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The Double-Edged Sword of Independence: Inoculating Electoral Reform Commissions Against Everyday Politics, 6 ELEC. L. J. 184 (April 2007)


When academics and policymakers talk about what ails American politics, many offer a similar diagnosis: the problem is that we leave the regulation of politics to politics; elected officials set the rules by which they are elected. Unsurprisingly, the proposed cure to this problem is often to create an independent body to set the rules, insulating its members from the distorting effects of special interest politics. As Michael Kang writes of the problem that has most recently captured critics’ attention— the fact that legislators draw their own districts—there is an “understandable impulse to retreat from the political process.” Proposals for independent districting commissions abound in the scholarly literature and reform blueprints. Most of these proposals offer a technocratic solution: a commission composed of neutral experts. A handful are modeled on the British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly, composed of 160 randomly chosen citizens who deliberated for several months and proposed a new system for electing candidates in the province for approval via referendum. This article addresses those who are attracted to such institutions because they desire independence— a chance to shut self-interested legislators, special interest groups, and political parties out of the decision making process, or at least to minimize their influence over the relevant decision makers.

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