Redistricting Reform Will Empower Intra-Party Dissenters

May 8, 2011

Mickey Kaus – Newsweek – Gerrymandering foe Bill Mundell (he made a movie on the subject) argues that there’s a surprise benefit in taking away from politicians the power to carve district lines—even if a less politicized process doesn’t replace “safe” seats with more competitive districts: Even if redistricting reform doesn’t produce a single newly competitive district, taking the power to draw lines away from the party caucuses will still have a salutary effect on our representative democracy. When the line-drawing process is in the hands of the party leaders, legislators feel compelled to toe the party line to preserve their futures. If it does nothing else, redistricting reform will empower intra-party dissenters in a way that enhances the free flow of ideas that should be a normal part of the legislative process. 

This still seems like a second-order argument. Freeing back-benchers from party control might produce free thinking, or it might just produce less control and even more chaos. Since California’s government is dysfunctional, I’m willing to experiment and risk unintended consequences in my home state. But the main argument for anti-gerrymandering reform nationwide remains that it will in fact “produce a significant number of competitive . . . races,” as Mundell contends.

That shouldn’t be difficult, since the current districts are typically drawn to maximize the number of “safe” seats for both Democratic and Republican incumbents. (Only one Congressional seat in giant California has changed parties in the decade.) It couldn’t get worse. Competitive districts seem almost certain to produce representatives who can win over swing voters in the center of the electorate. Moderates, on other words. . . . P.S.: If you’re a Californian and want to oppose gerrymandering, you need to vote FOR Proposition 20 (which would empower the newly-created independent commission to draw Congressional district lines as well as state district lines) and AGAINST the (Soros-backed!) Proposition 27, which would kill off the commission entirely. . . .

[Newsweek]

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