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Thread: Project BERES: Delimitation Literature

  1. #1
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    Oct 2008

    Project BERES: Delimitation Literature

    By an international expert on delimitation, as mentioned by Bridget Welsh.

    Lisa Handley paper:

    Delimitation Equity Project - Resource Guide

    Lisa Handley, Jeremy Grace, Peter Schrott, Horacio Boneo, Ron Johnson, Michael Maley, Alan McRobie, Charles Pattie, David Rossite
    May 1, 2006 - IFES


    The Delimitations Manual is in the attachment and also known as the Delimitation Equity Project.[/QUOTE]

    Countries that delimit electoral districts must designate an entity to carry out this task and a set of rules for this body to follow when engaged in the delimitation process. The task assigned to the boundary authority is the same in all countries: divide the country into constituencies for the purpose of electing legislative representatives to office. The type of boundary authority established and the rules this authority is obliged to follow, however, vary markedly across countries. Few international standards have been proposed to guide the delimitation process. One reason for this lack of international standards has been the absence of any comprehensive comparative study of existing delimitation laws and practices.

    Although many studies have been devoted to examining electoral systems – their nature, causes, and consequences – and at least one recent book, Establishing the Rules of the Game: Election Laws in Democracies,1 offers an excellent comparative survey of other basic dimensions of electoral law (i.e., who has the right to vote and to be a candidate, who conducts the election and who counts the votes and resolves electoral conflicts), there has been no systematic, comparative study of constituency delimitation laws and practices conducted to date. This study attempts to rectify the deficit.

    one of the best "white papers" written in recent year about electoral boundary delimitation by the leading expert on the topic
    IFES, Handley, 'Challenging Election Norms and Standards', 2007.pdf
    Last edited by pywong; 13th December 2016 at 10:19 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Page 397 Appendices to Delimitation Manual

    Observing Delimitation


    Appendices: Observing Delimitation

    Appendix A: Practical Steps for Delimitation Observation

    Below is a list of steps that might be followed by an observer group in relation to the
    evaluation of the delimitation of constituencies. While diversity in delimitation practices
    across countries makes it quite difficult to develop a blueprint that will cover all possible
    cases, the steps below can be used in most cases or can be adapted to specific

    Step one: Examine the relevance of delimitation

    • Analyze the electoral system and its requirements in terms of the delimitation
    of constituencies.

    • Analyze the influence on results that potential changes in the boundaries of
    constituencies might introduce. Is the impact that delimitation could have
    significant enough to change the results substantially?

    • In those instances where there delimitation has only a limited influence,
    conduct basic checks. For instance, if constituency boundaries coincide with
    regional/provincial boundaries, as in Argentina, check that the apportionment
    of seats is proportionate to the relative populations of the constituencies.

    Step two: Examine the timing of the delimitation

    • Consider when the last delimitation was performed. Was it done within the
    period established by the legal framework? Was the delimitation prompted by
    statutory conditions or was it an ad hoc decision of the legislature? Is the
    delimitation related to the availability of census data?

    • Obtain information on the dates on which the last delimitation exercise was
    undertaken. Departures from statutory dates should be carefully analyzed.

    Step three: Examine the institutional aspects of the delimitation process

    • Who is responsible for conducting delimitation exercises?

    • If it is either an Electoral or a special Delimitation Commission, what is the
    composition of this body? Who does the technical work? Is the commission
    politically independent (or is there is an effective balance between parties in
    the composition of the commission)? Does the commission have the respect
    of the main stakeholders?

    • If it is a Government Department, do they conduct the delimitation activity
    without pressure from their superiors? Do the opposition parties accept and
    respect their proposals?

    • If it is the legislature, how does it accomplish delimitation? Is there effective
    participation by opposition parties? Who provides technical advice? Are the
    Delimitation Equity Project


    proposals for delimitation approved by consensus? Are there indications that
    the consensus is achieved through collusion among the main parties?

    • Is the system open to the public? Is there a public discussion at the time of
    delimitation? Are public hearings held? Does the issue receive the attention
    of mass media?

    • What is the role of the courts? How frequent is it necessary to resort to a
    judicial solution? Have the courts developed a consistent approach? Is there
    general satisfaction with the way in which claims had been adjudicated?

    The analysis of the institutional arrangements starts from the legal dispositions
    concerning the delimitation of constituencies. The analysis of the role of the courts
    should not be limited to legal instruments, but should include a brief analysis of the main
    cases, if possible. Information on the technical issues related to the conduct of
    evaluation could be obtained from interviews with those involved in previous delimitation
    exercises. Evaluations of the openness of the system and opinions about its adequacy
    can be retrieved from the analysis of media at the time of delimitation and from
    interviews with the main stakeholders. In some cases, there might be academic analysis
    of the issues involved. However, the final test for any system is the existence of an
    almost general consensus about the adequacy of the system, the impartiality of the
    people in charge, and the mechanisms for redressing eventual complaints.

