Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Redistricting Watch: Action in the Senate [and more!]

Some big news on the redistricting reform front to accompany today's Supreme Court arguments in the Texas case: Rep. John Tanner's Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act has gained a Senate sponsor, according to The Hill. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) has introduced legislation identical to Tanner's, which greatly improves the prospects for action on the bill.

Tanner's bill, which has 45 House cosponsors (the latest, Reps. Jackson-Lee and David Scott, signed on February 8), would ban mid-decade redistricting and would place redistricting in each state in the hands of bipartisan, independent commissions. Many of the links below contain more background on the bill itself.

Of today's Supreme Court arguments, Tanner told The Hill yesterday "I think it's a critical issue to the future of our democracy and everyone is waiting to see what Supreme Court is going to do. … I'm hopeful they will say that it doesn't pass constitutional muster to simply redistrict whenever from the standpoint of one-party government. The people have no say-so in this." I couldn't agree more.

A spokesman for Senator Johnson said that she believes redistricting reform will gain steam as part of the overall mood in favor of reform at the moment: "
There are certain things going on at the national level that could put the spotlight on it, things like overall ethics reform and a general feeling of cleaning up D.C. If this is considered part of that, there's going to be interest."

At the state level, Florida's proposed initiative to reform redistricting procedures in that state is nearing final approval for inclusion on November's ballot, but is currently being challenged in the state's highest court.

Three cheers for Senator Johnson, we're happy to have him on board. Now's the time to contact your senators and urge them to sign on as additional cosponsors (and keep in touch with your House member as well, if they haven't joined the effort yet).

More later on the Supreme Court argument once it's available.

[Update: Senator Johnson's office has just put out a press release, in which the Senator says

"As a Senator from a state with one congressional district, I don't have a direct tie to this issue; yet, we should all be concerned about the political shenanigans and gerrymandering that occurs in this country. It affects the makeup of Congress and leaves nearly 90% of Members with safe seats and little chance of losing an election. We need to clean up this process. Congressman Tanner's leadership on this issue is to be applauded, and I am proud to join the effort. ...

up the boundaries for which voters elect their representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives is just too important to allow state legislatures to play political football with this Constitutionally-mandated process. Redistricting should not be done to benefit either political party; rather, redistricting should be done based on requirements under the U.S. Constitution and Voting Rights Act, equal population in each district, contiguity and compactness of districts, and maintaining traditional boundaries like counties, cities, and towns."

We're proud to have you on board, Senator. Keep up the good work. -- 10:50 a.m.]

Previous Redistricting Watch posts:
- "NTU Endorses Tanner Legislation" (1/10/06)
- "SCOTUS Grabs the Ball" (12/13/05)
- "Tanner Calls for Hearings" (11/3)
- "WaPo Weighs In" (10/24)
- "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 1:49 PM, Anonymous Paul Wartenberg said...

I'm wondering that any district drawing is bound to be victimized by political gerrymandering... What other voting options are available for House seats?

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Jay said...

As a long time fan of redistricting reform I've been thinking about how to make it politically appealing. All redistricting bills should havee a 10-20 year buffer period between the current system and the new system. A time delay moves the debate out of imediate political arena, and into a more philosophical one.

At 11:53 PM, Blogger JBD said...

Jay, that's not a bad idea. I'm not sure I'd go much more than 10 years, but I feel like that might be a decent way to go.


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