional” voting system would be ideal IMO, but would be a harder sell than just splitting all the districts into single-seats. Or, obviously, ending the practice of gerrymandering with an amendment would be great, too.

  5. TAG 2018-11-13 14:44

    To put it another way, keeping the two house sub-districts inside the Senate districts wouldn’t prevent “packing” but would severely limit “cracking”, if you catch my drift?

    In Sioux Falls, District 15 could be seen as “packed”, and subdividing it essentially produces the same result. It is heavily Democrat. OTOH, Districts 9-14 could be seen as “cracking” Sioux Falls, or diluting the urban voters with rural/rich suburban areas like pieces of a pie. Dividing a district like that would probably net one Dem-majority and one Republican-majority sections, unless they were very obvious with the gerrymander.

  6. TAG 2018-11-13 14:53

    Another provision sometimes found in anti-gerrymandering is to forbid the division of any incorporated city into two or more larger districts. In SD I think this would mainly come into play in SF and RC. There is enough population in both cities to provide multiple senate districts entirely within the city limits, and not also incorporating nearby rural areas. That would prevent the “cracking” we see in SF.

  7. TAG 2018-11-13 15:09

    Here’s one of the resources that fivethirtyeight used in their gerrymandering project:

    free online algorithm/tool for redistricting from Dave Bradlee. I think this is similar to the BDistricting tool you were using?

  8. Debbo 2018-11-13 15:38

    “my four-part series on the League of Women Voters’ October forum on redistricting in Aberdeen”

    That was an outstanding series, very helpful. Thanks.

    An end to gerrymandering would be a boon to good government. Is anyone working on a computer algorithm to do redistricting while taking into account various factors that must be considered? We know that Pootiepublicans would try to compromise the integrity of any board or committee tasked with nonpartisan work.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-14 05:51

    Debbo, the BDistricting link in my above quote operates on a purely mathematical algorithm. It would not be hard to incorporate into such an algorithm weights that keep minority districts together for the purposes of minority representation demanded by the court.

    TAG, I’d imagine cohesive districts split in half by population for House sub-districts would be the least confusing for voters, candidates, and election officials printing ballots. Just imagine trying to schedule crackerbarrels: If a representative came from a district that lay half in Senate District 2 and half in Senate District 3, and if the chambers in Aberdeen and Redfield held simultaneous crackerbarrels for their respective districts, the representative could not attend both. I’d prefer for simplicity’s sake to stick with a system in which every constituent of a House member has the same senator.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-14 05:54

    I wonder: could single-member districts provide more opportunities for gerrymandering? Wouldn’t we then within each district have a chance to further crack or pack voters? Take District 15: perhaps somewhere in that district is a cluster of anti-abortion conservatives. Right now they aren’t strong enough to elect anybody districtwide. But give me single-member districts, and I can saddle Senator Nesiba with one carpool House mate guaranteed to vote against his agenda.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-14 05:59

    Single-member districts are good in reducing the geography that one House member has to cover and thus improving the access every voter has to at least one legislator. Consider District 1: instead of having two reps from way over in the Sisseton area, a split district would offer the chance for folks in northern Brown County to have one rep like Paul Dennert who lives closer to them and thus knows and responds to them better.

    But this also occurs to me: single-member districts reduce by one-third the number of legislators to whom a specific constituent can turn. Is there any harm there? Consider District 3. Imagine Al decides to flip back to the House next time. If he wins, then I’m stuck with one representative who’s a lazy racist who listens to the GOP elites, not the voters. Under the current system, I can at least turn to my other House member—say Carl Perry or Drew Dennert—for an honest and intelligent conversation with a chance of leading to vote reflecting the will of the people.

  12. TAG 2018-11-14 08:29

    “TAG, I’d imagine cohesive districts split in half by population for House sub-districts would be the least confusing for voters, candidates, and election officials printing ballots.”


    “I wonder: could single-member districts provide more opportunities for gerrymandering?”

    – Yes, it could, but because the two districts would be constrained to the senate district boundary, I believe that would limit the effectiveness of either: 1. the senate gerrymander or 2. the house gerrymander. Basically it’s like a “pick-your-poison” for the potential gerrymander-ers. In your example of “packed” District 15, it’s probably too blue to allow for a red-majority area within it (I think). If they wanted to create that anti-abortion sub-district (call it 15-A for abortion) they would probably have to widen the redness of the overall district, thus “unpacking” it for the senate seat. That’s my twisted logic, anyway.

  13. TAG 2018-11-14 08:39

    In the case of the “cracked” urban-rural or suburb-rural pie-piece districts around Sioux Falls, in order for gerrymander-ers to maintain that delicate balance of supression, they would have to cut the districts lengthwise very carefully. Kind-of like cutting a big slice of pizza into two perfectly symmetrical more narrow pieces, keeping the same number of pepperonis in each slice. Not only would that be difficult, it would be a painfully obvious gerrymander.

    The more likely outcome woud be a D and an R majority sides, or at least one of the districs would be competitive. That would be much more representational for a 60-40 or 55-45 type district, and would balance out all the democrats with no voice in the 70-30 districts. Just my Opinion.

  14. TAG 2018-11-14 08:49

    Here’s the story to follow if you have any interest in seeing Ranked-Choice Voting in more places:

    If Republican Rep. Poliquin wins his lawsuit, that deals a blow to the constitutionality of RCV. If he loses it does the opposite, and we might see it expand to more states.

    Multi-member at-large districts have become rare in the US, for good reason. They supress the minority party. MMDs utilizing RCV on the other hand would work wonderfully. I hope we get the chance to try it here, but in absence of that, we should just go to single-seats IMO.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-11-14 12:42

    Painfully obvious or not, that gerrymandering will still happen if we leave the process in the hands of the majority party in the Legislature. Single-member House districts will do little to nothing to stop manipulation of the Legislative map. The more important reform appears to be the independent redistricting commission. I’m happy to implement both reforms, but if I only get one, I take IRC first.

  16. mike from iowa 2018-11-14 13:55

    From Daily Kos, wingnuts will be represented by at a minimum 181 white men in the new congress. Comes from lumping POC in pretzel like looking districts to dilute their votes.

    One more tidbit- that ‘young intern’ Jim Accosta did not accost turns out to be a deputy press secretary making 130k per year. Smells like an ambush to me.

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