    Step four: Examine impact on results

    • Examine the impact of the existing delimitation scheme on the results of
    recent elections. Is there a systematic bias in favor of one of the parties,
    which might not be expected from the type of electoral system in use?

    It is important to remember that that FPTP and similar electoral systems will not produce
    results proportional to the popular vote. However, a cursory review of past results might
    provide some useful hints for the main analysis below.

    Step five: Verify the application of the delimitation criteria established by the law

    • Is there adequate information available with regard to the criteria considered
    by the boundary authority? If there is a paucity of information, are there
    adequate justifications?

    • Is there a maximum acceptable deviation from the population quota? Is it
    generally respected? Are there clear reasons specified for deviations
    exceeding the maximum tolerance? Do deviations systematically favor one
    specific party?

    • Does the electoral system allow for multi-member constituencies? Have there
    been recent changes in the magnitude of districts? Is there any systematic
    bias in those changes?

    • Is respect for administrative boundaries/tribal territories used as a criterion for
    delimitation? If so, has it been respected? What reasons have been given for
    breaking up administrative units/tribal territories?

    Observing Delimitation


    • Has geographic criteria been used reasonably?

    • Does legislation on delimitation require legislative districts to be “compact
    and contiguous”? Are these criteria taken into account? Are there districts
    with unusual shapes? If so, what reasons are given for the oddly shaped

    • Do legislative districts respect existing “communities of interest”? How have
    these communities been defined? Are ethnic and minority groups considered
    communities of interest? Are districts drawn in ways that ensure/facilitate the
    representation of those minorities, assuming they are geographically
    concentrated in a manner that makes this possible? Are there other
    approaches used to ensure the representation of minorities (separate seats,
    special districts, reserved seats, etc.)? Is there satisfaction with the
    representation of minorities?

    Step six: Reach an overall judgment

    This is the most difficult step, and particular care should be taken to reach a judicious
    and balanced judgment. It is very unlikely that a perfect redistribution plan exists – one
    that leaves all stakeholders perfectly satisfied. However, it should be remembered that
    delimitation is not a major problem in most cases. Delimitation should be most carefully
    observed in cases where the boundary authority is not independent of political concerns,
    for example, when the legislature rather than a special commission is in charge of the
    delimitation process. And recall that delimitation is particularly important when (1) there
    are only two important parties, (2) there is a relative stability of the vote, and (3) there is
    enough information about the distribution of the vote.

    A last comment on resource requirements

    Although the observation of delimitation does not necessarily demand specialized
    knowledge, it is quite likely that a person with significant experience in delimitation is
    required as a part of the observation team. This should not create problems for
    international observation missions, but it might be a difficult requirement for national
    observer groups to meet as there may not be local expertise available.

    It is usually necessary for observers to be able to conduct an analysis of the legal
    framework, which can be part the overall analysis with regard to the electoral legislation.
    Furthermore, it is probably a good idea to reconstruct events, using historical, rather
    than electoral, tools. If not one with delimitation experience is part of the observation
    team, observers might consider subcontracting the activity to local research

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Appendix B: - International Standards for District Delimitation

    There are very few international standards regarding the delimitation of electoral districts.
    One of the main sources is the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters of the Venice
    Commission, which states as follows with regard to the dimension of equality of vote:

    Equal voting power: seats must be evenly distributed between the constituencies.

    i. This must at least apply to elections to lower houses of parliament and regional
    and local elections:

    ii. It entails a clear and balanced distribution of seats among constituencies on
    the basis of one of the following allocation criteria: population, number of resident
    nationals (including minors), number of registered voters, and possibly the
    number of people actually voting. An appropriate combination of these criteria
    may be envisaged.

    iii. The geographical criterion and administrative, or possibly even historical,
    boundaries may be taken into consideration.

    iv. The permissible departure from the norm should not be more than ten
    percent, and should certainly not exceed 15 percent except in special
    circumstances (protection of a concentrated minority, sparsely populated
    administrative entity).

    v. In order to guarantee equal voting power, the distribution of seats must be
    reviewed at least every ten years, preferably outside election periods.

    vi. With multi-member constituencies), seats should preferably be redistributed
    without redefining constituency boundaries, which should, where possible,
    coincide with administrative boundaries.

    vii. When constituency boundaries are redefined – which they must be in a
    single-member system – it must be done:

    - impartially;

    - without detriment to national minorities;

    - taking account of the opinion of a committee, the majority of whose
    members are independent; this committee should preferably include a
    geographer, a sociologist and a balanced representation of the parties and, if
    necessary, representatives of national minorities.

