Redistricting

REDISTRICTING….Aside from our almost-but-not-quite-identical taste in cars, I was pretty sure until now that Stephen Bainbridge and I disagreed about approximately everything. As it turns out, though, not so! We both think congressional redistricting needs to be reformed, and we both agree that it needs to be done on a national basis:

Reform is possible. Look at how Iowa, for example, uses a nonpartisan commission to set Congressional districts. To be politically feasible, however, redistricting reform probably has to be done on a national basis. Why should the Democrats permit redistricting reform in, say, California if the GOP continues to manipulate the process in places like, say, Texas? National redistricting reform might be a nice legacy project for a second Bush administration ? a legacy of good government rather than partisan rent-seeking. But I’m not going to hold my breath.

He’s right. Reform of the redistricting process is a hot button of mine, but I wouldn’t vote for an initiative that reformed the process here in California even if I thought it was the most brilliant piece of legislation I’d ever laid eyes on. About the last thing I want to see is a bunch of goo-goo Democrats supporting reform in their states while Tom DeLay and his cronies laugh their asses off and go about their God-given task of re-gerrymandering their states every two years for the greater good of the Republican party.

My own wacky idea is to give up on the whole idea of congressmen representing communities and mandate that districts be formed by drawing straight lines across each state. In Southern California, for example, this would produce several districts a few hundred yards high by two hundred miles wide, but what the hell. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just a foolproof way of creating random collections of citizens for voting purposes.

Needless to say, I don’t expect this idea to get widespread support, so I’m willing to listen to more conventional proposals. But I do have a question about all this: what would it take to get a nationwide reform? At the least it would take congressional action, including major reform of the Voting Rights Act, but would it also take a constitutional amendment? Or does Congress have the power to set redistricting standards already? Are there any legal bloggers out there with an opinion?