EDITORIAL: Commit now to independent redistricting
Democrats smell blood.
After being gerrymandered into a corner in 2011 by GOP-controlled legislatures, Dems now hope to win, even in districts redrawn to be safe havens for Republicans.
And everyone can thank Donald Trump and the down-ballot carnage his campaign is expected to have on his fellow Republicans’ fortunes.
The stakes are obviously high in next month’s election, but not far on the horizon is another redistricting, which could make or break a party’s influence for the next 10 years.
As The Associated Press notes, “The party that controls legislatures and governorships during the 2020 Census will have the upper hand in redrawing congressional and state legislative districts in those states. Controlling those boundaries can ensure a political advantage for the next decade.”
Democrats will have heavy-hitters on their side as they turn their post-election attention toward redistricting.
President Barack Obama has said his main focus after leaving office will be to aid the new National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former Attorney General Eric Holder. The goal of the committee is to boost Democrats’ fortunes in time for the 2021 redistricting.
A boost is definitely needed.
Republicans’ 2010 efforts distorted the political landscape, drawing wild, meandering districts around friendly voters while corralling Democratic-leaning voters in a few districts to prevent them from influencing election results in their safe zones.
The end result is that elected officials choose their voters, rather than voters choosing their representatives. For the most part, districts are noncompetitive, and the officials can ignore the needs of minority voters without fear of reprisal.
Pennsylvania Republicans’ attempts at redistricting after the 2010 Census was marked by blatant gerrymandering. The process lasted two years and was marked by an almost-unheard-of court defeat that threw an election into disarray.
It took a state Supreme Court decision to settle the matter.
We understand if Democrats want a bit of payback next time around, but gerrymandering is bad for voters, no matter which side is making the maps.
In our opinion, it would still lead to noncompetitive districts, where elections are decided in primaries and where voters' choices are limited to varying extremes of one particular political philosophy. Representatives would still be less beholden to their constituents in these safe districts than to their party leaders.
No, what’s needed is a nationwide push for independent redistricting commissions, similar to those in California and Arizona, in all states.
In those two western states, no elected official and no one who recently held public office can serve on the redistricting commission. No party officials have a say, either.
It would take a bipartisan effort to make that standard across the country, but if party leaders were sensible they would sign on right now.
We’re four years from the next Census — an eternity in politics — and there's no telling which party will control which state legislatures by then.
Either one could find itself on the receiving end of a heavy-handed map-maker.