Friday, November 24, 2006

Redistricting Editorial in the Argus

Dan Meisler of the Argus had an interesting editorial on redistricting.

I cringe whenever politicians start talking about "the American people," as if they know what we all want, or assuming that we all speak with one voice.
In fact, the obsessive concerns of the Democrats and Republicans don't overlap much with those of "the American people" I spoke with over the course of covering the election.

I've touched on the redistricting issues a few times in the past, and usually there are four different scenarios.

1. Current in Michigan - The state legislature and governor in power control redistricting. When one party is in power, the other is usually screwed. The GOP was screwed in the 70's and the dems were screwed with the last maps. When there is split control, usually there is either an incumbent protection map (Status Quo), or it goes to the courts which decide the maps. The pros of this system is that we elect the state reps, state senators, and govenor, so we can send them home theoretically if we do not like their map The cons are usually hyperpartisan redistricting.

2. Revenge. Republicans lost in court by judges in the 2001 Texas Map. In retribution, once the Republicans took the state legislature there, they redistricted in 2003/2004, breaking the customary once, every ten year pattern. This may lead to a pattern in other states, and has in Georgia. Democrats screwed the GOP in 01, and the GOP screwed them back when they took control. There's no pros here as all sides will get theirs as the time comes. The cons are screwjobs every few years.

3. So called "nonpartisan" Commissions (and variations of). I don't like commissions in general as all it usually does is give some has-been political hacks a soapbox and power. It also passes the buck away so there is no recourse for screwjobs. There is still plenty of biasness which does not go away when one leaves office. Unless there are plenty of safeguards regarding county breaks, this is only slightly better than scenario 2. I expect a lot of "Status Quo" and Incumbent protection maps from this.

4. Computers - Currently, computers are a redistricter's best friend. It is how you see the crazy maps of some districts, especially in Georgia 02 (Dems), California (Incumbent protection), and Texas (GOP). This can used also for the basis of reform.
My own recommendation is a computer system. It takes the human biasness and removes it as much as possible. There should be 5-10 maps with the smalled number of municipal breaks (County, City, Township) for each position. The maps are availible for public viewing before the drawing and the winning map comes from that group. Drawings are open to the public. Regardless of the winning map, it will be one with minimal municipal breaks.

I'm not for "nonpartisan" redistricting. I do support "nonbiased" redistricting based on geography. Trying to create 15 50/50 districts is impossible without creating strange maps. What there needs to be are maps with minimal municipal breaks. Our congressmen, state senators, state reps, and county commissioners should be from our communities. The democrats didn't like Oakland County being carved up into four different districts. I don't want to see the democrats split Livingston County three ways. Municipal breaks favor Republicans in some areas (Kent County, Livingston County) and democrats in others (Wayne County, probably Oakland County).

It's too early now to tell what will happen in 2011. The state house and state senate could go either way, and the governor's spot is wide open. Anything can happen.

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