Reform the redistricting committee

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Reform the redistricting committee


Whenever general elections have been held, our electoral map has changed. In the last three elections, the constituencies were fixed only a month before the polls. The redistricting committee under the National Assembly speaker only played a nominal role in offering suggestions. A lack of legal binding force enabled lawmakers from both sides to change the committee’s conclusion as they saw fit. So to avoid such issues, our legislature established the Electoral Redistricting Committee to prepare for the election in April, but to no avail.

By law, the redistricting committee is supposed to submit its final conclusion to the National Assembly by Oct. 13, six months before the polls. If the special committee for political reform at the Assembly disagrees on the proposal, which calls for cooperation to hammer out a final map, it is put to a vote at a plenary session. But the redistricting committee has failed to fix constituencies for the April election, which leaves the task to the legislature. The committee chairman even had to apologize for failing to carry out the job.

In May, both the ruling and opposition parties set up an independent redistricting committee, but the problem is that a consensus can hardly be reached among nine members of the committee - four each appointed by recommendations from the ruling and opposition parties and one from the National Election Commission. Under this structure, they cannot come to a final agreement as it needs a two-thirds vote.

The National Assembly could have established the redistricting committee to take control over the composition of the committee. Lawmakers rejected the committee’s repeated requests that they first fix crucial variables - such as the total number of legislators and the ratio of lawmakers with their own constituencies and proportional representatives - to redraw the electoral map. If lawmakers had handed over such tallies to the committee, it could have done the job much better.

The ball is now in the court of the political arena. Neither camp has yet fixed the electoral map or their own nomination systems. No other country would leave its constituencies unfinished with just six months left before the election. Such chaos could signal colossal damage for the country. Both parties must reach conclusions quickly. In the long term, they must also change the structure of the redistricting committee to guarantee its independence. One option could be three members each from the ruling and opposition parties and from the National Election Commission.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 14, Page 34

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