Friday, June 22, 2007

Meisler on redistricting

The Argus had a Dan Meisler editorial on Glenn Anderson's redistricting proposal.

It didn't get much interest last time. Chris Ward held a hearing, but not much happened after that.

This time around, the Associated Press, the two major Detroit newspapers and the Lansing State Journal took notice, and in an interview with me on Tuesday, Anderson said he took it as a good sign.

"The Legislature is demonstrating the inability to come together in issues that are important," he said.

One of the problems, Anderson said, is a direct result of partisan redistricting — when the party in power draws the districts, it will keep its incumbents as safe as possible, protecting them in heavily weighted districts in which they don't have to appeal to moderate voters. And I'm convinced the majority of people fall into that category and are waiting for like-minded politicians.

Instead, what they get are hyper-partisans who just have to worry about getting through their party primaries — the general elections are no problem, because their districts are weighted so heavily in their favor. The results are plain to see in Lansing.

You have two major types of redistricting when it is done by the legislature. One is what I call the "screw you" approach. The democrats pushed that in Georgia back in 01, and lost almost all their close seats. The Republicans pushed that in Texas in 01 (after the dems did it in 91). The screw you approach is an attempt to take out as many of the other side's reps as possible. In Michigan, Congressional maps were somewhat of a screw you approach (although I could have drawn a meaner map if I wanted at the expense of Stupak or S. Levin by giving Southfield to Conyers), state senate was not, and state rep was a mix of screw you and incumbent protection. The "screw you" approach can backfire, as it did in Pennsylvania, if you create too many (at the time) 51-52% GOP seats, thinking that incumbency can hold them. Curt Weldon had the most democrat seat, and it cost him. Hoeffel's seat stayed democrat, and Mike Fitzpatrick lost due to the Iraq War. Democrats were backfired in Georgia with their redistricting.

The other major type of redistricting is the incumbent protection. This was done in California back in 01 to protect their freshmen. It's the most common type of redistricting occurance, and is almost always works. A 54-55% party seat is generally safe outside of a crazy year. Massachusetts has the most incumbent friendly maps around. California's a close 2nd.

Meisler goes on and mentions my blog post here.

The one beef I have with Anderson's plan is that it would create an independent commission to do the redistricting, allowing Republicans and Democrats to appoint the members. That would cause the same gridlock and bickering that goes on now.

On this point, I agree with a recent post on the Republican Michigander blog. However, I disagree with the blog's solution of choosing the maps at random. I think the best solution is to give the job to an independent agency like the House or Senate Fiscal Agency, or another existing state department.

Anderson said he wants to create an independent commission because state agencies can be vulnerable to influence from politicians. Letting donkeys and elephants create a commission, though, isn't the best way to go. This is one case in which state bureaucrats protected from the political winds are the best hope.

I have to agree with Anderson when it comes to state agencies, although I agree with Meisler on commissions, especially picked from donkeys and elephants. With the latter, you'll have a lot of personal seats and incumbent protection schemes. With the former, the state reps and state senate seats could easily be drawn up to favor those friendly to their programs and payraises. Democrats would have a big advantage there due to fiscal liberalism. In off year elections, Eaton County is much much more democrat. It voted for Bush twice and Granholm twice. Ingham County is democrat anyway, but usually 4% more so in off-year elections. Clinton County went for Granholm last time and only 53% for Posthumus in 02, and it is consistently 56-60% GOP in presidential years. I think Clinton County was the only place I've ever seen a Bush and Granholm sticker together.

The reason why I like the random computer maps with limited municipal breaks is that it takes as much human element and biasness out as possible.

The best thing possible is the limited municipal breaks. Our reps should represent our community, and when communities are not split two/three ways (Livingston County in the 80's), they are more apt to be represented properly.

1 comment:

M Cottrell said...

Hello - I know you wrote this awhile ago, but I just happened to find it on the web while I was researching Glenn Anderson's proposal.

One thing that you don't mention in your blog is that the proposed commission would have nine members - four democrats, four republicans and one independent chosen by the other eight. This one independent commissioner would hopefully decrease the amount of partisan gridlock objected to by Dan Meisler and posted in your blog.

Regardless, I agree that communities should be represented properly by not splitting them many different ways for partisan gains. Thanks for writing about this much neglected issue.