Monday, February 07, 2005

Drawing the Line[s]

Today's New York Times addresses redistricting reform, citing the issue's seeming ripeness across the country with efforts beginning here as well as Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and others:

"You cannot believe the number of people and organizations across the country that are focusing on this redistricting issue," said Bruce E. Cain, an expert on redistricting and director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. "It seems like it's poised to become, for the reform community, the equivalent of McCain-Feingold," the bill that overhauled the campaign finance system.
Well, in terms of being high-profile, sure, analogize to McCain-Feingold all you want. But take it from someone still relatively fresh off the campaign trail - good god, don't aim for BCRA like results. But I digress . . . .

Some states have succesfully implemented nonpartisan commissions and drawn less influenced lines:

In Arizona, a nonpartisan commission approved by voters in 2000 has completed its first redistricting, which is viewed by advocates as the most impartial since Iowa created a system 20 years ago to propose maps without taking into account partisan considerations like voter history and incumbents' addresses. The Arizona overhaul was strongly endorsed by Senator John McCain, and his aides said he was considering throwing his support behind Mr. Schwarzenegger's effort and embracing it as a cause in a presidential campaign, should he run in 2008.
[Full disclosure: I served, briefly, as one of the consultants to the AZ Independent Redistricting Commission.]

Given McCain's BCRA success (or "success" depending on how you look at it), his support might make the issue sexy enough to sweep the nation (though it can't ever be more than a coordinated state-by-state effort for obvious - or obvious to a law student - Constitutional reasons).

Regular readers know I'm no fan of the initiative process running around the legislature, and undermining representative government, to achieve interested-parties'-goals-in-reform-clothing:

"I think taking it away from the legislature goes against the intent of the founders of this country," said Representative John T. Doolittle, a California Republican. "It's a very misplaced effort and I strongly oppose it. Redistricting is inherently political. All you're going to do is submerge the politics."
Normally, I'd agree, but there's always an exception - and this may be it. The drawn lines give us legislators less likely to pass reform (see: circle, vicious). Doolittle is, of course, correct that it's an inherently political process and there is a significant danger of a new process masking the politics at play. That's going to be part of the challenge - just as politics is part of the reality.

MOCs are going to be against change, but voters, state legislative leadership (and party leadership, for that matter), and those actually desiring the creation of sound, deliberative, well-reasoned public policy should be for it.

I know what side of the line I'll be on - if the proposal is drafted correctly (a HUGE "if"). How 'bout you?

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