Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The people should be able to gerrymander, not just the politicians


 My Photoby Mark Schaver

Legislative redistricting should be more open, two Brookings Institution fellows argued in a column in The Washington Post last week.

Politicians often use redistricting as an opportunity to cut unfavorable constituents and potential challengers out of their districts. Barack Obama, for example, learned the rough and tumble of redistricting politics when Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) carved Obama's Chicago home out of Rush's congressional district after losing a 2000 primary challenge to Obama, then a state senator.

Critically, these decisions are made with little or no public input or accountability. While Arizona and California are among the few states that give the public a chance to see and participate in how the boundaries are set, by using open redistricting commissions, most states gerrymander legislative lines behind closed doors. Figures from both major parties tilt the electoral playing field so much that one party is essentially assured of winning a given district, controlling the state legislature or winning the most seats in the state's congressional delegation. In other words, the democratic process is subverted. In this system, politicians select voters rather than voters electing politicians.

The column notes that most Americans are ignorant about the process and makes the case that with advances in technology, there's no excuse for not doing it out in the open.


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