Thursday, July 28, 2005

Redistricting Watch: Updates on Several Fronts

Some excellent news to report on the effort to reform the way congressional districts are drawn (for previous posts on this topic, see the list below):

- First and foremost, I am delighted to be able to report that six more House members have signed on as cosponsors to H.R. 2642, the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act sponsored by Rep. John Tanner of Tennesee. The bill's newest backers, whose support become official on Tuesday, are Democrats Eliot Engel (NY-17), Bart Gordon (TN-6), John Larson (CT-1), Anna Eshoo (CA-14) and Neil Abercrombie (HI-1), as well as Republican Phil Gingrey, who represents Georgia's 11th District. Gingrey becomes the second Republican representative (joining Tennessean Zach Wamp) to sign onto the bill.

On a personal note, I'm delighted that Rep. Abercrombie has joined; he and I share Union College as our alma mater. Support for this legislation continues to grow with each passing week, and the additional bipartisan spirit added by Gingrey's support is more than welcome. Following the August recess, I'll be unveiling a targeted plan to elicit support from others, particularly centrist Republicans from the Northeast and Midwest. We'll also need to persuade a senator to sponsor a companion bill in that chamber and start working on that front in the near future.

- Rep. Tanner's website now includes a page on the reform legislation, complete with an excellent summary of H.R. 2642, the bill's text and status pages, and photos and statements from the recent birthday party for Elbridge Gerry. This webpage will be a tremendous resource as we move forward, and I'm glad to see it up and running.

- A Congressional Research Service report on the constitutionality of Tanner's bill has been completed, and concludes "Article I, Section 4, of the Constitution expressly provides Congress with the power to enact laws governing the time, place, and manner of elections for Members of the House of Representatives. This express grant of power would appear to permit Congress to limit the number of times states can conduct congressional districting and to prescribe how such districting is conducted." For more on the bill's constitutionality, see my earlier post on that topic here.

- The San Antonio Express recently editorialized in support of Tanner's bill, saying in part:

"Texans have some firsthand knowledge of how elected leaders of both parties can manipulate the redistricting process for partisan gain. The wounds of the 2003 redistricting fight — which redrew congressional boundaries for the second time in as many years — are still fresh.

That battle royal was a political payback for decades of redistricting that drew lines in a different direction.

Aside from the partisan acrimony, the current method of redistricting creates a stunningly uncompetitive political environment. Politicians stack and pack voters into safe districts for both Republicans and Democrats.

Outside of Texas, where four incumbent Democrats were targeted in redistricting and defeated, only three of 399 congressional incumbents who ran for re-election lost their seats last November.

There is a better way. A handful of states already have independent commissions that take redistricting out of the hands of partisan, elected officials. State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, has been a tireless advocate for this approach in Texas.

Tanner's proposal in Congress would make independent redistricting commissions the law of the land. Among the 36 bipartisan co-sponsors of his measure, astonishingly not one is from Texas.

Texas representatives, more than most, should understand the necessity for the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act. Texas voters should demand that they support it."

All Americans should ask the same of their own representatives. Real democracy only comes when we have real choice. If your congressional rep hasn't yet signed onto H.R. 2642, contact him or her, and encourage them to do so.

Previous Redistricting Watch posts:
- "Cosponsors Update" (7/22)
- "How Exactly do you Gerrymander a Birthday Cake?" (7/20)
- "Happy Birthday Mr. Gerry" (7/19)
- "Federal Authority in Historical Perspective" (7/16)
- "Blue Dogs, on the Scent" (7/12)
- "Cosponsors Update" (7/1)
- "Links, News, and Views" (6/24)
- "Polarization & Collegiality" (6/24)
- "Centrist Action on Redistricting Reform" (6/23)


At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ever consider contacting Abercrombie about working as an aide? I'm sure he'd be impressed with your blog and might like to hire a Union grad.

At 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am a alum and do not understand how you can be a Republican and support this idea and be pleased that abercrombie is has signed aboard. First, he is the most liberal in all of congress. Second, he is continually associated with the american socialist party (do a google search). Third, this is a further attempt by the left to have the federal government usurp the powers rightly possessed by the states. Fourth, no where in the constitution does the federal government have the right to set up such a system. And fifth, we are currently in world war three, at the conclusion of a 1000 year war between christiandom and islam. There are much more important items in the world today, including atrocities in Sudan, Dafar, and Sierra Leone, then to worry about the fact that some states redistrict democrates our of office. Just something to think about.

At 8:24 PM, Blogger JBD said...

anon1: I haven't; setting aside his welcome support for H.R. 2642, Abercrombie's quite a liberal fellow - and as liberal as many may think me, I'd find it pretty difficult to work with Abercrombie (likewise for anyone on the very conservative end of the spectrum).

that said, anon2:
I'll try to address your points one by one.
1. Glad you're an alum - welcome to the blog, and don't forget to give to the annual fund :-)
2. While Abercrombie is very liberal, I'm happy to have any support for this bill that we can get - Gingrey is one of the more conservative members of the House, and as I said, I welcome his support as well.
3. "this is a further attempt by the left to have the federal government usurp the powers rightly possessed by the states". I disagree - this is an attempt by the center (and allies from both right and left) to get partisan politics out of redistricting, and make it so that the people can choose their reprsentatives, not the other way around.
4. I disagree that nothing in the Constitution discusses this matter, as does the Congressional Research Service. Article I, Section 4 provides the Congress with authority to govern the "time, place, and manner" of holding congressional elections, and since at least 1842 that has included the authority to govern the drawing of district lines. This is a legitimate and necessary application of that power.
5. I completely and totally disagree that the current conflict is somehow between Christianity and Islam. This struggle is between the free world and all its residents and extremists who seek to spread their warped reading of Islam around the world through terrorism. The vast majority of Muslims do not support the efforts of terrorists, so I cannot let this comment go unanswered.
6. Indeed, conflicts around the world are awfully important; if you read some of my other entries you will note that I post about Darfur on a very regular basis. But when 98% of incumbents (Republican and Democrat) are reelected regularly, and only 36 (8%) of 435 House seats are considered competitive, we've got a problem here at home. That's not a real choice, that's not a fair, free and open democracy. That's why I support FIRA. It's not just Democrats who are "de-districted" (witness Ben Gilman in NY a few years ago, as well as many others).

Supporting redistricting reform is not a partisan issue, by any means. All Americans are hurt when they have no real choice in elections, regardless of party.


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