Thursday, November 3, 2011

How to start taking politics out of redistricting

Tomorrow's editorial tonight:
The U.S. Justice Department’s approval on Tuesday of voting districts drawn by the Republican-controlled N.C. legislature riled some Democrats, catching many off guard. Even Democratic N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue claimed surprise when she learned about it, via Twitter no less.
Republicans, meanwhile, are strutting around with delight. They played politics with redrawing voting lines – just as Democrats did when they controlled the legislature – and got the nod from a Democratic administration that their plan is legal.
It may well be legal. But we know it can’t be labeled fair – not when it makes 10 of 13 congressional districts lean Republican in a state that is pretty evenly divided in terms of party preference.
In any case, the courts likely will be the final arbiter of the legality of the plan, and that fight could go on past 2012. At least two challenges are expected. One was filed Thursday, and another is slated for today. The lawsuits focus on whether the voting plan unlawfully splits precincts and counties, and violates “communities of interest,” which is one benchmark of redistricting.
Those are different issues than those the Justice Department considered in preclearing the plan under the Voting Rights Act. Justice looked at the narrow question of whether minority voting strength was hurt by the plan. They decided it didn’t.
So Justice Department approval is no guarantee the plan will survive a court challenge. In North Carolina and elsewhere, courts have overruled the Justice Department on redistricting in the past.
Regardless of the outcome, there’s a better way to do redistricting. A nonpartisan, independent commission drawing the lines seems the best way to get a voting map that’s fair and designed with the voters, not the politicians, in mind.
The voters weren’t in mind with this plan. Four-term Republican congressman Patrick McHenry let that be known before the maps were unveiled when he revealed N.C. GOP redistricting plans to pack minorities into a few districts to make surrounding districts more white and give Republicans an edge.
We had hoped for better from the Republicans, who had complained bitterly when Democrats for years manipulated voting districts for their own political advantage. Instead, intent on solidifying their power for the next decade, Republicans drew new maps to ensure that.
Such shenanigans once again highlight the need for a nonpartisan, independent commission to draw the lines. The legislature took a welcome step in that direction this year, with House passage of a proposal that would have legislative staff members, not elected legislators, draw the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts for the next remap in 2021. It’s based on an Iowa model that has worked well so far for that state.
The plan could have taken effect this year but lawmakers didn’t approve it. Now some Republican lawmakers who had favored the proposal are reportedly rethinking their stand. Apparently buoyed by Justice Department preclearance they’re no longer that interested in fair play.
They should be. And the public should press them to be. Naked partisanship in drawing voting lines has gone on too long. Democrats and Republicans are now both guilty. This editorial board pressed for change when Democrats were in power. We continue to press for it. Voters’ interests should come before politicians’ in any redistricting plan. An independent panel could help ensure that happens.


Jim said...

Let's see, Editorial Board -- have you EVER previously found a districting plan skewed in favor of the party holding a majority in the Legislature? Even ONCE in the past century?

EuroCat said...

Well, Jim, here are several:

On December 30, 2001 the editorial board said:

"The N.C. General Assembly completed its redrawing of congressional district lines without bloodshed, but that doesn't mean the process was a healthy one. As usual, the process was fixed to favor political incumbents and their parties, not the public...


"...the legislators created a new district - for a seat awarded because of population growth as measured by the 2000 Census - and made it a sure thing for Democrats. Lo and behold, the Democrat likeliest to win it is Brad Miller, the state senator who chaired the Senate committee in charge of redistricting.


"Taking some of the politics out of redistricting gives more Iowans real choices at the polls and helps create a Congress in which some members have an incentive to seek the middle ground. In North Carolina, alas, those benefits to the public aren't among our legislature's goals."

and an actual article on November 29, which surprised me with its bias in the form of editorializing in a news item (note the rather subjective "dig" in the last line):

"Unless the federal courts reverse themselves and rule that Utah, not North Carolina, should gain a congressional seat as a result of the 2000 census, North Carolina will elect 13 members of Congress next year. That new member will probably be a Democrat, the result of a concerted Democratic Party effort to gain power and weaken Republicans in Raleigh and Washington.


"There are better ways to conduct redistricting, but that would require taking some of the politics out of politics - a step the state's Democratic legislators this year had no interest in taking."

So perhaps, Jim, you would stop projecting your own blatant partisan bias onto the Observer's editorial staff. I've given examples where the O "found a districting plan skewed in favor of the party holding a majority in the legislature" TWICE in the past TEN YEARS; I'm sure I could find you dozens of examples in the "past century".

Why didn't you bother doing your own research instead of opening these comments with a totally false assertion?

Note: links may be broken; formatting long URL's isn't very successful on this blog platform.

EuroCat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Skippy said...

When are the bedwetters at this paper going to stop whining about the last election defeat that Obama helped orchestrate? The Democrat Party had only 100 years to do something about this, but the system was working just fine for them. Also the Democrat Party could have addressed the forced sterilization issue, but for some strang reason they chose not to open any dialogue about compensation for the victims.

Hyocrites and cowards.

Wiley Coyote said...

N0, it can't be fair to be moved from District 1 to District 2, Vilma Leake's domain.

Hopefully, I'll wake up and it will be a bad dream....

Jim said...

@ EuroCat 6:32 a.m.

Thanks for the informative response -- no thanks for the instructions! Have a good one.


Redistricting will end when the practice of white supremacy ends...

HDLadee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HDLadee said...

To Black Speak

What does white supremacy have to do with this? And why does someone always have to bring race into it? This is about Dems vs Repubs, period. And if you think dems have your back you may want to look at their ultimate goal, keep the masses on government funding that way they can control their vote. That is exactly what is happening in the dem camps all over America. Please wake up and educate yourself politically.

By the way if you were really up on history you would know the White Supremacy you speak of was formed and ran by the democrats. Need any help with that history?

Please take time to seriously look at those who claim to be "helping" you, snake oil comes in all shapes and colors.

BTW that hate you carry around is hurting only you and your kids if you choose to pass that along to them. Let's hope that is not the case. We have enough division in this country created by the One who was supposed to help us come together.