For example, New York’s Democratic-controlled State Assembly and Republican-controlled State Senate – which receive, but can ignore, the advisory commission’s recommendations – have repeatedly carved up the state into gerrymandered districts that protect the two parties. This leaves the State Senate under Republican control and the General Assembly under Democratic control. Incumbents of both parties win, while voters lose.
In Idaho and seven other states, leaders of the legislature or state parties appoint a bipartisan commission that has the power to draw district maps. These maps are not subject to review by the legislature. Typically, such plans are less extreme in their gerrymandering compared to plans drawn directly by legislators. But these commissioners typically remain loyal to the partisans who appointed them, and the usual results are gerrymanders that protect incumbents of both parties.
At the state level, only Arizona and California have redistricting commissions that are both independently selected and have independent control of redistricting – thanks to voters, who approved these reforms through ballot initiatives backed by bipartisan coalitions.
In Arizona, the historically nonpartisan Commission on Appellate Court Appointments screens applicants for the redistricting commission to ensure they have no financial or other conflicts of interest and no connections to state legislators or members of Congress. In California the previously obscure office of State Auditor oversees a similar selection process. In both states, the commissions control their own budgets and hire their own staff. They control where district lines are drawn, not the legislatures.