Monday, October 24, 2005

Redistricting Watch: WaPo Weighs In

The Washington Post editorial board writes in defense of redistricting reform today, endorsing both the California and Ohio referenda that will be on the ballot this fall. "While neither is perfect or would be a cure-all to the corrosive problem of noncompetitive elections, both initiatives would bring improvement over the status quo," they argue.

Calling modern redistricting processed "a travesty" (which they are indeed), the editorial adds that "few races are more than fictions. Sometimes the process is rigged to protect incumbents, sometimes to oust them, but maximizing competition and voter choice is never the goal when politicians get to draw the districts in which they or their friends will run. The result contributes to political polarization, since heavily Democratic districts tend to elect people far more liberal than average while heavily Republican districts tend to elect people far more conservative."

I agree with the Post that a major problem with both the Ohio and California plans is that they involve a mid-decade redistricting process, and I think they point out the effect of these provisions on the proposals' chances for success: "unwillingness to delay implementation in both California and Ohio until the next census puts a partisan edge on what should be a nonpartisan issue - allowing Democrats in California and Republicans in Ohio to argue that supporters of reform are merely members of the out party trying to gain seats they can't win under current law. The case for redistricting reform is better argued when it isn't quite so clear as to whom it will help and hurt."

Picking up one of the lines that I and others (including the Centrist Coalition) have been using, the editorial ends by commenting that "Elections are supposed to be about voters choosing candidates. That's not a meaningful choice if the candidates have already gotten to choose their voters."

Quite so. A good, solid piece. This reform movement has only just begun, but it's picking up steam fast.

Previous Redistricting Watch posts:
- "Q & A with Congressman John Tanner" (10/20)
- "Governator Goes to Ohio" (10/18)
- "Schwarzenegger Calls on McCain" (10/11)
- "Broder's Right" (9/1)
- "WaPo on Prop 77" (8/21)
- "Prop 77 Back On" (8/12)
- "Updates from the States" (8/10)
- "Updates on Several Fronts" (7/28)
- "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 11:49 PM, Blogger Gunner said...

I have often though that when editorial writers describe legislation in this manner: While neither is perfect they should be required by law to complete the thought and tell us what would make it perfect in their opinion.

At 7:55 AM, Blogger JBD said...

Gunner, I think that's what the Post was going for in mentioning the mid-decade redistricting provisions, the size of the judicial panel in CA and some other troublesome provisions in the OH plan. I agree that often editorials don't provide that information, but I think they did a decent job of it in this particular instance.


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