The liberal press has only now noticed the problem of gerrymandering, its outrage apparently piqued by the fact that Republicans are now in a position to draw district lines. Governors and state legislatures collaborate in the process of redistricting every 10 years with the new census. In 1990, their position in the states was so weak that Republicans alone could only draw lines for five congressional districts. In the 1980s districts were so heavily gerrymandered by Democrats that Republicans probably needed to win 60 percent of the total congressional vote to have a shot at a majority.
One of the chief outrages of liberal reformers, Tom DeLay's recent redistricting of Texas, is only an effort to wipe away the effects of such a Democratic gerrymander. The Texas congressional delegation has been marginally Democratic, although the state is as "red" as they come and Republicans hold every statewide elected office. Now the delegation will be more representative.
But reform that gores both Republicans and Democrats is necessary nationwide. The Supreme Court was right to take a pass in the Pennsylvania case. The court, already notorious for Bush v. Gore, shouldn't get any more involved in partisan politics. It is the public that will have to pressure the political system for change.
States should adopt objective criteria for the drawing of districts, including contiguity and compactness that will limit somewhat the ability of the parties to play games. Bipartisan commissions should be given a significant role in drawing district lines. In Washington state, such a commission has created generally competitive districts so even a speaker of the House (Tom Foley) has lost a race there in recent memory.
The goal should be to make it possible for most people to vote in a congressional election that matters. What a concept.
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