In democracies like the United States, Gerrymandering to construct districts with artificial boundaries such that incumbents and their parties are favored to win has been a long standing issue. While technically illegal, it seems to still happen.

Some have put forth the idea of computer generated algorithmic redistricting, such as the shortest splitline algorithm put forth here:


What are the largest jurisdictions where Gerrymandering has been effectively eliminated and how was that accomplished?

  • 6
    In Russia there's no gerrymander - the party gerrymanders YOU! May 15, 2013 at 20:24

5 Answers 5


Gerrymandering is surprisingly easy to avoid as long as the people in power are willing to make it that way, but if they're only in power because of gerrymandering you can have issues. Using a algorithm to calculate the lines is one way to do it, but not the only way and not necessarily even the best way (algorithms tend to happily do things like cutting a major city into pieces)

I don't know that they're the largest, but several places credit Canada with having particularly fair districts. For example, here's Toronto:


Canada manages this by leaving the redistricting to an independent body, Elections Canada. By "independent" I mean "non-partisan", which is very different than "bipartisan" and harder to achieve. Bipartisan groups (in the U.S., at least) have a reputation for maintaining the status quo by gerrymandering equally, so that both sides keep the seats they have forever. Independent groups theoretically have no such motivation, and will attempt to draw the fairest lines they can. Australia and the UK also use independent groups to handle redistricting, but it's less clear how successful they have been at avoiding gerrymandering

  • 3
    The AEC does pretty well actually. It's been around since Australian federation and is pretty much sacrosanct on both sides on the aisle. Oct 23, 2013 at 6:03
  • 4
    What's wrong with "...cutting a major city into pieces"? The example you chose of a fair system does exactly that.
    – CramerTV
    Dec 23, 2014 at 6:47

Australian elections are generally held under the supervision, or threat of supervision, of independent electoral bodies, such as the Australian Electoral Commission. These commissions draw boundaries based on agreed rules and submissions.

While most boundaries are drawn without malapportionment, Western Australia and Queensland are malapportioned ( http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2004/guide/glossary.htm#malapportionment ) in favour of rural votes, a Gerrymander in favour of rural conservatism of one of three flavours: small town liberal-conservatism, agrarian capitalists in favour of state aid to industry, and rural Labor which tends to a conservative streak.

In addition to this malapportionment, there is a malapportionment in the Australian senate where Tasmania elects as many Senators as New South Wales. However, since the 1980s, states votes have tended to converge on the general ideological divisions of Australia; leading this malapportionment to be expressed through preference flow deals between parties.

The reason for Australia's contemporary low level of gerrymander can be seen in two factors:

  • Parliamentary politics doesn't matter very much. The real political action in Australia has tended to be industrial in nature.
  • Australia's system of spoils and graft is gentle in nature, and systematic corruption of parliamentarians is comparatively uninstitutionalised. Before people attempt to correct me: magistrates, judges and bureaucrats are appointed "impartially" by a system of corruption that operates without reference to parliament, and occasionally by systems of non-corruption, such as the legal professions' jealous guarding of judicial appointments.

Counter-intuitively, a bureaucratic civil service has ensured greater democracy in the appointment of executive and judicial figures by the parliamentary than would be the case in terms of direct election to such offices.

  • 1
    The Australian Senate comment is a bit unfair - it was designed to represent state intrests not individual intrests. Each state gets an equal say (territories don't get the same say as states)
    – Greg
    Oct 23, 2013 at 5:20
  • Some of the limitations the AEC has to work with, which cause malapportionment, are inherent to the model of representative democracy we currently use. In theory, this might be unavoidable as long a geographical apportionment is considered a normal way to "gerrymander" (isn't thought as such) rural and urban policy representation. Oct 23, 2013 at 6:08

The Israeli Knesset avoids gerrymandering by not drawing any district boundaries at all; it's elected by nationwide closed party list proportional representation.

  • That's hardly specific to the Israeli Knesset.
    – Relaxed
    Dec 21, 2014 at 0:12

Several states, like Iowa, also employ an independent/non-partisan committees (Iowa calls it the Legislative Services Agency) for redistricting. They propose new maps to the legislature for approval that are supposed to be based upon population data rather than political party interests.

  • The question very explicitly asked about "successful". The answer shows a reform, but does not indicate whether it was successful at avoiding the problem.
    – user4012
    May 20, 2013 at 18:36
  • Iowa's non-partisan committee is "successful" in reducing the political bias that usually accompanies redistricting for the state because it is supposed to be based upon population numbers without regard to affiliations. This has put incumbents in contest with each other as well as allow for new people in new districts when districts get redrawn. These are the primary issues with gerrymandering (political favoritism and perpetual incumbency) that are significantly addressed by using the committee. May 28, 2013 at 20:32
  • This sounds like a theoretical argument, as opposed to evidence that gerrymandering actually decreased in practice (I'm not claiming it didn't, just that someone needs to show the facts)
    – user4012
    May 29, 2013 at 0:03
  • I propose that you review the Iowa redistricting commission report. It details the process and the questions from Iowa. A split Iowa Congressional representation is only one example of many (a possible result). Core evidence of biased gerrymandering is 1)political favoritism 2) weird district lines 3)direct impact by elected persons 4)perpetual incumbency. I will research for more evidence. Iowa code specifically lays out parameters of non-consideration of political party, have normal shaped districts and not directed by legislators. Reduction of gerrymandering is evident. May 29, 2013 at 15:00
  • Iowa Redistricting material can be found at legis.iowa.gov/Resources/Redist/redistricting.aspx May 29, 2013 at 15:00

First, as @dan04 pointed out, proportional representation with large multi-seat districts (or even a single nationwide district) removes the issue. There are many different systems but that's basically how (the lower chamber of) parliament is elected in Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Israel, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium and many other countries.

In some cases (Germany, Spain, Portugal…), the electoral districts are also the provinces/states so you cannot simply redraw a district without deep consequences on the territorial organization of the country and a change to the constitution.

With single-seat electoral districts, it's very difficult to completely avoid distortions (deliberate manipulation being only one of them). Outright gerrymandering can still be reduced by several mechanisms:

  • Supervision by an independent body or electoral commission or by the courts.
  • Requiring some sort of supermajority to change the electoral map.

But these can still be manipulated, e.g. if the main parties try to keep newcomers out by agreeing on changes to the electoral map or on appointments to the independent commissions. An additional problem with all this is that institutional constraints typically make changes more difficult but regular updates are in fact required to keep up with demographic evolutions and keep the elections fair.

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