Thursday, October 20, 2005


Redistricting amendments in California, Ohio on November 8

I've said before, over a chorus of objections, and will say again—the greatest threat to representative democracy is not vote fraud but gerrymandering, the deliberate drawing of Congressional districts to favor one party over the other.

The Republicans didn't invent the gerrymander, but Tom Delay took it to new heights. Remember when all the Democratic state legislators from Texas fled to Oklahoma? It was an effort to prevent a unique political act—redrawing the boundaries of Congressional districts after they had already been drawn following the census.

Tom Delay understood the power of redistricting and used it. The Texas redistricting plan was tested in the Supreme Court and passed muster. Ultimately Delay may go to jail for it—not because the plan was illegal but because he broke the law to achieve it. Yet he may have guaranteed a Republican majority in the House of Representatives for years to come.

Consider what Joshua Green has written of the problem the Democrats face in regaining control of the House of Representatives—

[The] head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), [Rahm] Emanuel has taken on his biggest challenge yet: to win back the House of Representatives after more than a decade of Republican control. To pull it off, the two-term congressman will have to overcome odds far greater than those the GOP faced when Newt Gingrich engineered his historic takeover in 1994. Back then, according to a study by the National Committee for an Effective Congress, 117 seats were "marginal" -- that is, close enough to be considered competitive. Last year, thanks in large part to Republican-friendly redistricting, the number of close races shrank to only thirty-four.

We do not live in a democracy.

Typically, congressional districts are drawn by the state legislatures, so states such as California, which have Democratic majorities, have districts drawn to favor Democrats. Ditto for Republican-controlled states such as Ohio and Florida.

The situation hasn't been lost on Governor Schwarzenegger, who is trying to get a redistricting amendment passed in California. He even got Senator McCain to come help—

One day after announcing that he is considering another run for the presidency, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) jetted to California to show support for a set of state ballot initiatives the GOP governor is championing.

Voters will decide Nov. 8 whether to change the way California legislative districts are drawn, limit teacher tenure, restrict union political activity and hand the governor more power over the state budget.

McCain used his reputation as a bipartisan negotiator to portray the redistricting measure as an effort to create a more moderate state legislature -- not the divisive power-grab Democrats describe. "We need more competitive races," he said. "We need more moderation."

Meanwhile, on that same date the voters of Ohio will be asked to approve a constitutional amendment known as "Issue 4."1 Since Ohio districts favor Republicans, the Republicans are opposing the amendment, and Governor Arnie is pissing off some top Ohio Republicans by supporting the Ohio amendment—

A leading Ohio Republican said yesterday that Mr. Schwarzenegger should "worry about California" instead of Ohio.

"I think they've got more problems of their own that he might need to attend to," said Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering).

Some of the Ohio churches and "faith-based" groups have weighed in on the issue. Opponents of gay rights, abortion and pornography also appear to be opponents of democracy.

Partisans of the Democratic Party should vote against the California amendment and support the Ohio amendment. Partisans of democracy should support both.

10/23/05 — Edited to correct date in the title

Related posts
The latest political weapon: Redistricting (12/7/04)
Jean Schmidt elected to lifetime appointment as U.S. Congresswoman from Ohio (8/3/05)
Some feedback on the Ohio election (8/5/05)
In case you were looking to the Democrats for your salvation (8/19/05)


1As redistricting methods go, this is a strange one. It allows anyone and everyone to submit a redistricting plan, which is then evaluated by a 5-member commission.

The text of the amendment is here. [back]

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