Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Insight into "gerrymandering"

This interesting video discusses gerrymandering in the context of the US federal political system. Four types of gerrymandering are identified: racial, incumbency, partisan, and bipartisan. The author says that the US is the only advanced western democracy which allows its politicians to draw their own electoral boundaries. In Alberta, the Legislative Assembly decides, and since the PC Party has dominated the Assembly for 40 years and counting, the PC Party decides within the constraints of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In addition, the 2009/2010 Electoral Boundaries Commission for example was comprised of one judge, two MLA's from the PC Party and two MLA's from opposition parties. In the 2012 FDA electoral fairness report on Alberta, the FDA auditors measured complete fairness for the process of determining Alberta electoral districts. (The FDA auditors believe that the process of determining rural district boundaries is reasonably fair; there are no perfect boundaries; to allow Alberta's significantly greater populated urban areas to dominate the Legislative Assembly would undermine the political voice of rural Albertans. The FDA believes that a balance needs to be attained. See the FDA Alberta report and/or Commission report for more details.) However, the Alberta electoral system may be susceptible to bipartisan gerrymandering. To deal with this, members of all registered parties should be part of the process of drawing electoral boundaries, and even better, an elected non-partisan citizen body should draw them.

In less advanced democracies, Jordan for example allows its government to draw the electoral districts. In Jordan there is clear evidence of gerrymandering, and even the use of different electoral systems.

2009/2010 Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission

2012 FDA Electoral Fairness Audit Report on Alberta

2011 FDA Electoral Fairness Audit Report on Jordan


  1. Does the federal government have any authority to step in to provincial electoral boundary issues, if there are serious inequities being manifested? Are electoral boundaries in Alberta aligned with federal electoral boundaries? I think they are aligned in Ontario, although this was not always the case.

    1. As far as we know, the Alberta electoral boundaries are determined internally.

      The federal government has no legal right to interfere in the electoral processes of the provinces. However, the electoral processes must conform to relevant provincial election law and the Canadian Charter on Rights and Freedoms.

      In addition, citizens, candidates, and/or parties who think gerrymandering exists, can pressure the Alberta government, for example, by publicizing their findings, and based on violation of the Charter and/or negligent enforcement of laws on electoral boundaries, can sue the provincial government.


Thank you for sharing your perspective.