Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Claudio López-Guerra


A democracy is more than just an empirically observable mode of governance; it is an actively adopted ideal, an inherently value-laden concept that affects and permeates throughout all dimensions of society. It encompasses corresponding rights held by all democratic citizens, and various state obligations that arise directly from this unique status. As political institutions and practices are given tangible form in a democracy, these moral principles provide both a mandatory set of requirements and an ideal to be oriented towards in their construction. In majoritarian systems with single-member districts, the establishment of electoral boundaries through redistricting is one such process. The “status quo” method of redistricting is having legislatures construct districting schemes, which in recent years has been met with calls for reform due to the inherent conflict of interest in having those with the most at stake conduct a task so crucial to legitimacy, representational quality, and fairness. This paper takes a unique approach to the question of redistricting reform in the United States by combining empirical political analysis and institutional design theory to explore what considerations should guide debates about redistricting reform and what ultimate prescriptions should be made. I will use as a case study Virginia’s establishment of the citizen-legislator hybrid Virginia Redistricting Commission in 2020 to show that states should establish Independent Redistricting Commissions to undergo redistricting form, but that are specifically structured as all-citizen, bipartisan commissions with a tie-breaking mechanism, clear criteria, and productive voting rules so as to effectively meet normative and practical standards.