Electoral districts: other than the US, do any other mature democracies leave it to the politicians?

I asked this question over in the the gerrymandering/distribution thread:

“Is there any mature, well-established democracy other than the US where the politicians draw the boundaries directly?”

That thread seems to have turned into an applied maths/stats thread, so I thought I’d re-ask it here.

My understanding is that in Canada and the UK, which both have single-member districts, elected by first-past-the-post, the electoral boundaries are drawn by independent commissions. They have to be implemented by Parliaments or legislatures, but by and large the commission’s recommendations are accepted.

However, I understand from the US threads that in most US states (California is an exception?), the boundaries are drawn by the state legislatures.

So I’m curious: are there any other mature, well-established democracies where the politicians draw the boundaries? I had thought that independent commissions were pretty general, but I’m open to correction.

Why should the legislature draw the boundaries? Voters choose their politicians, not the other way around.

You can add Australia to that list, though we use preference voting (STV) in single member electorates.

Because every 10 years the boundaries change and someone has to draw them.

Jamaica? (It may have changed) One of the characteristics of the American system is that it is distributed. Districting is under the control of local politicians. Even in counties where districting is under the direct control of a Minister (Singapore?) it is not always the case that people control their own districting.

Who appoints the Independent commission?
Gerrymandering only occurs the other side does it. When my side does it, it is making sure everyone has fair representation.

“Partisan gerrymandering, which refers to redistricting that favors one political party, has a long tradition in the United States that precedes the 1789 election of the First U.S. Congress.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering_in_the_United_States

It should probably be pointed out that the process is left up to the states in the US, and not every state has politicians draw the lines.

How ‘independent’ such redistricting commissions are, or indeed how independent is it structurally possible to make them, is an open question. This is true everywhere, if you think your local system is uncorruptable in this way you may not be paying it enough attention. The decision has to be made somehow, and it will have political implications.

I would have thought that with everything so digitised these days it should be possible to do it electronically. Take any already defined area - State or country, and decide how many representatives you want. Then divide it into areas of equal population. Of course, other factors would have to be taken into account, like natural boundaries (rivers, highways? mountains) etc, but once the computer program has the data it could simply draw a map. It could then be repeated every ten years or so to take account of shifting populations.

The algorithm is itself corruptable. There are a huge number of ways to divide a region “neutrally” and still end up with a bias. Do you do it simply by geography and look for rivers or mountains? Do you keep municipalities together? Do you do concentric rings from an urban center? Maybe the people from Pawnee and Eagleton have nothing in common, do you make them share a representative just because of geographic proximity? If Eagleton happens to have more people, does Pawnee never get a say in the legislature? Do you keep minority groups together so they always get at least one legislator, or do you spread them out so that every legislator has them as constituents, even if it means they are always outvoted? It’s not an easy job to redistrict and it has no clear answers which is why it’s so easy to abuse.

I remember reading this article a few years ago and being impressed. With the technology available to us in this day and age, there is really no excuse to continue the politicization of redistricting.

As senoy pointed out already, the relative weight you give the “other factors” can produce wildly different maps. Do you use city boundaries? If so, you can influence the drawing compared to using, say, well-defined geometric shapes. Do you try to keep areas of similar socio-economic nature together? Do you prefer man-drawn boundaries to Nature’s boundaries? Remember, not only are districts for representatives drawn this way, so are precinct boundaries, and they have their own effects.

Since Senators to the US Senate represent whole states, state boundaries were, in essence, gerrymanders. West Virginia is one of the biggest intentional gerrymanders ever. What can be done intentionally by hand can be replicated with appropriate algorithms.

While I generally agree with you on the point of reducing gerrymandering, it’s not as simple as that article makes it out to be. It is very likely, for example, that using the method in your linked article, Congress would mean that the number of districts in which minorities comprise a majority of voters would be cut in half, roughly speaking. For a country that still struggles with representation for minorities, I don’t see “but look at how nice and compact the districts are!” as an adequate response to “this plan eliminates many or most minorities now elected to Congress.”

For the tradeoffs of different approaches to drawing districts, see here:

Yeah, I guess my response to that would be that politicians don’t represent groups within their district, they represent a district, period.

There seems to be an assumption that electing minorities to Congress will better serve minorities, as though their wants and desires are some uniform block that can only be provided to them by other minorities. It just seems imbecilic, and doesn’t do justice to the dignity and humanity of each individual.

Right.
And we’ll all live in harmony.
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars.

Get real.

Why don’t we just switch to a hex system like Civilization? :smiley:

Well, if it’s an open question it’s oddly undiscussed question in Canada - at least, pretty rare and almost always when the government rejects the commission’s map. Nobody is publicly wrangling about who gets placed on the commission.

In the American states where the politicians don’t draw the lines, there isn’t even a pretense at forming an impartial committee unless you’re one of those that think “bipartisan” means the same thing.

The largest democracy, India has the constitutional requirement of an Independent Delimitation Commission that decides the size and shape of the Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies.

Delimitation commissions have been set up four times in the past — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002.

More here - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delimitation_Commission_of_India

OP’s question omits a term: the issue is less important in countries that don’t use “First past the post” voting. In countries that use proportional representation and/or preferential voting systems, it’s more a matter of adjusting the numbers of seats to the numbers of electors in any given area: the distribution of support between parties is going to be reflected in much the same way whatever the boundaries.

That said, the Republic of Ireland (which uses a preferential proportional system) has an independent constituency commission, chaired by a High Court judge.

Proportional voting systems signficantly reduce the advantages that can accrue from gerrymandering (and therefore the incentive to engage in gerrymandering) but they don’t eliminate it entirely. In the Irish system, where each electoral district returns between 3 and 5 members, in areas when the party in government thought it could muster 50% or more of the vote it would tend to construct 3-seat districts (and hope to win two seats), while in areas where it hoped to get 40-50% of the vote it would establish 4-seat districts (and hope to win two seats). Judge this well, and such tactics can deliver a modest but consistent bonus of seat share over vote share.

We switched to a commission system in the late 1970s. It works well. Apart from the judge who chairs it, the other members of the commission are permanent public servants whose roles on the Commission are attached to their regular job - the clerk of each house of parliament, the Secretary of the Department of Local Government, that kind of thing. The system works well, the recommendations of the Commission are uncontroversial and there is general public confidence that elections are not gerrymandered. Technically the Commission’s recommendations are advisory, but they are always implemented.

In Tuesday’s elections, several more states passed referendums that are designed to make the process less partisan.

In Colorado, Amendment Y passed, which creates an independent commission to redraw Congressional districts and Amendment Z does the same for state legislature districts

In Michigan, Proposition 2 passed, which creates an independent commission to redraw Congressional districts as well as state legislative districts.

In Missouri, Amendment 1 passed, which directs a nonpartisan official to redraw the districts for the state legislature, but not for Congressional districts. His or her plan will then be voted on by the legislature.

In Utah, Proposition 4 would appoint a bipartisan (not nonpartisan) commission to recommend a redistricting plan, which would then be voted on by the legislature. At last count, the ‘yes’ vote is ahead by a narrow margin, but nobody seems to be calling it one way or the other yet.