In his Oct. 29 op-ed column, "Redistricting Reform's Dead End," Eli Rosenbaum came to erroneous conclusions about the effect redistricting reform has on competition.

I served as a consultant to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC), which was charged with evaluating district competitiveness, and I have worked as a redistricting consultant in four other states. I support redistricting reform as a means to increase competition.

Mr. Rosenbaum quoted the AIRC chairman as saying, "If your goal is competitive districts, I don't think this helps you get down that road very far."

However, I drew a map for the state legislature that maximized competition and had 23 competitive districts out of 30, where the commission drew four. My map did not take into account Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which mandated the drawing of uncompetitive, Democratic minority-majority districts in a Republican-leaning state. Nor did my map prioritize political subdivisions and communities of interest, which took precedence over competition but also are required by law. The chairman's comment spoke to how these criteria limited competition and was not an indictment of reform.

Reformers in other states have learned from the limitations of the Arizona model. Ohio's ballot initiative is particularly interesting because the state is not covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act; a complicated formula ensures that competition and partisan fairness are elevated in the list of criteria behind equal population and contiguity. I would expect a significant increase in the number of competitive districts under this initiative. Indeed, a group backing the initiative, Reform Ohio Now, commissioned a test map that creates 10 competitive congressional districts among the state's 18, where none exist now.

No other advanced democracy permits legislators to draw districts, so the mischief we have seen with U.S. redistricting does not happen elsewhere. The Post should continue supporting redistricting reform to create a democracy that better serves its citizens.



The writer is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.