Boundary delimitation

Boundary delimitation

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Boundary delimitation, or simply delimitation, is the term used to describe the drawing of boundaries, but is most often used to describe the drawing of electoral boundaries, specifically those of precincts, states, counties or other municipalities. Often this takes places in democracies; in this context it can be called redistribution
Redistribution (election)
Redistribution , called redistricting in the United States, is the process of changing of political borders. This is a form of boundary delimitation that changes electoral district boundaries, usually in response to periodic census results that cause malportionment of representation...

 in order to prevent unbalance of population across districts. Unbalanced or discriminatory delimitation is called "gerrymandering
Gerrymandering
In the process of setting electoral districts, gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan, incumbent-protected districts...

." Though there are no internationally agreed processes which guarantee fair delimitation, several organizations, such as the Commonwealth Secretariat
Commonwealth Secretariat
The Commonwealth Secretariat is the main intergovernmental agency and central institution of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is responsible for facilitating cooperation between members; organising meetings, including the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings ; assisting and advising on policy...

, the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems
International Foundation for Electoral Systems
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems is an international, non-profit organization founded in 1987. This Washington, D. C.-based development organization provides assistance and support for elections in new and emerging democracies...

 have proposed guidelines for effective delimitation.

In international law, boundary delimitation is sometimes referred to as National delimitation. Most specifically this refers to a process of legally establishing the outer limits ("borders") of a state within which full territorial or functional sovereignty is exercised. Occasionally this is used when referring to the maritime boundaries
Maritime boundary
Maritime boundary is a conceptual means of division of the water surface of the planet into maritime areas that are defined through surrounding physical geography or by human geography. As such it usually includes areas of exclusive national rights over the mineral and biological resources,...

 as well, in this case called Maritime delimitation.

Methods


Countries delimit electoral districts in different ways. Sometimes these are drawn based on traditional boundaries, sometimes based on the physical characteristics of the region and, often, the lines are drawn based on the social, political and cultural contexts of the area. This may need to be done in any form of electoral system even though it is primarily done for plurality or majority
Majority rule
Majority rule is a decision rule that selects alternatives which have a majority, that is, more than half the votes. It is the binary decision rule used most often in influential decision-making bodies, including the legislatures of democratic nations...

 electoral system.

These processes of boundary delimitation can have a variety of legal justifications. Often, because of the powerful effects this process can have on constituencies, the legal framework for delimitation is specified in the constitution of a country. The Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) recommends the following pieces of information be included in this legal framework:
  • The frequency of such determination;
  • The criteria for such determination;
  • The degree of public participation in the process;
  • The respective roles of the legislature, judiciary and executive in the process;and
  • The ultimate authority for the final determination of the electoral units.

Established Democracies


Delimitation is used in the United States and Commonwealth countries. This is called Redistricting
Redistricting
Redistricting is the process of drawing United States electoral district boundaries, often in response to population changes determined by the results of the decennial census. In 36 states, the state legislature has primary responsibility for creating a redistricting plan, in many cases subject to...

 or Redistribution
Redistribution (election)
Redistribution , called redistricting in the United States, is the process of changing of political borders. This is a form of boundary delimitation that changes electoral district boundaries, usually in response to periodic census results that cause malportionment of representation...

 respectively. In these countries non-partisan commissions draw new districts based on the distribution of population according to a census
Census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

.

International Standards


A number of international organizations including the OSCE, the European Commission for Democracy Through Law
Venice Commission
The Venice Commission is an advisory body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts in the field of constitutional law. It was created in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin wall, at a time of urgent need for constitutional assistance in Central and Eastern Europe...

, the Commonwealth Secretariat
Commonwealth Secretariat
The Commonwealth Secretariat is the main intergovernmental agency and central institution of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is responsible for facilitating cooperation between members; organising meetings, including the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings ; assisting and advising on policy...

, and the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa
Electoral Institute of Southern Africa
The Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa , or EISA, is an organization founded in 1996 in Johannesburg to "promote credible elections, participatory democracy, human rights culture and the strengthening of governance institutions for the consolidation of democracy in...

 (EISA) have established standards which their members are encouraged to prescribe to. Among these standards the International Foundation for Electoral Systems
International Foundation for Electoral Systems
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems is an international, non-profit organization founded in 1987. This Washington, D. C.-based development organization provides assistance and support for elections in new and emerging democracies...

 (IFES) lists the most common as being Impartiality, Equality, Representativeness, Non-Discrimination and Transparency.