    The comments included in the Commission’s opinion provide further detail:

    13. Equality in voting power, where the elections are not being held in one
    single constituency, requires constituency boundaries to be drawn in such a way
    that seats in the lower chambers representing the people are distributed equally
    among the constituencies, in accordance with a specific apportionment criterion,
    e.g. the number of residents in the constituency, the number of resident nationals
    (including minors), the number of registered electors, or possibly the number of
    people actually voting. An appropriate combination of these criteria is
    conceivable. The same rules apply to regional and local elections. When this
    principle is not complied with, we are confronted with what is known as electoral
    geometry, in the form either of “active electoral geometry”, namely a distribution
    of seats causing inequalities in representation as soon as it is applied, or of
    “passive electoral geometry”, arising from protracted retention of an unaltered
    territorial distribution of seats and constituencies. Furthermore, under systems

    Delimitation Equity Project


    tending towards a non-proportional result, particularly majority (or plurality) vote
    systems, gerrymandering may occur, which consists in favouring one party by
    means of an artificial delimitation of constituencies.

    14. Constituency boundaries may also be determined on the basis of
    geographical criteria and the administrative or indeed historic boundary lines,
    which often depend on geography.

    15. The maximum admissible departure from the distribution criterion adopted
    depends on the individual situation, although it should seldom exceed 10 percent
    and never 15 percent, except in really exceptional circumstances (a
    demographically weak administrative unit of the same importance as others with
    at least one lower-chamber representative, or concentration of a specific national

    16. In order to avoid passive electoral geometry, seats should be redistributed
    at least every ten years, preferably outside election periods, as this will limit the
    risks of political manipulation.

    17. In multi-member constituencies electoral geometry can easily be avoided
    by regularly allocating seats to the constituencies in accordance with the
    distribution criterion adopted. Constituencies ought then to correspond to
    administrative units, and redistribution is undesirable. Where a uninominal
    method of voting is used, constituency boundaries need to be redrawn at each
    redistribution of seats. The political ramifications of (re)drawing electoral
    boundaries are very considerable, and it is therefore essential that the process
    should be non-partisan and should not disadvantage national minorities. The
    long-standing democracies have widely differing approaches to this problem, and
    operate along very different lines. The new democracies should adopt simple
    criteria and easy-to-implement procedures. The best solution would be to submit
    the problem in the first instance to a commission comprising a majority of
    independent members and, preferably, a geographer, a sociologist, a balanced
    representation of the parties and, where appropriate, representatives of national
    minorities. The parliament would then make a decision on the basis of the
    commission’s proposals, with the possibility of a single appeal.

    A second important source is the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
    (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which
    probably is the organization with the best professional record in electoral observation.
    ODIHR has published a Manual for Domestic Election Observers, which provides
    guidelines for observation by domestic monitoring groups.

    In the section of the Manual for Domestic Election Observers entitled “Monitoring the
    drawing of electoral districts’ boundaries,” the ODIHR states:

    According to OSCE commitments, all votes should carry the same weight to
    ensure equal representation. This means that each elected representative should
    represent a similar number of registered electors. For example, in a majority
    voting system, the size of the electorate should not vary by more than
    approximately 10 percent from constituency to constituency. Under the
    proportional representation system, the size of the electorate may vary, but the
    number of representatives for each district should be proportional to the size of
    the electorate.

    Observing Delimitation


    The election law should provide detailed and uniform criteria for the drawing of
    electoral-district boundaries, specifying considerations such as the number of
    voting population per district and geographic, administrative, and historical
    continuity of boundaries.

    The boundaries should be drawn in a transparent manner, under the principle of
    political neutrality, ideally by a non-partisan commission of experts. A domestic
    observer group should assess whether election districts have been drawn in a
    transparent manner to ensure as far as possible that all votes carry the same
    weight or whether they have been drawn in a selective, discriminatory, and
    biased manner.

