This is a quick reply to Dan's post.
Gerrymandering is one of the ugly aspects to having a representative house at the national or state level. If we are going to have 435 members of the House, we have to carve up the country into 435 different districts of roughly the same number of people.
I'm not going to tell anyone that the lines are drawn up based on anything other than politics, because we know that's exactly what decides those lines. But is there a better criteria? If so, what? It can't really be proximity; wherever you draw the line, somebody is going to be closer to another district than they are to most of their own. Can't really have nice squares or other clear geometric shapes because the population doesn't follow such contours. So what criteria should we use?
You propose an "independent election commission" to fix this problem, similar to your call for independents monitoring polling stations. What is an "independent?" Plenty of people are extremely partisan without registering for a party; they tend to like the facade of being an independent thinker or some such nonsense. Who will choose this commission? Four "independents" chosen by Albany would be a joke; of course those commissioners will do Albany's will. A statewide election would be both costly and lead to the same result as Democrats will support the most liberal "independent" candidates while the Republicans would support he most conservative ones.
As a conservative in New York, I would like to see this power taken out of Albany's hands as much as anyone. I would love for a meaningful reform to be put in place. The short of it is, though, that it is a pipe dream and potentially a dangerous one. We know that the party in control of the state will act out of self interest, ugly as that may be. A commission of non-registered citizens could carve out the state based on god only knows what whims, though the most dominate will likely be political.
We have to come up with the districts and the states have been pretty good about doing that over the last 220 years. If a clear set of rules that could gain wide acceptance with the people could be devised and a system to implement it fairly created, I would support it, but I don't see that happening. To the winner go the spoils...or, in more democratic language, the majority needs to have the greater voice.
QUICK UPDATE: I don't know why I said "four commissioners." No idea at all where that number came from.