Cross-Country Gerrymandering comparison

We were interested in the question of which countries are the best and the worst as far as gerrymandering is concerned. So we started examining 2000-2005 election district maps from

  1. Canada
  2. Australia (updated link), Germany,
  3. Britain, India
  4. USA. (Out of 435 US House seats, only 10 elections were decided by a margin below 5% in 2004)

And the results are...

The countries above were listed in order of increasing gerrymandering. Canada is the best (gerrymandering almost nonexistent), and the USA is the worst (huge blatant gerrymandering). We do not have any numbers. This is simply based on looking at a lot of maps and measuring how far the observer's jaw drops.

Canada seems amazingly impressively honest (at least as of year 2005). The district boundaries are often rivers or straight lines and hence seem utterly unchallengeable. Canada seems to be by far the best country of the above about avoiding Gerrymandering.

How do those Canucks do it?

The Canadians have an "independent non-partisan agency" to draw districts ("Elections Canada"). Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the Chief Electoral Officer, appointed 1990 to serve until age 65 or resignation, is Canada's best paid civil servant. This post is appointed directly by parliament and reports to them. The C.E.O. can be removed from office only for cause, by the Governor General after a joint request following a majority vote by the House of Commons and Senate.

Discussion: could the USA do something similar? Idea: the USA could or should have a similar federal post who would choose the districts inside all the states (following Canada's lead). The states themselves should be forbidden to district themselves. He/she should be appointed not by the president and should not report to the president, but to congress. (Another idea: hire the Canadians to do our districting...)

This would all be good but the problem is...

  1. this would probably be an unconstitutional denial of "state's rights."
  2. that everything would then rest on the integrity of this one person.
Although this approach has worked for Canada so far... it still makes us unhappy. We prefer the shortest-splitline algorithm method of avoiding gerrymandering, since then we do not have to trust anyone.

Return to main page