Venice Commission


As part of its report, European Commission for Democracy Through Law: Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters, Guidelines and Explanatory Reports adopted October 2002, the Venice Commission
Venice Commission
The Venice Commission is an advisory body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts in the field of constitutional law. It was created in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin wall, at a time of urgent need for constitutional assistance in Central and Eastern Europe...

 proposed the following guidelines:
2.2 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 10%, and should certainly not exceed 15% 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 multimember 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.

Commonwealth Secretariat


In the publication Good Commonwealth Electoral Practices: A Working Document, June 1997, the Commonwealth Secretariat
Commonwealth Secretariat
The Commonwealth Secretariat is the main intergovernmental agency and central institution of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is responsible for facilitating cooperation between members; organising meetings, including the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings ; assisting and advising on policy...

 identifies the following practices as necessary for proper delimitation:
20. The delimitation of constituency boundaries is a function occasionally performed by an election commission or otherwise by an independent boundaries commission, and in some cases after a population census.

21. General principles guiding the drawing of constituency boundaries include community of interest, convenience, natural boundaries, existing administrative boundaries and population distribution, including minority groups. There should be no scope for any “gerrymandering”, and each vote should, to the extent possible, be afforded equal value or weight, in recognition of the democratic principle that all those of voting age participate equally in the ballot.

22. It is important that the general public play a part in the whole process and that the political parties also have an opportunity to respond to proposals before they are finalized. Where the size of a particular constituency is markedly out of line with the target “quota” of voters per seat, the reasons should be capable of being readily understood by both the parties and the general public.

IFES


In her study sponsored by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems
International Foundation for Electoral Systems
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems is an international, non-profit organization founded in 1987. This Washington, D. C.-based development organization provides assistance and support for elections in new and emerging democracies...

, Dr. Lisa Handley recommends the following considerations:
  1. population density
  2. ease of transportation and communication
  3. geographic features
  4. existing patterns of human settlement
  5. financial viability and administrative capacity of electoral area
  6. financial and administrative consequences of boundary determination
  7. existing boundaries
  8. community of interest


Also, she suggests that the process should:
  • be managed by an independent and impartial body that is representative of society, comprising persons with the appropriate skills;
  • be conducted on the basis of clearly identified criteria such as population, distribution, community of interest, convenience, geographical features and other natural or administrative boundaries;
  • be made accessible to the public through a consultation process;
  • be devoid of manipulation of electoral boundaries to favour political groups or political interests;
  • be conducted by one body;
  • include all spheres of government, both national and local.

National delimitation


The negotiations surrounding the modification of a states borders is called National delimitation. This event often takes place as part of the negotiations seeking to end a conflict over resource control, popular loyalties, or political interests.

Maritime delimitation



The term Maritime delimitation is a form of national delimitation that can be applied to the disputes between nations over maritime claims. An example is found at Maritime Boundary Delimitation in the Gulf of Tonkin. In international politics, the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs
United Nations Office of Legal Affairs
The United Nations Office of Legal Affairs is a United Nations agency, established in 1946, that performs several key functions in the area of international law....

, United Nations Secretariat
United Nations Secretariat
The United Nations Secretariat is one of the five principal organs of the United Nations and it is headed by the United Nations Secretary-General, assisted by a staff of international civil servants worldwide. It provides studies, information, and facilities needed by United Nations bodies for...

 is responsible for the collection of all claims to territorial waters.

See also


For further examples of legislative delimitation:
  • Delimitation Commission of India
    Delimitation Commission of India
    Delimitation commission or Boundary commission of India is a Commission established by Government of India under the provisions of the Delimitation Commission Act. The main task of the commission is to redraw the boundaries of the various assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies based on a recent...



For further elaboration of this concept of national delimitaiton see
  • National delimitation in the Soviet Union on the creation of territorial units based on ethnicity in the USSR;
  • Nation-building
    Nation-building
    For nation-building in the sense of enhancing the capacity of state institutions, building state-society relations, and also external interventions see State-building....

     on the processes of creating or strengthening national identity within national territorial limits.
  • Sugauli Treaty
    Sugauli Treaty
    The Sugauli Treaty was signed on December 2, 1815 and ratified by March 4, 1816, between the British East India Company and Nepal, which was a kingdom during that era. This ended the second British invasion of the Himalayan kingdom during the Anglo-Nepalese War...



For further examples of the concept maritime delimitation:
  • Maritime delimitation between Romania and Ukraine
    Maritime delimitation between Romania and Ukraine
    Maritime delimitation between Romania and Ukraine in the Black Sea was conducted by the International Court of Justice. On September 16, 2004 the Romanian side brought a case to the Court following unsuccessful bilateral negotiations...

  • Georges Bank
    Georges Bank
    Georges Bank is a large elevated area of the sea floor which separates the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic Ocean and is situated between Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia ....

  • List of maritime boundary treaties

External links