Progress Against Gerrymandering

In Slate, Will Oremus reports the very good news that non-partisan citizen efforts in California and Arizona have attracted lawsuits from aggrieved professional politicians. Excellent news! The cure seems to be working!

“Often,” explains Oremus, “congressional gerrymanders are the result of bipartisan compromise—an agreement that allows the majority party to solidify its hold on the state while throwing bones to the minority party’s incumbents. . . Such back-scratching was absent from the citizens redistricting commission’s process. It dispensed with the old maps entirely, drawing new districts that look less like abstract doodles and more like, well, districts. One result is that Democrats appear poised to pick up a few seats in California in 2012, assuming the new maps stand. Another is that some unlucky incumbents, including Democrats, have been drawn out of their own districts—a grim fate normally reserved only for those who have egregiously offended higher-ups within their own party as well as the opposition. The prominent Southern California Democrats Brad Sherman and Howard Berman , for instance, have been thrust into the same district, setting up a costly Berman/Sherman primary showdown. No wonder the commission has taken heat from all sides. Arizona’s commission actually had an explicit mandate to promote competition between parties, almost assuring that its plans would meet resistance. It upset the current 5-3 Republican House majority with a map that leaves two seats safe for the GOP, two for the Democrats, and three up in the air.”

The voters of this country will be cheated out of their Constitutional birthright as long as the nudge-nudge, wink-wink approach to redistricting persists. Self-preservation by incumbents cannot be the goal; power maximization by professional cannot be the goal. Creating a system that maximizes the number of competitive seat is the only way to end of with a government that is responsive not to politicians, and not to parties, but to voters. It should be the goal of all lovers of democracy in this coming decade to make sure that this current redistricting that is left to insiders and partisans.

(Slate has a great slide show showing how progress is being made in California and Arizona. Check them all out here.)

[Cross-posted at]

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Jamie Malanowski

Jamie Malanowski is a writer and editor. He has been an editor at Time, Esquire and most recently Playboy, where he was Managing Editor.