Laboratories of Democracy at Work: A Comparison of the 2018 Anti-Gerrymandering Ballot Initiatives

August 23, 2018
Kevin Johnson

When the Pew Research Center polled Americans about gerrymandering in 2006, 89% of respondents had never heard the term or knew little about it. Fast forward twelve years and gerrymandering is a cause célèbre, a focal point for widespread concern over the state of our democracy. In 2018, five states voted on constitutional amendments to block partisan gerrymandering and change how redistricting is done, far more than in any other year. Ohio approved its amendment in May with 75% support. Four others -- Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Utah --  voted in November. Nearly a million citizens in these states have signed petitions to bring these reforms to voters.

The five initiatives differed in the changes they envision to both the process and the purpose of redistricting. They also differed in political context, in the degree of independence from elected officials, in what criteria redistricting should prioritize, and how competitiveness is treated, as summarized in the tables below. The proposed solutions cover the range of options on all the key variables, exactly what we look for from our state “laboratories of democracy.”