    The OSCE commitments mentioned in the text of the manual are as follows:

    3. Equality: Constituencies and Districting

    3.1 “To ensure that the will of the people serves as the basis of the authority of
    government, the participating States will 246 ... guarantee universal and equal
    suffrage to adult citizens.”247

    3.2 The delineation of constituencies in which elections are conducted must
    preserve the equality of voting rights by providing approximately the same ratio of
    voters to elected representatives for each district. 248 Existing administrative
    divisions or other relevant factors (including of a historical, demographic, or
    geographical nature) may be reflected in election districts, provided the design of
    the districts is consistent with the equality of voting and fair representation for
    different groups in society.249

    3.3 When necessary, redrawing of election districts shall occur according to a
    predictable timetable and through a method prescribed by law and should reflect
    reliable census or voter registration figures. Redistricting should also be
    performed well in advance of elections, be based on transparent proposals, and
    allow for public information and participation.250

    In the explanatory comments on the above Inventory of OSCE Commitments and other
    Principles for Democratic Elections, the following is added:

    III. Equality: Constituencies and Districting
    Paragraph 3.1 repeats the guarantee contained in Copenhagen Document
    Paragraph 7.3 of universal and equal suffrage for adult citizens.
    Paragraph 3.2 addresses the need for election districts (constituencies) to be
    delineated in a way that preserves the equality of voting rights. While various
    factors may be taken into account in determining districts, their design may not
    diminish equality or unfairly affect the voting power of different groups in society.
    In view of the wide variety of geographical, demographic, and other relevant
    factors in the OSCE area, it was not considered advisable to go beyond these
    general principles.

    Paragraph 3.3 provides that necessary redistricting of constituencies must occur
    in a regular, legally determined way and be based on reliable population or voter
    information. Redrawing of districts should also be performed in a timely and
    transparent manner. The latter standards are phrased in a general way and do
    not go as far as the more specific guidelines proposed by the Venice
    Commission (see footnote to the text), which call for redistricting proposals to
    originate in an independent committee.

    The Commonwealth Secretariat has also prepared a Manual for Domestic Observers
    that includes a number of mentions to the subject, such as:

    The choice of electoral system will determine the legal framework that governs
    the delimitation of electoral boundaries. The creation of boundaries has different
    significance under the ‘majority’ system and the ‘proportional representation’
    system. … If a majority system is in use the law which governs delimitation of
    electoral boundaries is one of the most important aspects of the overall electoral
    process. If constituencies are not roughly similar in terms of the populations they
    represent, the “one person, one vote” principle can be compromised. … In
    majoritarian systems, it is important that observers monitor the creation of the
    electoral boundaries. Election boundaries should be drawn in a transparent
    method following criteria which is FAIR to all groups. The body charged with the
    task of drawing boundaries has to be impartial, independent and politically
    neutral. The role of observer group is to ensure that the body is, and is perceived
    to be, independent.

    The factors that observers need to take into account when monitoring the
    creation of boundaries include: Factors affecting the creation of the boundaries.
    natural frontiers and local administrative boundaries; geographical contingencies:
    i.e., they should be as geographically compact as possible and no area should
    be completely unconnected with the rest of the constituency; communications
    systems; population: there should be equality of numbers in relation to the
    population; community interests: e.g., means of communication, economic
    interests, ethnic homogeneity, language, religion, history, etc. Observers need to
    examine HOW the boundaries have been established and ensure that the
    process has been a fair one. MAKE sure that the RULES and REGULATIONS
    have been followed.


    246 Copenhagen Document, 7.

    247 Copenhagen Document, 7.3.

    248 See generally id.; UDHR, 1, 2, 21(3); ICCPR, 25(b); ECtHR, X v. United Kingdom and Liberal Party
    cases; CIS Electoral Convention, 3(1); CDL Guidelines, I, 2.2, 2.4.b and 2.5; ACEEEO, 9(1.1-1.2). See esp.
    CDL Guidelines, I, 2.2: “Equal voting power: seats must be evenly distributed between the
    constituencies. ... ii. It entails a clear and balanced distribution of seats among the constituencies on the
    basis of one of the following allocation criteria: population, number of resident nationals (including minors),
    number of registered voters, and possibly the number of people actually voting. An appropriate
    combination of these criteria may be envisaged.”

    249 See UN Minorities Declaration, 2(2); UNHRC Comments, 21; CDL Guidelines I, 2.4; ODIHR, Minority
    Electoral Guidelines; ACEEEO, 9(1.1)-(1.2). The UNHRC Comments, id., state in the pertinent part: “The
    principle of one person, one vote must apply, and within the framework of each State’s electoral system,
    the vote of one elector should be equal to the vote of another. The drawing of electoral boundaries and the
    method of allocating votes should not distort the distribution of voters or discriminate against any group ...”

    250 See CDL Guidelines, I, 2.2, e.g., I, 2.2.vii: “When constituency boundaries are redefined ... it must be
    done ... impartially; ... without detriment to national minorities; [and] taking into account the opinion of a
    committee, the majority of whose members are independent ....”

  4. #4
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