Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Bit More On Redistricting

Via the Roundup, an LAT piece on other states' efforts to reform redistricting:

"To some extent, the power to draw lines is more important than the power of voting," said Nathaniel Persily, a redistricting expert who is a professor of law and political science at the University of Pennsylvania. "The redistricting process is often more determinative of who wins elections than the voting in elections itself."

From California, where Proposition 77 would put redistricting in the hands of three retired judges, to Florida, where a circulating initiative would create a 15-member bipartisan redistricting commission, the usually arcane, once-a-decade process of redrawing districts to even out shifts in population is a hot political topic.

Besides ballot measures pending or in the works in California, Ohio, Florida and Massachusetts, bills to create independent or bipartisan redistricting commissions have been introduced in at least 12 state legislatures this year. In Congress, a Tennessee Republican introduced a bill to mandate independent commissions nationwide.
As to the first quoted graf above - duh. As to the second - 15 commissioners! Good luck, Florida! As to the third - more evidence of the new Republican mantra: Federalism Schmederalism.

There's not much in this article that hasn't been covered on this blog (Google "redistricting" within the site and knock yourselves out), but perhaps eventually the message will seep into the voting American consciousness. Note I said "voting." More voters might mitigate some of gerrymanderings ill-effects - at least a wee bit. That's even less likely to happen, however, than redistricting reform. One bonus: the piece quotes Phoblog contributor and Rose Institute consulting fellow Doug Johnson.

Go-to California soundbiter (well, the other one, Jack Pitney being the first and best) Bruce Cain links reform proponents with the fine folks who brought us campaign finance reform. If that isn't enough to send you screaming from a needed reform, I don't know what is, unfortunately.

There are, again, huge flaws with California's latest proposal, Prop 77 (even aside from the drafting errors stupidly committed by Ted Costa and his band of merry reformers): the mid-decade re-draw, the voter approval clause. But some of the Democratic push-back is unreasonable enough to help 77 pick up votes. No one should believe that the legislature, should they escape 77, will rush to act after having staved off another attack. And likening 77 to De Lay's Texas power grab is akin to casual Nazi charges - the world's most over- and inappropriately-used rhetorical device. Mid-decade redistricting is bad. But another bad decennial districting is worse. And it's not hard to imagine the re-draw being tied up in litigation long enough to make that concern moot anyway.

And speaking of redistricting . . . .


Anonymous said...

It's funny -- redistricting reform here is considered a shady Republican strategy, but redistricting reform in other states is a shady Democratic strategy. Sounds like proof that reform is just a good thing everywhere.

Overall I heartily agree with the "federalism schmederialism" opinion, but in this one case the LA Times has it wrong -- the reform bill sponsor is a Democrat, John Tanner. I think the Times's confusion comes from the bill's recently-added cosponsor, Tennessee Republican Zach Wamp.

For fellow redistricting addicts / nerds, the reform bill referenced by the Times is HR 2642.

cd said...

thanks for the fact-checking, doug.

and yeah, perception is 9/10ths of the law, isn't it? and it's nearly 100% of any successful reform effort.

that's the beauty of current systems and reformed systems - they are biologically - so to speak - slanted in no one's favor. it all depends on who is winning when the reform is introduced.

i adore my party and understand their objections, however, i don't believe for a second they want to submarine 77 in favor of a better reform later. they submarine it, they submarine it. and the current system is every bit as destructive for our own party as is a mid-decade redraw.

and the spectre both parties should fear: part-time-legislature reformers. you think 2006 maps damage the state? you think arnold's heinous undermining of representative democracy is bad? baby, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

avoid the small smackdowns while you can, Legislature, because the end is coming and you have few to blame but yourselves. And Arnold. And Ted Costa.